When Lauren Moore, a fourth-year student at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, begins her residency training at ECU Health Medical Center in July it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in her deeply personal family medicine journey. With a love for health care passed down from her parents, including her late mother, Moore’s next step is another toward her ultimate goal: making a difference in the lives of countless eastern North Carolina community members.
Moore’s experience with health care goes far beyond her medical school training. Her father is a physician’s assistant and she was naturally drawn to the connections he made in the community. Growing up in Farmville and attending school in Greenville, she recalls countless instances where he was stopped in places like the grocery store, catching up with a long-time patient or offering helpful advice.
“Growing up, people would come up to us and be like, ‘Mr. Eddie, how are you doing?’ I’d ask, ‘Dad, who is that?’ He’d say, ‘Oh, a patient that I’ve had for ten years now.’ I would think, ‘That is amazing,’” Moore said. “And even recently, ever since I’ve matched at ECU Health, just within the past few weeks, I’ve had several people from my Bible study at my church that have said, ‘You know, I’ve been needing to get a primary care doctor.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m your person!’ It just feels good that they trust me enough to one day be their doctor and to have those personal connections and be able to serve them to make sure their health is taken care of.”
She also experienced the health care profession from the patient perspective through her mother’s cancer journey. When Moore was seven years old, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time and was declared cancer free after about a year of treatment.
Then, six years later, she was re-diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which spread to her liver and brain. Moore’s mother passed in June of 2010. She reflected on the care her mom received and how the care teams went above and beyond for patients and families alike. Moore learned what it meant to be a compassionate care giver and she said she’s prepared to bring that same compassion to her future patients.
“Seeing her go through that and seeing the way that her physicians were able to play such a vital role in not only her life, but also my family’s life and making sure that we were OK even after the fact,” Moore said. “If my dad was walking through the hospital, my mom’s physicians would check in on him and ask how he was doing and if he needed anything. So it wasn’t that they were just taking care of my mom as a patient, but they were also taking care of the rest of her life, too. That had such a tremendous impact on me. My goal is not only to care for my patients the same way my dad does, but also to make the families feel the same way that those physicians made me feel.”
Moore is one of 77 Brody medical students poised to begin their residency at hospitals across the country, following an emotional Match Day ceremony in March and commencement in May. For Moore, who wants to practice family medicine in the region in which she grew up, matching to ECU Health Medical Center was always the goal.
“Being a medical student at Brody and seeing the patient population that we have here, I think that’s really what drew me to ECU Health,” said Moore. “The fact that it serves patients throughout the 29 counties in eastern North Carolina who otherwise wouldn’t have a primary care provider or a Level I trauma center if it wasn’t for us. I was drawn to the educational opportunities given the uniqueness of our patients and everybody in the residency program is just so welcoming and nice. I know it’s family medicine, but it is also like a family there.”
Match Day at Brody marked a milestone for the Class of 2023, whose medical school journey included the historic events of learning through the COVID-19 pandemic and the integration of Brody and then-Vidant Health, which became ECU Health in 2022.
Match Day is arguably the pinnacle of medical school, when students discover where they will train during their residency, surrounded by friends, family and Brody faculty and staff who have guided them over the years.
The Class of 2023 is a snapshot of Brody’s mission to serve the state. The 77 members of the graduating class represent more than 25 North Carolina counties, from Buncombe in the west to Pasquotank in the northeast.
ECU Health Medical Center had an excellent Match Day, according to Dr. Herb Garrison, associate dean for Graduate Medical Education, with 98 medical students matching into the 12 main residency programs. Twenty-six of the students, or 27%, will graduate from North Carolina medical schools, including 16 students from ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. Brody’s most recent class features the most medical students who will begin their residency at ECU Health Medical Center in July.
“We’re thrilled for this class to start their residencies across the country and we’re especially excited about how many will be staying with us at ECU Health Medical Center,” Dr. Garrison said. “This group had their first year of medical school disrupted by the start of COVID and I’m so proud of the way they supported each other through that experience. I’m just excited, as I am every year, to see these skilled and highly trained students start their careers and share everything they’ve learned here with the rest of the world.”
A Rural Legacy
Dr. Mott Blair’s journey to his post as a physician at ECU Health Family Medicine – Wallace is not totally unlike Moore’s. Dr. Blair’s father was a doctor in Duplin County beginning in 1949.
Dr. Blair shared that his father was a primary care physician who also took up obstetrics and did home deliveries for many families. Seeing his father’s connection with patients and families in his home town lead him directly to his own career in medicine.
He attended the Brody School of Medicine – then called ECU School of Medicine – and graduated in 1987, alongside his brother. He matched with ECU Health Medical Center – then called Pitt County Memorial Hospital – and began practicing in Wallace after his three-year residency. He said his decisions to attend Brody, make Greenville his first choice for residency, establish a practice in his rural hometown and eventually partner with the ECU Health system have all been rewarding for himself and beneficial for the patients he serves.
“I feel like the mission of the medical school was a mission that I wanted to take on and I think I’ve been successful in doing that,” Dr. Blair said. “I think the credit in being able to do that goes to the medical school and now the medical center as well. I really think that what we’re doing now, particularly as we support practices across the eastern region of the state, is a crucial thing to put in place, because health care in rural North Carolina is so difficult and we need to have true rural primary care.”
Dr. Blair said that he knows his time at Brody prepared him well for the challenges of residency and he has seen the same for other Brody graduates whom he’s connected with as residents.
For first year residents, he said it’s a new kind of challenge and learning curve, just like those experienced in the first year of medical school and the first year of rotations, but sticking to the same habits that got residents where they are will make all the difference.
“Work hard, study hard. Getting through residency the first year is a lot of hard work,” Dr. Blair said. “So enjoy it and it will go by fast and it will seem like a distant memory pretty quickly. Coming out of Brody, you’ll be well prepared. I found the preparation for me was excellent. You have to be patient with the pace in medicine. It changes rapidly and has really changed a lot since I’ve been in practice and continues to do so.”
In line with the Brody School of Medicine’s mission to increase the number of primary care physicians who serve North Carolina, 52% of the 2023 Brody class matched into primary care residencies — including obstetrics and gynecology — and 44% matched to residency programs in North Carolina.
Moore and Dr. Blair are just two examples of the importance of the Brody School of Medicine and ECU Health connection. Developing high-quality, compassionate physicians for a region in need helps meet the organizations’ combined mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.
“Developing great primary care providers for rural areas is at the core of what we do at Brody and within ECU Health” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and dean of Brody. “Working as rural health care professionals is hard but we’re working together to train doctors that will care for the whole patient, their physical and emotional health, and I think we’ve been successful in doing that. We have students, professors, residents and doctors that really understand that side of health care and their work in that space leaves a legacy that we can all be proud of.”