ECU Physicians and Eastern Neurosurgical and Spine Associates to merge
(Feb. 13, 2008)
ECU Physicians and a private neurosurgery practice plan to merge and take steps toward developing the region's first neuroscience institute at East Carolina University.
Eastern Neurosurgical and Spine Associates, a six-physician group established in 1968, is joining the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Its physicians will become full-time clinical faculty of the new division of neurosurgery within the Department of Surgery at Brody. Through this appointment, they will also join ECU Physicians, the group practice of the medical school, and will continue to see patients at their practice site at the corner of Arlington Boulevard and Stantonsburg Road, according to an agreement signed earlier this month.
"A neuroscience institute, once developed, will enhance services for patients in the region and expand research into the neurosciences, leading to better therapies for neurological illnesses and injuries," said Dr. Phyllis Horns, interim dean of the Brody School of Medicine and interim vice chancellor for health sciences at ECU.
While certain aspects require further planning, officials hope to complete the merger by July 1, the start of the next state fiscal year, pending final approvals.
According to representatives on both sides, the practices have talked on and off for years about a more formal alliance. They now believe the time is right to grow their clinical programs together 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 feel that a merger of Eastern Neurosurgical and Spine with the Brody School of Medicine provides us with the best opportunity to expand neurosurgical services," said Dr. F. Douglas Jones of ENSA. Possible new subspecialties include neuro-oncology
and endovascular surgery.
Dr. Stuart Lee, another ENSA physician added that joining the medical school and developing an institute will help recruit neurosurgeons.
"The supply of neurosurgeons continues to shrink each year nationally and fall behind market demand," Lee said. "The shortage is expected to get even worse over the next three to five years. Developing a robust academic-based neurosciences institute with the school strengthens our position collectively to bring top-flight neurosurgeons and other faculty to eastern North Carolina to the benefit of our patients."
Jones, Lee, Dr. Keith Tucci and Dr. Barbara Lazio, the physician-owners of ENSA, will become clinical professors at the Brody School of Medicine. Two more ENSA physicians will become clinical faculty. ENSA staff members will also be offered positions at ECU.
Dr. Michael Rotondo, chairman 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.
"Considering ECU Physicians' renewed focus on program growth and diversification, including the development of multidisciplinary care centers, both entities decided now is the right time, and merging the two practices intuitively makes the most sense," Rotondo said. "Together, we can combine our clinical capabilities and resources to better serve the patients of eastern North Carolina."
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.
"It is likely that our teaching duties will expand, and we share the goal with ECU to eventually develop a neurosurgical resident training program," 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 tr