Third robotic surgeon gets busy O
ne day after East Carolina and Pitt County Memorial Hospital acquired Greenville's third surgical robot, it was used to perform the 300th robot-assisted mitral valve repair done in Greenville. Acquisition of the $1.5 million device, known as the Intuitive Surgical da Vinci S Surgical System, solidifies ECU’s reputation as a center for robotic surgery.
Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr. (with the surgical robot, above
), ECU senior associate vice chancellor for health sciences, chief of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at the Brody School of Medicine and a robotic surgery pioneer, said the new da Vinci model has several improvements including smaller size, better vision and controls, and more capabilities. “It’s a very important step in the evolution of robotic surgery,” said Chitwood, who’s also director of the East Carolina Heart Institute.
Surgeons make three small incisions to insert three robotic arms into the patient. One arm holds a tiny camera that projects 3-D images onto a monitor; images are magnified 10 times, to where millimeter-sized arteries and veins appear about the size of drinking straws. The other two arms, which move similarly to the human wrist, hold the pencil-sized instruments used to perform the actual surgery.
Seated at a computer console apart from the operating table, the surgeon views the images on the console while controlling the surgical instruments using two joystick-like devices. The robot allows surgeons to perform complicated procedures in a minimally invasive manner with greater precision than conventional surgery.
In May 2000, Chitwood performed North America’s first robot-assisted total mitral valve repair at PCMH. “We’re clearly the number one program in the state,” he said. Constructing a national reputation T
here were ten good reasons why Department of Construction Management faculty members were cheering so loudly when quarterback Jeff Blake connected with tight end Luke Fisher to give ECU a come-from-behind victory over N.C. State in the 1992 Peach Bowl. Blake, Fisher and four other players on that team majored in construction management. Four more were enrolled in what was then known as the School of Technology.
Fifteen years later, construction management is still drawing cheers, particularly from major companies in residential and commercial construction. Founded in 1985, the program is now the largest in the Southeast, with 645 current undergraduate majors. For the past six years the program has boasted a 100 percent placement rate. Last fall, it launched an online master’s degree to help returning professionals meet the demands of new technologies, processes and equipment.
Today, Blake ’94 works in land development in Texas. Fisher ’92 is involved with real estate restoration in Florida. Mike Johnson ’90 is vice president of operations for K. Hovnanian Homes in Raleigh. Scott Cooper ’90 (above
) is marketing manager for Caterpillar’s Telehandler Alliance Group in McConnellsburg, Pa.
“The construction management program gave me a solid base to succeed in the construction industry by preparing me to understand my customer’s needs,” Cooper said. “It was beneficial that everything in our program was hands on. We also were supported by a staff that knew everyone personally and made us feel like our family away at school.”
Cooper wanted to give back to ECU. His efforts yielded donations of several pieces of Caterpillar equipment, and, in 2006, the Caterpillar Foundation pledged $250,000 in support of the construction assembly high bay laboratory. Gregory Poole Equipment Co. in Raleigh matched the pledge. The money is for faculty professional development, research and the latest technology.
“Alumni like Scott Cooper make ECU what it is and are its future,” said Doug Kruger, chairman of ECU’s construction management department. “Scott serves as a model of what can be accomplished when alumni support their alma mater.”
In 2005, the program caught the attention of the National Housing Endowment, the philanthropic arm of the National Association of Home Builders. It pledged $100,000—its largest single gift ever to a university.
Centex Corp. chairman and CEO Tim Eller visited campus last fall as the featured speaker on a webcast seminar produced in partnership with the National Housing Endowment. ECU trustee Mark Tipton moderated the discussion about the future of residential construction. Industry professionals and students from many universities tuned in to the webcast. The second seminar is scheduled for later this spring.
Sharing a passion for journalism
The Stang Times is run by 27 editors, writers and photographers who work within deadlines, coordinate story assignments and use computers to piece everything together. Unlike other newspapers, however, the employees of the Times aren’t worried about improving readership or competing with Internet advertising; their goal is simply surviving sixth grade.
But the Times staff, which really is Mrs. Jorgette Mullins’ class at Hope Middle School, is getting lots of help from ECU students who work for The East Carolinian student paper. Along with their advisor Ken Robol, production manager Jennifer Hobbs, sports editor Eric Gilmore, web editor Rachael Lotter, photo editor Zach Sirkin and editor Sarah Bell have supervised the newsroom’s formation and the direction of the paper’s content.
“The students volunteered for positions in the sections they found the most interesting, and we helped guide them through brainstorming story ideas and setting up a chain of command,” said Hobbs. “The whole class was enthusiastic and came up with some great articles.”
The class wrote stories on topics ranging from student government and teacher-of-the-year nominations to how to get more accelerated reading points. There were profiles of outstanding students and, of course, basketball.
“I was surprised by how knowledgeable the writers I worked with were about ECU athletics and their own school’s teams; they were spitting statistics at me,” said Gilmore. “It made me realize just how large of an audience we can reach through our reporting.”
In addition to discussing the components of a good story, the editors stressed the importance of good communication and teamwork in a newsroom. “Don’t forget about your photographers,” Sirkin said to the class. “You need to talk to one another, and keep each other in the loop if you want to pull this off.”
The editors from The East Carolinian plan to continue visiting the class to keep track of their progress and assist in completing the production of the first issue. —Sarah Bell
Divers returning to pirate ship T
he return of warmer weather and calmer seas means archaeologists can resume work on raising more cannons and the 2,600-pound sternpost from what’s believed to be the flagship of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Work was halted last fall because of the lack of an adequate lifting vessel. Project archaeologist Chris Southerly said the cannons he hopes to raise can weigh between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds, depending on how much concretion has attached to them. Four smaller cannons pulled from the shipwreck have weighed between 800 and 1,000 pounds. Blackbeard, whose real name was widely believed to be Edward Teach or Thatch, was tracked down at Ocracoke Inlet by volunteers from the Royal Navy and killed in a battle on Nov. 22, 1718. The Queen Anne’s Revenge is believed to have sunk the same year. The ship, discovered in November 1996, is the oldest shipwreck found off the North Carolina coast. Gift funds geriatric center A
$2.5 million gift from a Greenville family will help build a geriatric center at the new family medicine center planned on the East Carolina Health Sciences Campus. The gift by the late Frances Joyner Monk of Farmville will fund the Frances J. and Robert T. Monk Sr. Geriatric Center. It is one of the largest gifts the university has received in recent years. Frances Monk, who died in June at age 87, became interested in health care for older adults from first-hand experience as a caregiver for her mother and husband. She read widely in geriatric health issues and was actively involved in the planning for the geriatric center. Frances Monk also wanted to honor the memory of her husband, Robert, who died in 2001. He was a former member of the Pitt County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees. David Whichard, vice chairman of the Medical Foundation of ECU, expressed thanks to the Monk family and said he hoped their generosity would inspire others to consider such gifts as a tribute to their own families and a way to give back. “Their legacy will live through this contribution to their community,” Whichard said.
Remembering Marshall D
ignitaries from East Carolina and Marshall University joined to dedicate a plaque at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium commemorating the 75 Marshall players and coaches who died in the plane crash after the 1970 game at Greenville. The tragedy was retold in the motion picture We Are Marshall. Tuition increases 5.9 percent E
ast Carolina trustees approved a 5.9 percent hike in tuition and fees for next year, an increase of $215 over the current $4,003 for full-time, in-state students. The increase is below the 6.5 percent maximum allowed by the UNC Board of Governors. ECU’s Student Government Association approved the increase Nov. 13. If approved, ECU students will see a $96 tuition increase, with $59 going toward student financial aid; $24 for faculty salary increases; and $13 for student access, retention, and graduation programs, Ballard said. ECU students would also see a $119 increase in fees, which encompass non-academic program such as student government and life, recreational services, health services, athletics and technology. The tuition increase will generate approximately $1.12 million in financial aid for ECU students. Dental school is funding priority S
ecuring funding for its new dental program is East Carolina’s top priority this year in the North Carolina General Assembly. The UNC system has requested $43.5 million each of the next two years to build the dental school in Greenville. Tied to the proposal is a $96 million expansion of the dental program at UNC Chapel Hill. Other priorities for ECU in the legislature this year is $10 million over the next two years to reimburse the Brody School of Medicine for care given to indigent patients and $8.45 million to plan a new classroom building that the colleges of business and education would share. ECU also will ask legislators for authority to designate parts of campus as nonsmoking areas. The UNC Board of Governors has given its approval to creation of doctor of dental surgery degree program at ECU. An initial class of 50 students is expected. The state legislature pays for about 33 percent of the UNC system’s budget, which was $6.4 billion last year. The rest comes from tuition, fees, federal appropriations, grants, donations and investment income. Kirklands endow scholarship G
etting a college diploma came within reach for Evelyn Kirkland ’61 ’62 of Lumberton when she received one of the first Prospective North Carolina Teachers scholarships awarded in 1958. She went on to teach sixth grade language arts for 30 years while husband Jim Kirkland ’61 built a tire and auto business in Lumberton. They always wanted to give something back to the university, and now they have. The Kirklands’ $100,000 gift to ECU will fund a scholarship benefiting undergraduate students majoring in middle grades education with a concentration in either language arts or math and science. First preference will be given to qualified students from Robeson County. “We both believe education is where everything begins,” said Mrs. Kirkland. She added the reason they chose to establish a scholarship for middle grades education is because it is a tremendous place to reach students who are our leaders of tomorrow.