ECU Logo
Department of Cardiovascular Sciences
Robotic Surgery Center for Training and Education

Gold Spacer Image
Our Team

Dr. Randolph Chitwood

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood, Jr., is the director of the East Carolina Heart Institute. Dr. Chitwood performed the nation's first total robotically assisted mitral valve repair surgery in 2000. He was chief investigator for the federal Food and Drug Administration clinical trials in robotic surgery. Dr. Chitwood also serves as professor and senior associate vice chancellor for Health Sciences at East Carolina University. He has served as president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. L. Wiley Nifong is an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the East Carolina Heart Institute. He is the director of surgical robotics and director of surgical research. Dr. Nifong has been involved with the training of over 800 surgical teams in the use of minimally invasive and robotic surgery. He is a pioneer of new technology to aid minimally invasive procedures including atrial fibrillation ablation energy sources, anastomotic devices, adherence devices, sutureless technology, and intracardiac retraction.


Susan Bewick is the director of the robotic training lab and has worked as a licensed perfusionist for Dr. Chitwood for over 23 years. She has greatly contributed to the development and continued success of the robotic training program by serving as a robotic training educator for teams visiting the ECHI facilities. Ms. Bewick is a certified trainer in robotic gynecology, urologic, general, cardiac, and thoracic surgeries.

Rebecca Merrick Gilbird serves as Dr. Nifong’s executive assistant and the business services coordinator for the Robotic Training Center. She has a BS in biology from the University of North Carolina and a masters of public health from East Carolina University. Rebecca brings a unique perspective to the team acquired through her past work with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the United States Senate, and BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina.

Jerome D. Fuller is the Director of Telecommunications Networks & Special Projects at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University.  He received a BS in Public Administration with an emphasis in Business Law & Information Systems from Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, PA.  With over a decade of experience in distance education platforms such as IP and Web based Bidirectional Video & Audio conferencing, Jerome has been involved in designing, developing and hosting multiple cardiothoracic robotic surgery educational events. He has worked in the field of Robotic Surgery Training for over 8 years, with his specialty being Web based distance educational models.  He and his wife, Annie, have two children, Elisha and Elana (who he says are his most notable accomplishments).


From left: Jerome Fuller, Rebecca Merrick Gilbird, Dr. Nifong, and Susan Bewick