Reflecting on a year of advancement and milestones at ECU Health and in eastern North Carolina.

As we near the end of 2022, it is important to reflect on one of the most historic years in our health system’s history.

From the start of the joint operating agreement with the Brody School of Medicine on Jan. 1, to our new logo announcement in April, to celebrating the very first Patient Choice Awards in December and everything in between, ECU Health team members led an incredible amount of transformation and innovation in 2022.

Evolving to ECU Health

Our re-brand to ECU Health is a visual reminder of how transformative the year has been. The ECU Health logo is a symbol of our shared commitment to transforming and elevating health care for millions, training the providers of tomorrow, collaborating with community partners to solve complex issues and bringing clinical innovations that improve the lives of those who proudly call this region home.

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and the health system began a joint operating agreement on Jan. 1, 2022. The agreement provided a structure that allowed the two organizations to more effectively and efficiently address issues facing the region – such as health disparities and care delivery obstacles – while also better anticipating future health care and educational needs.

In April, the two organizations hosted a press conference and shared the new logo for ECU Health and announced the brand launch that would begin in May.

“Eastern North Carolina’s vibrancy depends on strong collaboration between the institutional pillars that have long represented this region’s unique needs,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, ECU Health CEO and dean of Brody.

ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers added, “This partnership strengthens our institutions’ shared mission and ultimately betters the communities we serve. Sharing the new ECU Health logo begins an exciting chapter as we work collaboratively to build the health care enterprise for the region and expand our reach further into eastern North Carolina.”

Watch: ECU Health Logo Announcement: Sights and Sounds

In the months since, we’ve seen material changes around the health system from signage around hospitals and clinics to websites and social media channels. More importantly, the creation of ECU Health has opened the door for the system to improve access to care across eastern North Carolina while training health care professionals through the Brody School of Medicine.

2022 was a transformative year but it was not without its challenges. In the past year, we cared for the highest census of COVID-19 patients across the health system while at the same time experiencing the impact of the nationwide health care labor shortage.

Despite the complex challenges facing health care nationwide, we are well on our way to achieving our vision thanks to the hard work of the 14,000-plus team members who live the ECU Health mission each and every day.

Expanding access to behavioral health care in eastern North Carolina

Access to behavioral health care is crucial across the country, but especially in rural areas like eastern North Carolina. In June, ECU Health and Acadia Healthcare announced plans to build a state-of-the-art, 144-bed behavioral health hospital in the medical district of Greenville, less than a mile from ECU Health Medical Center.

This new facility will be a center of excellence, providing North Carolinians with important access to behavioral health services and treatment from specialized clinical teams in a carefully designed environment.

Slated to open in spring 2025, the hospital will be operated through a joint venture between ECU Health and Acadia, the largest standalone provider of behavioral healthcare services across the United States. Together, the organizations will invest approximately $65 million in expanding behavioral health resources in eastern North Carolina.

The hospital will include 24 inpatient beds specifically for children and adolescents with mental health needs. These beds will be the first of their kind in ECU Health’s 29-county service area and the only child and adolescent beds within 75 miles of Greenville, North Carolina.

Conceptual rendering of new behavioral health hospital

“As a clinician, seeing this type of investment and understanding the significant impact it will have on patients is exciting,” said Dr. Syed A. Saeed, an ECU Health board-certified psychiatrist with more than 40 years of experience. “The needs of behavioral health patients differ from other patients and vary widely even within the same diagnosis. This state-of-the-art hospital will allow us to fully meet our patients’ unique needs in a safe, patient-centered environment and ensure clinicians have the resources and training needed to deliver excellent care.”

Read more from our Newsroom.

Twenty-two ECU Health nurses recognized among Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina

This year, 22 ECU Health nurses were selected to the 2022 NC Great 100. This is the largest number of ECU Health nurses to receive this recognition. The honorees were celebrated at a gala hosted by The North Carolina Great 100, Inc. in Greenville in October.

Since 1989, The North Carolina Great 100, Inc. has recognized and honored nurses around the state for their commitment to excellence and to promote a positive image of the nursing profession. Out of thousands of nominations that are submitted annually, 100 recipients are selected based on their outstanding professional abilities and contributions made to improving health care services to their communities.

Read about each of the 22 award winners in our Newsroom.

ECU Health Beaufort Hospital designated as primary stroke center by The Joint Commission

In July, ECU Health Beaufort Hospital – a campus of ECU Health Medical Center was designated as a primary stroke center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart/Stroke Association, recognizing the hospital’s preparedness and expertise to care for stroke patients. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the state, resulting in more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease.

With ECU Health Beaufort’s designation, each of the nine ECU Health hospitals are stroke certified by The Joint Commission.

“Achieving stroke certification for all nine hospitals has been our goal since launching an intentional focus on improving stroke care in eastern North Carolina seven years ago,” said Barry Bunn, chief of medical staff and regional medical director of emergency services, ECU Health. “At the start of this process, ECU Health began a pathway of certifying all of the ECU Health hospitals with some level of stroke certification by the Joint Commission. Stroke certified hospitals were prevalent west of I-95, but there were few certified hospitals in the eastern part of the state. Now, we can proudly say that patients across the region will have access to high-quality stroke care, regardless of where they live.”

Read our press release for more information.

Brody School of Medicine welcomes newest class of medical students

The following is courtesy of ECU News Services

In July, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University welcomed 86 new medical students — all North Carolina residents — during its annual White Coat Ceremony.

During the ceremony, keynote speaker Dr. Aundrea Oliver, an assistant professor of thoracic and foregut surgery in Brody’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, spoke about the significance of the white coat.

“The most important thing to remember through this is that this is not about you,” Oliver said. “If you become an oncologist, or an epidemiologist or if you go into pediatrics, it doesn’t matter where your patient needs you or their families or the community. It’s about making change everywhere they are.

“The mark of a true physician is someone who can look into the face of uncertainty and say, ‘I don’t know, but I do know we are determined to find out,’” she added. “It’s someone who can look at a patient who is suffering and seek the truth to confront it wholeheartedly and not run away when someone else is in pain. All of us are achievers. All of us would like to be successful. But I will tell you that the best way to do that is to always put your patient — who is right in front of you — as your focus.”

Dr. Michael Waldrum, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and CEO of ECU Health, spent time with the students of the class of 2026 and is impressed by how they carry on the school’s tradition of graduating diverse professionals to tackle the challenges of providing health care to North Carolina’s rapidly diversifying population.

A student at the Brody School of Medicine puts on their white coat for the first time during the 2022 White Coat Ceremony.
Courtesy of ECU News Services

“They are part of that tradition, whether it’s a gender, ethnic, religious or language diversity,” Waldrum said. “What it takes to solve complex problems is diverse perspectives and then creating a culture and an environment where we can explore and inquiry together with those diverse perspectives. That has been Brody’s tradition and they are clearly part of that tradition.”

As ECU Health, the health system and the school of medicine will train these new medical students to be health care leaders.

Read more from ECU News Services here.