(Nov. 12, 2008)
ECU Physicians and a private neurosurgery practice have completed a merger, bringing brain and spine surgery to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and paving the way for the region's first neuroscience institute.
Eastern Neurosurgical and Spine Associates, established in 1968, has joined the medical school. Its physicians are full-time clinical faculty of the new division of neurosurgery within the Department of Surgery at Brody. Through this appointment, they have also joined ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the medical school.
They will continue to see patients at their practice site at the corner of Arlington Boulevard and Stantonsburg Road, which will be called the ECU Neurosurgical & Spine Center. The merger was completed Nov. 1.
"This merger of a successful and unique service in the community with the academic family is the culmination of a strategic thought process and plan," said Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the medical school. "The value of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, when combined with the talent and expertise of a dedicated group of physicians, will allow the future development of programs that will enhance the mission of the school."
According to representatives on both sides, ECU and Eastern Neurosurgical talked for years about a more formal alliance. They believe the time is right to combine their clinical programs and begin to develop multidisciplinary centers that will ultimately join other research and academic programs in the neurosciences at ECU to form an institute.
"We look forward to the merger as it will allow us to further develop our efforts to expand neurosurgical services for this area, hopefully adding some services in the very near future," said Dr. F. Douglas Jones of ENSA. Possible new subspecialties include neuro-oncology and endovascular surgery.
He added that joining the medical school and developing an institute will help recruit neurosurgeons.
"The neuroscience resources available at Brody School of Medicine will be critical in the development of a neuroscience institute," Jones said. "We wish to explore starting a training program for neurosurgeons here in eastern North Carolina and could not do that without this merger."
Jones, Dr. K. Stuart Lee, Dr. Keith Tucci, Dr. Barbara Lazio and Dr. Michael C. Sharts are now faculty members at the Brody School of Medicine. ENSA staff members were offered permanent positions at ECU.
Dr. Michael Rotondo, chair of surgery at ECU, said the neurosurgery practice and the medical school have enjoyed a strong relationship for many years, have similar goals and have considered merging for a while.
"Bringing neurosurgery to ECU Physicians is a tremendous step toward growing and diversifying the services we offer to eastern North Carolina," Rotondo said. "It will also add greatly to our educational and research programs. We're very excited about the possibilities."
ENSA physicians already teach third- and fourth-year medical students as well as physician assistant students. Joining the medical school full-time will increase their teaching opportunities, Jones said.
The neurosurgery practice treats patients with brain and spinal tumors, pituitary tumors, spinal disorders such as cervical, lumbar disc and degenerative disease, certain strokes and more. It also treats children with neurosurgical problems and provides 24-hour coverage for neurosurgical emergencies at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.