Four students at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine have been awarded the university’s most prestigious medical scholarship.

David Murray, Valentine Okafor, Arvind Mallikarjunan and Vaishnavi Siripurapu — all North Carolina residents — have been chosen for the Class of 2026 Brody Scholar and Brody Fellow award, valued at approximately $118,000.

Each student will receive four years of medical school tuition, living expenses and the opportunity to design a summer enrichment program that can include travel abroad. The award will also support community service projects the students may undertake while in medical school.

Since the program began in 1983, 150 students have received scholarships. About 76% of Brody Scholars remain in North Carolina to practice, and the majority of those stay in eastern North Carolina.

“The Brody Scholarship is among the most distinguished in U.S. medical schools,” said Dr. Herb Garrison, interim president of ECU’s Medical & Health Sciences Foundation. “We are forever grateful to the Brody family for establishing and continuing to support the Brody Scholars program and appreciate the Brody Scholars who demonstrate constantly why they’re deserving of this tremendous support.”

David Murray

Murray, from Fayetteville, graduated from East Carolina University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in molecular and cellular biology. He is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

He received ECU’s 2019 Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award for his work on developing new ways to make unique unnatural amino acids and putting them into proteins. He also presented his findings at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium held at Duke University. Murray decided to pursue medicine after his cousin was hospitalized for an asthma attack.

“After missing weeks of school, my cousin lost his interest and drive to accomplish his dream of becoming a doctor,” Murray said. “I can’t help but believe that if he had received early care and management for his asthma, like I had, he would have never given up on his dream.”

Murray said he’s passionate about community health and family medicine and hopes to be a primary care physician that practices medicine in underserved, low socioeconomic communities.

“I hope to one day open many primary care clinics in communities that need them most,” he said. “In doing so, I believe we can achieve health equity and mitigate health disparities.”

He is the son of Thomas Rodney Murray and Kareema Cavallo of Canton.

Murray also said he believes being a Brody Scholar goes beyond him as an individual.

“In communities like mine, money is a limiting factor and is a reason to give up,” he said. “This scholarship shows that no matter your socioeconomic status or how much money your parents make or what community you come from, if you can persevere and continue to pursue your dream, you will get help.”

Valentine Okafor

Okafor is this year’s Brody Fellow, who hopes to use the opportunity to make an impact on global health.

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Okafor graduated from ECU in 2016 with a bachelor’s in biochemistry and a minor in chemistry. He is the son of Leonard and Chigozie Okafor.

In 2015, Okafor decided to study abroad to explore international health systems and to pursue solutions to health challenges around the world.

“I decided to attend this program after realizing the British National Health Services (NHS) was considered one of the best in the world,” he said. “During this program, I visited the World Health Organization headquarters and spoke with members of Parliament on issues regarding public health, the health care policies in the U.K. and ways in which health care systems in developing countries such as Nigeria can be improved.”

That same year, Okafor served as an ECU Global Ambassador; he was selected shortly after his study abroad experience, among other campus activities.

After graduation, Okafor worked full time as a scientist at Mayne Pharma and Thermofisher Scientific, where he performed various chemistry tests in the lab on life-saving drugs and medications, including vaccines to ensure safety and quality before they get the patients that need them the most.

While rewarding, another profession was his calling.

“I realized I wanted to go into medicine at the age of 9 when I first hand experienced and became a victim of the flaws of the health care system in my birth country, Nigeria,” Okafor said. “I was on the verge of losing my right leg, but ultimately was saved by the immense impact of the excellent physicians and their team in the U.K, I was inspired to dedicating my life’s efforts towards providing top quality health care toward people in underserved communities.”

Okafor has high aspirations for his Brody experience.

“During medical school, I hope to develop the professionalism, cultural perspective and humility needed to be an excellent physician through the opportunities provided by Brody School of Medicine,” he said. “To me, being a Brody Fellow is a huge privilege,” he said. “It gives me the freedom to pursue my passions and interests without the massive financial constraint and opens doors and opportunities for me that I would have not had the opportunity to explore.”

Arvind Mallikarjunan

Mallikarjunan wants to explore the parallels between health care and technology.

“I have a deep interest in building technologies to support the care of people living with a variety of diseases, and want to further my usage of technology to better administer care to patients in remote areas,” he said. “I also have interest in machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) as a tool for predicting the health outcomes of patients.”

Mallikarjunan, from Durham, earned a bachelor’s degree in music and exercise/sport science from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in physiology from N.C. State. He had his sights set on medical school even as he performed research at UNC’s Strength and Conditioning Laboratory and the Carolina Affective Science Laboratory. He was also a clinical research specialist for Duke University Health System’s Division of Hematology Sickle Cell Comprehensive Care Unit.

Addressing health problems like sickle cell disease motivates Mallikarjunan to take advantage of opportunities for research and volunteerism.

“While I always knew that I wanted to be in health care, I really solidified the reasoning behind becoming a physician during my time as a research specialist at Duke University,” he said. “Working with people living with sickle cell disease was an eye-opening and truly invigorating opportunity. I realized that there were so many areas in medicine that needed more support, and I felt the best way I could do that was by becoming a physician.”

Mallikarjunan is also an accomplished musician and volunteers to build bridges of access to technology for at-risk community schools across the state. He also founded Nanbar Health, a software suite built to communicate the disease experience of patients to their providers.

He is the son of Chitra Subramaniam.

Mallikarjunan hopes to channel his Brody Scholar experience into caring for the community.

“Being a Brody Scholar means so much to me; it truly is difficult to put into words,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to serve our community without thinking about the debt that greatly affects so many physicians’ lives. It’s an amazing opportunity and one that I will never forget, and I am so thankful to ECU and the Brody family for this gift.”

Vaishnavi Siripurapu

Siripurapu applies a global perspective to her hopes for a future career.

“Throughout medical school, I hope to learn not just about medicine but about communities, cultures and social and systemic forces in order to become a skilled physician to meet the needs of my community,” the Mooresville native said. “I also hope to grow and be exposed to numerous new perspectives that will challenge my own worldview and ultimately help me develop further as both a person and a physician.”

Siripurapu earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and women’s and gender studies from UNC-Chapel Hill earlier this year. She attended the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics. Her journey to Brody afforded her the view of the world as a village.

“I am an immigrant from a very rural area of south India. I actually grew up without running water, wifi or stable electricity,” Siripurapu said. “Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted to help the people around me as I grew up in a very community-based setting in a rural village.

“When I came to America, I lived exclusively in the American south and was exposed to community care and values of unity throughout my childhood and formative years. What pushed me to medicine was the idea of tangibly making a marked and meaningful difference in the life of another person within my community.”

Siripurapu, the daughter of Sreedevi and Narasimha Siripurapu, hopes to pursue a career in women’s health or a similar field. In the meantime, she wants to take full advantage of the Brody Scholar opportunity.

“For me, being a Brody scholar means that I have the freedom to focus my efforts entirely on the underserved communities that made me who I am today,” she said. “I hope to grow and develop alongside my cohort throughout our four years of medical school and give back to the people of North Carolina.”

Awards | Health News

Over the past few weeks, two events were hosted in Greenville to honor the Great 100 nurses. While the pandemic impacted the in-person celebration events for the 2020 and 2021 Great 100 nurses, these recipients were able to celebrate their accomplishments this year alongside their 2022 Great 100 colleagues!

The Great 100 nurses are selected through nominations from patients, coworkers, friends and family members. To learn more about Great 100, click here. To find out more about the 2022 nurses honored with the Great 100, check out our Newsroom.

ECU Health Great 100 Nurses of NC Brunch Celebration

On Sept. 28, ECU Health hosted a brunch celebration to honor the Great 100 Nurses recipients from 2020, 2021 and 2022. Nurses and leaders from across the system attended the event and vocally celebrated the accomplishments of the honorees including Brian Floyd, president of ECU Health Medical Center and chief operating officer of ECU Health, Jay Briley, president of ECU Health Community Hospitals and Dr. Bimbola Akintade, dean of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing.

Great 100 Gala

The 34th Annual NC Great 100 gala was held at the Greenville Convention Center on Oct. 8. The black-tie gala honored the 2022 Great 100 nurse recipients from across the state, with 22 of those nurses from the ECU Health system.

Check out some photos from both these special events.

Great 100 Brunch

Great 100 Gala

Awards | Featured | Nursing

Greenville, N.C. – 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.  

This year, 22 ECU Health nurses have been selected to the 2022 NC Great 100. This is the largest number of ECU Health nurses to receive this recognition. This year’s honorees will be celebrated at a gala hosted by The North Carolina Great 100, Inc. in Greenville on Oct. 8.

ECU Health extends heartfelt gratitude to these nurses for their contributions to patient care and living the ECU Health mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

The ECU Health nurses chosen this year are:

Alyssa Ballestero

Alyssa Ballestero, MSN, RN-BC, APRN, is a staff nurse III in the Neuroscience Intermediate Unit and a nurse practitioner with ECU Health Neurosurgery in Greenville. Alyssa has worked at ECU Health Medical Center for seven years. Alyssa earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina and her master’s degree in nursing, family nurse practitioner from Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts. She obtained specialty certification in medical-surgical nursing, as well as certification in emergency neurological life support and the stroke response team. Alyssa is an active member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

Cathy M. Bellamy

Cathy M. Bellamy, MSN, RN LNC, is the manager of Education Services at ECU Health Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro. She has been with the ECU Health system for more than 30 years. She started her career in Surgical Intensive Care at Duke Hospital before joining ECU Health. Cathy has varied experiences in pain management, endoscopy, surgery, orthopedics and pediatrics as a Clinical Manager. For the last 20 years, Cathy has worked in the field of Staff and Professional Development, doing what she loves in her role as a nurse educator with ECU Health Edgecombe Hospital and working on system initiatives.

Marcia Bryant

Marcia Bryant, MSN, RN, NE-BC, is vice president of Clinical Operations and chief nursing officer at The Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head. Marcia earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her master’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University. She was appointed Chief Nursing Officer in 2015, bringing nearly 30 years of nursing experience to the role. Her leadership posts include director of cardiac services for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and administrative supervisor for Emory University Orthopedics and Spine Hospital. She has also held nursing leadership roles at Mission-St. Joseph Health System in Asheville, and ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. Bryant serves on the Outer Banks Dementia Task Force and led The Outer Banks Hospital to be the first dementia-friendly hospital in the state.

Kristy Cook

Kristy Cook, PhD, RN, IBCLC, is an assistant nurse manager in the Special Care Nursery/Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2009 and completed the BSN to PhD program at East Carolina University in 2019. Kristy began her career in the Newborn Nursery of Pitt County Memorial Hospital 14 years ago as a nurse extern. She has since worked in various units, such as Rehab Spinal Cord Injury, Mother/Baby, Special Care Nursery, and is currently training with the Neonatal Intensive population. She has grown with the organization, remaining at Maynard Children’s Hospital for more than eight years. Dr. Cook has served in numerous roles, including as a volunteen, nursing assistant, staff nurse, charge nurse, quality liaison, breastfeeding champion, lactation consultant and clinical coach.

Jamie Hall

Jamie Hall, BSN, RN, CIC, is an infection preventionist II at ECU Health Medical Center. She has been with the medical center for three years in infection control and prevention. Jamie earned her associate degree in nursing from Cape Fear Community College and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Mount Olive. Jamie started her nursing career as an operating room nurse and later worked as a staff nurse for a colorectal and general surgery outpatient clinic. Jamie is certified in infection prevention and control, is a DAISY Award recipient, a member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and serves on the North Carolina APIC Chapter Recognition Committee. Jamie is a co-chair of ECU Health’s central line-associated infections (CLABSI) sub-committee and is involved with system-wide CLABSI quality improvement projects.

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC was recently the manager of Patient Care Services—Medical Unit at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital, a campus of ECU Health Medical Center. Daniel will continue his tenure as a nurse practitioner at ECU Health Multispecialty Clinic- Belhaven beginning fall 2022. He is a board-certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse and a Family Nurse Practitioner. He began his medical career in the United States Army, serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq as a combat medic. After 15 years of military service, Daniel earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in nursing from Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been with ECU Health since 2019 and has served in various roles, including staff nurse, charge nurse and nursing manager.

Jamie Hoggard

Jamie Hoggard, MSN, RN, CCRN, is a clinical education specialist at ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie. She has been with the system since 2009, starting as a nursing assistant before becoming a registered nurse, and has served in her current role for seven years. Jamie earned her bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a certified critical care nurse, certified in Nursing Professional Development, a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and a member of the Association for Nursing Professional Development.

Amanda Isbell

Amanda Isbell, CNM, MSN, C-EFM, is a staff nurse with ECU Health North Hospital in Roanoke Rapids, and will continue her tenure as a nurse midwife with ECU Health Duplin Hospital in Kenansville beginning fall 2022.  Amanda has been with ECU Health for 17 years, dedicated to her nursing career in maternal-newborn nursing.  Amanda earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Chamberlain College of Nursing and her master’s degree from Frontier Nursing University with her post-graduate certificate in nurse midwifery.  She is certified in nurse midwifery and fetal monitoring, and is a member of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; the Association of Certified Nurse Midwives; Sigma Theta Tau; and Phi Theta Kappa.

Patrick M. Jones, RN-ADN, is a staff nurse III in the 3N Neurosciences Unit at ECU Health Medical Center. Patrick has been a nurse for nine years, and served at ECU Health Medical Center for five years. Patrick earned his degree from Pitt Community College in 2013 and practiced nursing in a variety of environments, including nursing homes, home health, and inpatient nursing. Patrick enjoys the positive impact nurses have in caring for patients, families and the community.

Kimberly Lodato

Kimberly Lodato, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a staff IV nurse on the Medical/Surgical Unit at ECU Health North Hospital. Kimberly has been a nurse for 22 years and has worked on the same unit at the same hospital for the entire time. She graduated with an associate degree in 2000 from Halifax Community College and obtained her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2021 from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Kimberly is a Certified Medical Surgical Nurse and a member of the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses.

Lawrence Madubeze

Lawrence Madubeze, BSN, RN, is an assistant nurse manager on the Neurosciences Unit at ECU Health Medical Center.  Lawrence has worked at ECU Health for 10 years and in his current role for two years. Prior to his current role, Lawrence served as a cardiac travel nurse and a staff nurse on the Neurosciences Unit. He earned an associate degree from Cape Fear Community College and earned his bachelor’s degree from Fayetteville State University.

Pamela Di Mattina

Pamela Di Mattina, MPH, BSN, RN, is a staff nurse IV in the Palliative Care Unit at ECU Health Medical Center where she has worked for three years. Pam earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2002 from Binghamton University in New York. She is a certified hospice and palliative nurse and was “the most outstanding nurse of the year” as a Vidant Brody Award recipient in 2021. She is the skin champion for her floor and is a member of the Hospice & Palliative Nurse’s Association. Pam is currently enrolled in the Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist master’s program at East Carolina University.

Grayson Moore

Grayson Moore, MSN, MBA, RN, is an education specialist for nursing at ECU Health Medical Center. Grayson has been with ECU Health Medical Center for 11 years and worked in nursing education for the last six years. Grayson earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University, master’s degree in nursing and business administration from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in nursing practice at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is certified in Nursing Professional Development and is a member of the Association of Nursing Professional Development; the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing; and Betta Gamma Sigma.

Toria Moore

Toria Moore, BSN, RN, is an education coordinator at ECU Health Edgecombe Hospital, where she has worked for 19 years. Toria has been in her current role for more than a year and previously served as a staff nurse in the Emergency Department. She received an associate degree in nursing from Edgecombe Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Fayetteville State University. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Nurse Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Lou Montana Rhodes

Lou Montana Rhodes, MSN, RN, is the vice president for the Office of Experience at ECU Health. Lou has been with ECU Health for 20 years, served as the vice president of nursing in two regional hospitals and worked in the Office of Experience for the last five years. Lou earned her associate degree at Beaufort County Community College, her master’s degree at East Carolina University and will graduate this year with her Doctorate of Nursing Practice focused in Nursing Leadership from East Carolina University. She is a member of the North Carolina Nurses Association, the North Carolina affiliate of the American Organization of Nurse Leaders and the Watson Caring Science Institute. Lou is a member of East Carolina University’s Sigma Theta Tau, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key Honor Society and the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement. She also serves on the Center for Family Violence Prevention Board.

Meredith Pauli

Meredith Pauli, BSN, RN-BC, is a staff nurse III for the Neurosciences Unit at ECU Health Medical Center. Meredith has worked at ECU Health for seven years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University and is certified in medical surgical nursing.

Erin Pearson

Erin Pearson, BSN, RN, leads clinical performance improvement work throughout the ECU Health system. She is a content expert in central lines and Foley catheters, guiding organizational best practice related to infection prevention. In her role, Erin collaborates with operations, information services and infection control and is responsible for building extensively successful relationships with those partners. She manages the best practice-based auditing program for ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. Erin is a two-time DAISY Award recipient and has participated in multiple award-winning BSI quality improvement projects.  She’s a recipient of the ECU Health Board Quality Leadership Award; North Carolina Organization of Nurse Leaders, Best Practice Award; and the 6th Annual ECU Health Quality Symposium, Outstanding Podium Presentation Award.

Shannon Powell

Shannon Powell, RNC-LRN, is a staff nurse IV in Special Care Nursery/Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center. Shannon has been a member of the medical center team for 27 years, beginning her career at the hospital as a nurse extern in Newborn Nursery/Convalescent Nursery. Upon graduation from East Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1996, Shannon transitioned to a registered nurse role. Certified in Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing, Shannon has dedicated her entire career at ECU Health to serving the neonatal population and their families.

Jessica Scheller

Jessica Scheller, MSN, RNC-NIC, ACCNS-N, is a neonatal clinical nurse specialist at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center. She has been with the hospital for 17 years and began her nursing career in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She has been in her current role for four years. Jessica earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from East Carolina University. She is a member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist and American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. She has a specialty certification in Neonatal Intensive Care nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist Wellness through acute care (Neonatal).

Tara Stroud

Tara Stroud, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC, is the administrator for Patient Care Services at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center. Tara has been with ECU Health for more than 15 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University and began her nursing career in the Neonatal ICU. Furthering her career, she earned a master’s degree in nursing from East Carolina University, practicing as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and a doctorate of nursing practice in Executive Nursing Leadership from Baylor University. Tara maintains specialty certifications as a neonatal nurse practitioner and a nurse executive advanced. Tara is a member of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and the North Carolina Nurses Association.

Beverly Venters

Beverly Venters, MSN, RN, CPHQ, is the director of Quality for ECU Health Bertie Hospital in Windsor and ECU Health Chowan Hospital in Edenton, and director of Nursing for ECU Health Chowan Hospital. Beverly received her associate degree in nursing at College of the Albemarle, bachelor’s degree in nursing at East Carolina University and master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis on Leadership in Healthcare Systems at Grand Canyon University. She started her nursing career in 1995 as a nursing assistant at ECU Health Chowan Hospital. She joined the Quality Department at ECU Health Chowan Hospital in 2006, and began providing leadership for the department in 2008. She is a member of the National Association for Healthcare Quality, the North Carolina Association for Healthcare Quality and serves on the Albemarle Hopeline Board.  She is a certified professional in Healthcare Quality.

Rebecca Williamson

Rebecca Williamson, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is an assistant nurse manager for 4 North Surgery at ECU Health Medical Center. Rebecca has been with ECU Health for 13 years. She earned an associate degree in nursing from Beaufort County Community College and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a Certified Med-Surg RN, a DAISY Award honoree, and a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and North Carolina Nurses Association.

Awards | Featured | Nursing | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, NC – Compassionate, a strong patient advocate, calm and comforting are just a few ways respiratory care practitioner Karen Holland is described by patients and their families as well as the doctors she works alongside. Karen was recently awarded the Pulmonary Health and Illness of the Lung (PHIL) Award for excellence in respiratory care; nominated by two physicians who care for patients at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital.

Karen often works with the most critical patients and over the past two years many of those patients had COVID-19. The physicians who nominated her commented on the many incidents of witnessing Karen sitting at a patient’s beside as their condition was deteriorating, educating and explaining to patients what was happening. Karen’s demeanor is calm and comforting and patients often call on Karen to talk with their families, even after the physicians had talked with them to help explain and calm fears. She is a strong advocate for her patients and provides special attention to make sure patients and their families stay in communication throughout their hospital stay.

Karen was presented with the PHIL award by Alene Payne, manager of respiratory care at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital. The PHIL Award was established by the FACES Foundation to recognize outstanding respiratory practitioners who provide care and treatment for patients with respiratory illness. ECU Health recognizes two PHIL Award winners each year – one from ECU Health Medical Center and one representing the ECU Health regional hospitals. Karen was named as the regional recipient. This is the fifth consecutive year the regional award has been received by an ECU Health Beaufort Hospital team member.

Karen Holland, a PHIL Award winner, poses for a photo.

Karen is a graduate of the Pitt Community College respiratory therapy program and began her career as a respiratory care practitioner in 1995 at ECU Health Medical Center (then Pitt County Memorial Hospital) and joined the Beaufort team in 2012. She is an amazing respiratory care practitioner and also a strong proponent of every discipline involved in caring for a respiratory patient. She recognizes the benefits of the entire care team and is a positive support for all of her colleagues.

Payne presented the award to Holland surrounded by her colleagues and hospital leadership. One of the physicians commented, “Karen is not only an excellent therapist, but you know she care about her patients; this is more than just a job for her and it shows in all that she does.”

Awards | Pulmonology & Respiratory

ECU Health team members Melanie Porter and DeAnna Edwards pose for a photo.

ECU Health is proud to announce that the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) awarded Melanie Porter, administrator of hospital operations, and DeAnna Edwards, manager of hospital operations, the Healthier Communities award for their work in the Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team. This award recognizes collaborative work by NCHA member organizations to promote health and well-being by addressing an identified community need.

COVID-19 has put a strain on health care systems across the globe and here in North Carolina. Throughout the pandemic, hospitals and health systems have worked tirelessly to advance new approaches to promoting more equitable health outcomes for patients, families and communities. Among these innovations, the Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team emerged.

ECU Health team members Melanie Porter and DeAnna Edwards pose for a photo.

The Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team is a group of individuals at transfer centers across North Carolina who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure critical patients needing higher levels of care were transferred or those facilities given additional clinical support.

As part of this team, Melanie and DeAnna are both dedicated to living the ECU Health mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. Through their work, they ensure patients have quality care and are connected to the level of care and resources needed.

The Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team assisted 35 facilities not formally connected with the 13 transfer centers across the state who had critical patients needing higher levels of care.

In total, this team reviewed 765 patient movement requests during the Delta and Omicron surges of COVID-19.

Please join us in recognizing Melanie and DeAnna for representing ECU Health and making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Awards | Community | Health News

A community member has their blood pressure checked during a Community Pop-up event.

As a rural health care organization, we know there are many challenges to fostering a healthy community. That doesn’t stop ECU Health team members from finding creative solutions to bring health care outside the walls of our hospitals and clinics in eastern North Carolina and into the communities we serve.

KaSheta Jackson, DNP, RN, vice president of Health Equity and Social Impact at ECU Health, and her team developed Community Pop-Ups: A Rural Approach, an innovative health care delivery model implemented as community-based pop-up clinics across eastern North Carolina to address social and economic health care barriers.

This program makes health care both more accessible and approachable by directly providing preventative services, improving health care equity, and offering resources within communities with the greatest need.

Jackson was recognized earlier this year by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) as the recipient of the 2022 ANA Innovation Award. The ANA Innovation Awards highlight, recognize and celebrate exemplary nurse-led innovations that improve patient safety and health outcomes. The innovation award also generated a $25,000 grant, which will fund future community health events.

Jackson said nurses are on the leading edge of connecting their fellow community members to health care and should feel empowered to innovate in that space.

“Our innovation has empowered many nurses to think and behave differently with regards to changing health care delivery and where care is delivered,” Jackson said. “By aligning the community and the health care system, we are addressing social, economic, equity, and population health, allowing us to meet our mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”

Through partnerships with community leaders and other ECU Health team members, these clinics have evolved from solely offering health care screenings to providing COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, mental health resources, access to fresh produce and employment opportunities.

In 2021 alone, Community Pop-Ups provided care to more than 400 community members, identified acute diseases, provided numerous jobs, gave away 500 produce boxes, and delivered 500 health passports in rural locations across eastern North Carolina.

“We are following the model of doing health care on the outside to make health care better on the inside,” Jackson said during a July 2021 community health event in Farmville. “We’re working to address the social determinants of health, offering employment, trying to take care of the need for vaccines, taking health care into communities versus having people come to us – we’re taking services to those that need them.”

As these pop-up events evolve and grow, Jackson hopes they will help create a healthier eastern North Carolina, strengthen ties between community organizations and improve relationships between community members and health care providers.

“I am so excited to see our innovation become reality,” Jackson said. “The advice I would give to any nurse who wants to take their innovations from just an idea to action: be inquisitive, be nosey, ask questions, listen and it will be easy to make it happen.”

This is just one example of how Jackson and her team break down barriers to bring health care to the communities we serve. ECU Health also hosts a myriad of community events including: a foot clinic with Joy Soup Kitchen and Access East, which gives free foot care supplies to diabetic patients who visit the event, over-the-counter medication giveaways and Kids Eat Free with Sodexo, which provides free lunches and afternoon snacks for kids and teens up to age 18.

For more information, visit the Pop-Up Community Health Events page on our website.

Awards | Community | Featured | Health News

Safe Kids Pitt County and Ellen Walston were recognized as the Safe Kids North Carolina Coalition of the year by NC Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, and State Fire Marshall Brian Taylor.

The North Carolina Coalition of the Year award is based on the coalition’s positive outcomes of the child passenger safety program, medication safety programs and maintaining partnerships.

“It was a huge surprise,” Injury Prevention Program coordinator at ECU Health Medical Center Ellen Walston said. “Lisa Blackmon with Safe Kids NC said our social media really was the catalyst for winning the award. We post multiple times a week on our risk areas in injury prevention, and it’s just really important to use those quick soundbites to get the word out.”

Preventable injuries are the number one cause of death in kids in the United States, according to Safe Kids. That’s why Safe Kids Pitt County works to prevent injuries in children and adults through simple tips and safety checks. The Safe Kids Pitt County team strives every day to keep kids in eastern North Carolina safe and healthy and to meet ECU Health’s mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Safe Kids Pitt County and Ellen Walston were recognized as the Safe Kids North Carolina Coalition of the year by NC Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, and State Fire Marshall Brian Taylor.
Safe Kids Pitt County was recognized as the Safe Kids North Carolina Coalition of the year by NC Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, and State Fire Marshall Brian Taylor.

A “hallmark” program

Walston called the child passenger safety program the hallmark of the coalition’s work. The program began in the early 2000s and, along with pop-up opportunities for car seat inspections, Safe Kids Pitt County has a permanent checking station. The permanent station is located at the Winterville Fire Department and is available on the third Friday of each month, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

“To me that parent’s expression of appreciation is priceless,” Walston said. “When they walk in, they just have that look of ‘I don’t know how in the world to put this seat together. Will you please help me?’ Then when they leave, you ask them ‘Are you confident in being able to put this seat in yourself?’ You just see that anxiety just melt away. That to me is the most comfort, knowing that we’ve made a difference.”

More than half of car seats are not used or installed correctly, according to Safe Kids. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

The child passenger safety program also covers free child safety seat checks when someone has received a violation, citation or ticket. The child and parent will receive one-on-one education to help ensure correct car seat installation, and the program also offers hot car safety information sessions, as well. For more information on this program or general car seat inspections, contact Walston at 252-847-8532.

Medication safety

Medication safety was another key driver for the award, and Operation Medicine Drop is an event that helps the public dispose of expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. The event serves to protect children, our community and the environment. Medicines are the leading cause of child poisoning, and proper disposal of medications can largely prevent them from happening. The valuable education sessions offered throughout the community on medication safety help to reduce unintentional poisoning from prescription medications, which is on the rise in North Carolina.

Walston said the opportunity to connect with families and children is vital to the program’s success.

“We have a lot of anecdotal affirmation from children on this kind of education session,” Walston said. “I will see children in the store and they’ll say, ‘Miss Ellen, you came to my school and talked about fire safety’ or ‘You were at the park in Winterville and taught us about medication safety.’ Just making those contacts is so important, we never know when we’re planting that seed. Those children can go home and tell their siblings and tell their families what they’ve learned.”

Key Partnerships

Working with a small internal team makes it crucial to have great partnerships, Walston said. Safe Kids Pitt County primarily partners with Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, ECU’s TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center and the Pitt County Health Department. Other partners include Greenville Fire Rescue, Winterville Fire Rescue, Pitt County Sheriff’s Department and Greenville Police Department.

“We’re so blessed with partnerships. I cannot do this work alone,” Walston said. “I just enlist partners, I’ve learned to delegate, I ask for help when I need it. We’re a small team but mighty and we get a lot done.”

Walston also shared appreciation for ECU Health Medical Center, the lead agency for the Safe Kids Pitt County coalition.

“I really want to emphasize a big thanks to ECU Health Medical Center for being here for us since 1995,” Walston said. “They provide all the technical support for me to be in this role – my office, the hours that I designate. We’re really blessed. A lot of hospitals are lead agencies but [other coalitions] don’t get the same support that I’ve received from the hospital.”

Past Recognitions

This is the second time Safe Kids Pitt County has received North Carolina Coalition of the year, first taking home the award in 2010. Other past recognitions include Safe Kids NC Outstanding Outreach Initiative and NC Child Passenger Safety Outreach Program of the Year award in 2016, as well as Walston earning Coordinator of the Year in 2013.

Learn more about Safe Kids Worldwide here.

Awards | Community

Washington, N.C.ECU Health Beaufort Hospital – a campus of ECU Health Medical Center has been 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 this designation, all ECU Health hospitals are equipped to provide advanced stroke care in communities across eastern North Carolina.

“Stroke certification from The Joint Commission represents ECU Health Beaufort’s commitment to provide high-quality stroke care to not only patients experiencing stroke symptoms, but to all of our patients,” said Debra Hernandez, president of ECU Health Beaufort. “We are proud of being designated a primary stroke center. The commitment and diligent work of team members across all levels and services made this a reality.”

As a primary stroke center, ECU Health Beaufort can treat and stabilize patients experiencing an acute stroke and care for more complex patients. As part of stroke readiness by all hospitals in the ECU health system, this certification is symbolic of a comprehensive stroke network capable of meeting the needs of all patients across eastern North Carolina.

“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.”

Because time is one of the most important factors in treating stroke, it is vitally important to provide stroke care close to home. ECU Health Beaufort’s stroke certification increases proximity to quality care in the Washington area, which reduces the risk of mortality, permanent brain damage and other side effects including memory loss, difficulty speaking and potential paralysis.

During the certification process, ECU Health Beaufort was evaluated on performance measures in stroke care, including education for patients and families on stroke risk factors and recognizing symptoms of stroke. Other performance measures included staff education on stroke protocols and the appropriate prescription of medications to address stroke risk factors such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure.

The severity and likelihood of having a stroke in North Carolina is significantly higher than the rest of the country as a whole. Eastern North Carolina is at the center of many strokes, often called the buckle of the stroke belt. North Carolina is about 8 percent worse for stroke mortality than the national average, and in eastern North Carolina, that risk is even greater.

“With all hospitals in the ECU Health system now stroke certified, a patient will be offered life-saving care regardless of the patient’s proximity to any of ECU Health’s hospitals and depending upon what additional treatments are needed, can be transported to a location with more extensive services when the patient is stabilized,” said Jay Briley, president of ECU Health Community Hospitals. “This system-wide stroke certification helps fulfill ECU Health’s mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”

Awards | Neurology | Press Releases

Team members from ECU Health pose for a photo after earning a Board Quality Leadership Award.

The 2022 ECU Health Board Quality Leadership Award winners were recognized at the ECU Health Board of Directors meeting on June 28. These winning teams are shining examples of excellent work in driving the quality goal of zero harm, creating exceptional experiences and improving patient outcomes.

Team members were required to submit projects that demonstrated at least two of the following criteria:

  • Quantifiable improvement in an organizational quality priority with sustained excellence over time
  • Demonstrable empathy and compassion in patient care
  • Implementation of innovative solution to patient care problem
  • Community outreach that addresses social determinants of health in a meaningful way

Nineteen nominations were reviewed by the committee. Congratulations to the winning teams:

Team members from ECU Health pose for a photo after earning a Board Quality Leadership Award.

Improving Blood Pressure in Control
Aimed to improve blood pressure control, less than 140/90, in ACO hypertensive patients to 75% within the fiscal year, as measured by Care Evolution.

  • David Lewis, MD
  • Penny Coltrain, BSBA, MBA
  • Wendy VanLandingham, BSN, RN, LSSBB
  • Nicole Lewis
  • Sharonda Nicholson-Bradley, RN
  • Gail Scheller
  • Faith Garrett
  • Robbie Webber
  • Sherry Bowers
Team members from ECU Health Duplin Hospital pose for a photo after earning a Board Quality Leadership Award.

Curbing Contamination: Reducing Blood Culture Specimen Rejection
Aimed to improve patient outcomes by achieving and sustaining a hospital-wide blood culture (BCX) specimen contamination rate of ≤ 3%.

  • Krista Horne, MSN, RN
  • Christine Miller, MBA, RN
  • Elizabeth Lanier, MLT
  • Sharlene Blizzard, BSCLS, MLS (ASCP)CM
  • Ashley Sholar, MBA, BSN, RN
Team members from ECU Health Medical Center pose for a photo after earning a Board Quality Leadership Award.

For the Love of the Line – Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) Reduction Project
Aimed to decrease CLASBI by 5% by at ECU Health Medical Center by April 2021.

  • Erin Pearson, BSN, RN, QNS
  • Jamie Hall, BSN, RN, CIC, IP
  • Takisha Williams, MSN, RN, NPD-BC
  • ECUHMC Nurse Leadership, Physician Leadership
  • ECUHMC Supply Chain
  • ECUHMC Professional Development Specialist Team
  • ECU Health Infection Control
  • ECU Health Performance Improvement/ Quality Analytics

Thank you to all the nominees for their hard work and dedication. This is one example of our teams reinforcing our mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina and pursue excellence in our values and Quality imperative.

Awards

Philip Rogers and Dr. Michael Waldrum pose for a photo after a press conference unveiling ECU Health's new logo.

Dr. Mike Waldrum, ECU Health CEO and dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University was recently named to Business North Carolina’s 2022 Power List. ECU Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers was also named to Business North Carolina’s 2022 Power List in the Education section.

This yearly list names the most influential leaders in the state of North Carolina across various industries. The awarded leaders are nominated for this list based on their influence as strong leaders.

“This recognition represents the tireless work ECU Health team members do every day to serve the region and educate the future physicians for North Carolina,” said Dr. Waldrum. “At ECU Health, we strive to become a national model for rural health delivery by providing high-quality care to the region we proudly call home. Our regional health care organization, combined with the Brody School of Medicine, strengthens our shared mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. ECU Health will continue to innovate and provide high-quality care to those we serve.”

Philip Rogers and Dr. Michael Waldrum pose for a photo after a press conference unveiling ECU Health's new logo.

We are proud to have strong leadership moving ECU Health forward to meet the joint mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina by 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.

To read the Business NC Power 100 List article, please visit https://businessnc.com/2022-power-list/.

Awards | Featured | Health News