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ECU Physicians services now available on main campus

East Carolina University main campus faculty and staff as well as their families can now receive fast medical care within walking distance.



The new practice site for ECU Physicians' Rapid Access service, led by Dr. Susan Keen, a Brody School of Medicine alumnus and clinical assistant professor of family medicine, began seeing patients in August at the Student Health Services center.

"We're open to suggestions about how to provide exceptional service," Keen said. "We're open to molding the practice to whatever the needs are."

Rapid Access is the same-day appointment system available at practices on the health sciences campus, ECU's Firetower Medical Office and other sites. These are open to employees on all ECU campuses, but they must get to one of the practice sites. The new site is right on main campus.

Known as Family Medicine East, it's open 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Keen is there most days; at other times, Terry Icard, a physician assistant, will see patients. The practice has two exam rooms, complete with purple and gold tiles. Pharmacy, laboratory and radiology services are also available.

Medical students and residents aren’t involved in patient care at the practice.

Keen spends her afternoons seeing patients at the ECU Family Medicine Center on the health sciences campus. Main campus employees can see her there at those times.

Keen is a Wisconsin native but grew up in Rocky Mount. She received her biology degree from ECU in 1997 then taught high school science in Bear Grass before enrolling in the Brody School of Medicine. She finished medical school in 2003, completed a family medicine residency at ECU in 2006 and has been working in the emergency department at Nash General Hospital and the ECU Family Medicine Center.

She said her familiarity with ECU and experience in urgent care settings make her a good fit for the new practice. And she hopes having services available on main campus will help employees choose ECU Physicians as their “medical home,” a practice that covers all of a person’s health care needs, hospital visits and follow-up care.

"Because we don't have any hard and fast rules about this clinic, it's more exciting to imagine the possibilities," she said. "There's just something exciting about the fall, the start of the new school year. It's just a great time to start the new clinic."

Brody to extend early assurance admission to two other universities

The Brody School of Medicine will guarantee admission to a few top students at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and N.C. A&T State University under a new agreement among the three schools.



ECU is expanding its "early assurance" medical school admission plan to the other universities in hopes it will further ECU's mission of training doctors who will choose to practice in underserved areas.

For 10 years, ECU has offered guaranteed admission to medical school to select high school seniors competing for the East Carolina Scholars program, the university's top undergraduate scholarship. Each year, four are selected to receive early assurance, which means if they meet certain academic requirements they will be admitted to medical school after college graduation without having to compete with other applicants or take the Medical College Admission Test, a five-hour examination of writing, science and reasoning skills.

Since the program began, 15 early assurance scholars have graduated from medical school at ECU.

"It's been an unqualified success," said Dr. James Peden, associate dean of admissions at the Brody School of Medicine. "Generally speaking, the early assurance scholars have been among the best students in the school."

Officials from ECU, UNC-P and N.C. A&T met last fall to explore an early assurance partnership and set criteria for the program. Each year, ECU will admit two early assurance students each from UNC-P and N.C. A&T. Those students must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 and be North Carolina residents. They will not have to take the MCAT so long as their SAT scores meet a certain figure.

UNC-P expects to offer the program to students entering school in fall 2011. N.C. A&T is offering it to students this fall or next fall.

Sleep center expands to serve more adults, children

East Carolina University's Sleep Disorders Center has expanded to help speed a restful night to weary adults and children.



The center has expanded to six beds, including a special room for children with sleep disorders. Dr. Ronald Perkin, chair and professor of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine, began seeing children with sleep problems at the center in July.

Approximately 25 percent of children experience some type of sleep problem, ranging from difficulty falling asleep and waking up at night to more serious sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy, Perkin said. More than one-third of elementary school-aged children and 40 percent of adolescents have significant sleep complaints.

"Although many sleep problems in infants and children are transient and self-limited, the common wisdom that children grow out of sleep problems is not an accurate perception," Perkin said, adding that other factors can lead to chronic sleep problems.

Among those factors is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Up to a quarter of children with ADHD have evidence of sleep-disordered breathing, and up to half of them have evidence of restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movements, Perkin said. "Treatment of these sleep problems may improve the symptoms in children with ADHD," he said. "Similarly, sleep disorders will add to the severity of ADHD symptoms when they co-exist."

Perkin said some children diagnosed with ADHD have a sleep disorder that accounts for their symptoms. The symptoms of sleep deprivation are very similar to those of ADHD, he said.

Another factor that could exacerbate sleep problems is obesity. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 11 years are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Perkin said overweight and obesity can lead to sleep problems, particularly breathing disorders, and the resulting tiredness can lead to children gaining more weight.

Dr. Sunil Sharma, medical director at the ECU center and a board-certified sleep specialist, said children also deprive themselves of sleep. One device he uses with children is similar to a wristwatch that indicates when children actually go to sleep. That helps parents know if children are staying up in their rooms communicating with friends or playing video games.

Sharma said Americans as a whole are sleep deprived. When doctors work with children to improve their sleep, it can help the rest of the family, too.

Vanderpool named board president of organ agency

A top administrator at East Carolina University has been named president of the board of directors for Carolina Donor Services, a regional organ-procurement organization.



Gary Vanderpool, executive associate vice chancellor for health sciences administration and finance, will serve as president from July 1 through June 30. He will be eligible for re-election following his term.

During nearly 10 years of service with the organization, Vanderpool has served as a board member in the roles of treasurer and vice president.

Carolina Donor Services is the federally designated organ procurement organization serving 78 counties in North Carolina and Danville, Va. It serves 6.1 million people, 102 hospitals and four transplant centers that provide heart, lung, liver, pancreas and kidney transplants.

ECU among nation's best for putting doctors in underserved areas

The Brody School of Medicine ranks among the top medical schools in the country for producing primary care doctors who practice where they are needed most, according to a study published June 15 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

ECU has the seventh-highest "social mission" score in the study by researchers at George Washington University. ECU's ranking is the highest of the four medical schools in North Carolina.

To determine the true outcomes of medical education rather than the intermediate preferences of medical students and residents, researchers studied physicians in practice after the completion of all training and national obligations, such as military service or National Health Service Corps placements. The researchers examined data from medical school graduates from 1999 to 2001, which provided a very different picture than previous studies.

Previous analyses, such as the popular U.S. News & World Report rankings, have relied on the initial residency selection or reported specialty preference of students. The GWU study pinpoints where graduates are and what type of medicine they actually practice.

Among the study findings were that schools with a community rather than research focus tend to produce more primary care physicians and physicians who practice in underserved, often rural areas. ECU fits those criteria, having been established in the 1970s to produce primary care doctors for North Carolina. Schools with a history of recruiting and educating minority physicians, such as ECU, also fared well in the study.

Each class at Brody is made up of North Carolina residents, and more than half of them stay in the state to practice, many in the rural eastern and western ends of the state.

Grant boosts primary care education

East Carolina University medical students who have an interest in family medicine will be among those who may benefit from a new program funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to mentor aspiring family doctors.

The foundation has awarded a six-year, $1.18 million grant to the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians Foundation that will increase medical students' exposure to innovative practice in family medicine and encourage more of the state’s medical students to pursue a career in family medicine, ultimately ensuring that more North Carolinians have access to high quality primary care.

"This grant from BCBS of North Carolina is the most significant response to the growing need for family physicians from the health care industry I have seen," said Dr. Dean Patton, a longtime professor of family medicine and director of the medical student education division at ECU. "This grant has the potential to make a school that has chosen to remain faithful to its mandated mission an even more significant player in meeting the critical health care needs of our region."

The program aims to increase the percentage of medical students who commit to a residency in family medicine and the percentage of those who elect to stay in the state for their residency training. This grant is expected to yield a significant return on investment. According to the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies, the annual economic impact of one new family physician to the state of North Carolina is more than $950,000.



Hannah Fuhr is one of five ECU students participating. The second-year student from Chapel Hill worked with Dr. J. Thomas Newton of Clinton.

"I found that being exposed to a less familiar practice environment –- a large private practice in rural North Carolina -– this summer was both fascinating and beneficial for me," Fuhr wrote in an e-mail. "The externship provided me with great opportunities to strengthen my interviewing and physical exam skills. My mentor, as well as the other physicians at the Clinton Clinic, provided me with interesting insights into career choices and the advantages and disadvantages of specialties and different types of practice settings."

Students who participate in the scholars program will also receive additional exposure to family medicine throughout their schooling, including additional clinical experiences, and will have the opportunity to access scholarship funding if they ultimately enter a family medicine residency program.

In addition to Fuhr, the following ECU students are participating in the program for the 2010-2011 academic year: Ashley Hink of Raleigh, Kelley Haven of Greenville, Holly Love of Mount Pleasant and Patrick Williams of Hickory. A total of 11 students from ECU, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University are participating.

Physician mentors who are participating are Newton, Mark E. Beamer of Belhaven (Pungo Family Medicine), Sara O. Beyer of Charlotte (Steele Creek Family Practice), Jonathan E. Fischer of Carrboro (Piedmont Health Services), Conrad L. Flick of Raleigh (Family Medical Associates of Raleigh), Brian R. Forrest of Apex (Access Healthcare), Elizabeth P. Fry of Greenville (Physicians East), Michelle F. Jones of Wilmington (Wilmington Health Associates), David E. Lee of Lewisville (Family Medical Associates), Charles W. Rhodes of Mount Pleasant (Cabarrus Family Medicine) and J. Carson Rounds of Wake Forest (Village Family Medicine).

Students who participate in the scholars program will also receive additional exposure to family medicine throughout their schooling, including additional clinical experiences, and will have the opportunity to access scholarship funding if they ultimately enter a family medicine residency program.

The following ECU students are participating this year: Hannah Fuhr of Chapel Hill, Kelley Haven of Greenville, Ashley Hink of Raleigh, Holly Love of Mount Pleasant and Patrick Williams of Hickory.

Participating physicians are J. Thomas Newton of Clinton Clinic, Mark E. Beamer of Pungo Family Medicine, Sara O. Beyer of Steele Creek Family Practice, Jonathan E. Fischer of Piedmont Health Services, Conrad L. Flick of Family Medical Associates of Raleigh, Brian R. Forrest of Access Healthcare, Elizabeth P. Fry of Physicians East, Michelle F. Jones of Wilmington Health Associates, David E. Lee of Family Medicial Associates, Charles W. Rhodes of Cabarrus Family Medicine and J. Carson Rounds of Village Family Medicine.

ECU recognized for sending graduates into family medicine

The Brody School of Medicine is one of top medical schools in the country for sending graduates into family medicine, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Based on a three-year average for the period ending last October, 19.4 percent of the school’s graduates have entered an accredited family medicine residency program. That ranked ECU second in the country and marked the fourth consecutive year ECU has been ranked in the top 10.

In March, 20 percent of Brody's graduating students matched with family medicine residency programs during the school's annual Match Day. Eight of those 13 graduates will remain in North Carolina for their residency training.

ECU was also ranked 28th in primary care among medical schools in the May issue of U.S. News & World Report magazine.

Students receive Schweitzer Fellowships

Four students from the Brody School of Medicine have received Schweitzer Fellowships for 2010.

The students, who have finished their first year of medical school, commit to a year of service with a community agency, devoting more than 800 hours to local communities lacking access to adequate health services.


ECU's 2010 Schweitzer Fellows are, from left, Steven Pontickio,
Cierrea Roach, Ashley Hink and Jason Lee.

Below are the students' names and their service projects:

--Ashley Hink is addressing domestic violence by providing health education classes and one-on-one health education sessions, as well as engaging in advocacy, for people who have left or are in abusive relationships. She is working with the Center for Family Violence Prevention in Pitt County.

--Jason Lee and Steven Pontickio are addressing mental health disparities by establishing a biweekly mental health clinic at the JOY soup kitchen in Greenville. Lee and Pontickio will also provide health services, conduct health literacy education and screen for chronic diseases. For this project, Lee and Pontickio are also working with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, which funds projects aimed at underserved populations in North Carolina.

--Cierrea Roach will work with underserved elementary and middle school students by providing science- and math-based education and tutoring through the Little Willie Center in Greenville.

ECU's Schweitzer Fellows are also supported by grants from the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Brody welcomes Class of 2014

The Brody School of Medicine welcomed 78 new medical students in August.

The 39 men and 39 women in the Class of 2014 range in age from 20 to 36. As usual, they are all North Carolina residents, with 32 counties of residence listed. They received their undergraduate degrees from 31 different colleges and universities, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill having the most graduates, 20. ECU has 12 alumni in the class, and North Carolina State University has 11.

Dr. Keith Nelson, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, told the new students during the annual white coat ceremony to remember their humanity while learning and as they move into patient care. "Let your patients know you care even when you can't help," he said.

The class also includes three Brody Scholars, Stephanie Carrier and Stephanie Maxwell of Raleigh and Nicole Merli of Greenville. The scholarship program pays tuition and living expenses and encourages participants to design their own summer enrichment program that can include travel abroad.

Maxwell probably spoke for many of her classmates when she said: "At this point, I'm nervous but excited. I think it's a good mix."

The symbolic white coats are a gift to class members from the Brody School of Medicine Alumni Society, said Karen Cobb, director of development for the foundation. Sixty-six alumni donated approximately $7,000 to pay for the coats and welcome breakfast.

Participating alumni were given note cards to write a personal note to their students, and Dr. David Collier, an assistant professor and president of the alumni society, gave one to each new student.

Public health program hits enrollment record

The Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine enrolled its largest class to date in August, according to Dr. Lloyd Novick, department chairman.

The new class consists of 41 students. The class is made up of 11 men and 30 women. A third of the class is minority students. Seventy percent attended high school in North Carolina, and 78 percent received their undergraduate degrees from a college or university in the state. Fourteen students have degrees from East Carolina University.

Upon finishing their studies, 88 percent plan to stay and work in North Carolina, 68 percent in the East.

The department now has a total of 110 students, and 110 students have graduated from ECU with MPH degrees.

ECU among nation's best for in vitro fertilization

East Carolina University has one of the nation’s most successful programs for helping women become pregnant through in vitro fertilization.



At ECU Women's Physicians, 68.8 percent of embryo transfers resulted in live births for women younger than 35 during 2008, according to the Society for Assistive Reproductive Technology, which collects fertility clinic data nationwide. Nationally, the average success rate in 2008 for women 35 and younger was 47.3 percent, according to SART. ECU had an overall success rate of 56 percent for all women undergoing IVF regardless of age.

That success rate ranked ECU fourth in the country and first in North Carolina for 2008. In North Carolina, the next best success rate was at Wake Forest University and the nation's top fertility clinic that year was in Houston. There are nearly 500 IVF centers in the U.S.

"We've had an established program that has concentrated on continued quality improvement and higher pregnancy rates," said Dr. Cal Hayslip, medical director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility services at ECU. "In the past year, some of that hard work has been realized."

ECU's program began in 1993. In 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, a total of 81 women underwent IVF treatment at ECU.

New name, chair for department

The former Department of Medical Humanities at the Brody School of Medicine has a new name and a new chair.



Dr. Maria Clay has been named chair of the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies. She said a consultant brought in following the retirement of founding chair Dr. Loretta Kopelman said the former name didn't reflect the various fields the department comprised. Faculty and school leaders agreed.

"We wanted to celebrate and honor the past while moving forward," said Clay, who had served as interim chair since 2007.

The department retains the qualities that made it one of the first medical school departments in the country that dealt with history, economics, ethics and other non-medical matters. Faculty members have backgrounds in history, law, nursing and more.

"When you say 'bioethics,' that's a much more concrete meaning," said Dr. Daniel Goldberg, an assistant professor who arrived in August with a law degree and a doctorate in medical humanities. "On the other hand, we're not just bioethics. I think it broadens the scope appropriately."

Sculpture honoring Brody unveiled at heart institute

A sculpture at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University honors the legacy of one of the founders of the Brody School of Medicine while also symbolizing his and the school’s sense of service to eastern North Carolina.


Chitwood and sculpture

Those were the thoughts expressed by Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., director of the institute, during the unveiling ceremony June 10.

The sculpture is titled "Hands of Hope" and was created by ECU faculty member Hanna Jubran and his wife, Jodi Hollnagel-Jubran. It was commissioned by Myrtilla Brody in memory of her late husband, J.S. "Sammy" Brody. He was an early advocate and supporter of the medical school that now bears his family name.

"Many now will benefit from (Myrtilla Brody's) wisdom in providing this lasting memorial to her husband and our friend, Mr. Sammy Brody," Chitwood said. "This sculpture is a lasting reminder of his abiding hope for better health for all people of eastern North Carolina."