Cheryl Hooks poses for a photo outside of the Kenansville Family Medicine practice, where she sees her patients.

Cheryl Hooks, a family nurse practitioner (FNP), is a Rose Hill native who started her career cutting hair. “For a very long time, about 20 years, I worked as a cosmetologist and I owned my own beauty salon,” Cheryl said.

Things changed for her and her close-knit family when they learned her oldest niece, nine years old at the time, had juvenile, or Type 1, diabetes.

“She got sick and had to go to the hospital, and that’s how they found out she was diabetic,” Cheryl said. “It was very scary because no one really knew what to do or how to help her.”

Cheryl wanted to learn all she could about the illness, including about medications and diet, so she could better support her niece; but in the process, she realized she wanted to advocate for all individuals with health problems. That’s when she decided to become a nurse.

Making the shift to nursing wasn’t easy. “I was older and trying to manage my time. You go from a point where you are your own boss to not having that freedom because you’re in school,” she said.

Still, her desire to take care of people inspired her to keep going. After graduating with her RN from Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, Hooks worked at ECU Health Duplin Hospital while pursuing her BSN from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington. She started her health care career in behavioral health, and later worked in the emergency department, where she realized the need in her community for primary care services. As a result, she went back to school to pursue her doctor of nursing practice degree in family medicine from UNC Chapel Hill, from which she graduated in 2022.

While she sometimes misses her work as a cosmetologist, Cheryl said many of the skills she used in her salon inform the way she works with her patients today.

“Owning a business gave me confidence. I was introverted, but taking care of my clients gave me self-assurance,” Cheryl said. “I treasure the trust between me and my patients, and the skills I used behind the chair trickled down to patient care.”

Cheryl now practices at ECU Health Family Medicine – Kenansville, a multi-specialty family medicine clinic, and she loves her team.

“I am thankful for the people I work with and for the opportunity to work in a rural setting,” she said. “A lot of people have the misconception that in rural areas you don’t get to see as much as in other places, but we do. We get to see many things nurses don’t often get to experience – we have family medicine, orthopedics and cardiology all in the same place. We learn so much because the resources aren’t as vast.” Cheryl also enjoys working near her hometown. “I am not a city girl, and I knew I wanted to work closer to home. Now I get to take care of people in my own community,” she said. “I still get to take care of the ladies who sat in my salon chair; now I make sure they’re healthy.”

For those considering a career change to health care, Cheryl has a few words of wisdom. “I say go for it. If you’re not on the path that’s fulfilling you, take that first step. It’s never too late to do what you are meant to do; there’s no expiration date on your dreams.”

Family Medicine & Primary Care | Featured | Nursing

ECU Health Family Medicine graduates pose for a photo with Dr. Audy Whitman, left.

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University celebrated the graduation of the first ever cohort of resident physicians in the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program on June 30, before officially welcoming the latest class of resident physicians into the newly expanded program July 1, marking two important milestones in a program uniquely designed to help meet the academic rural health mission.

Launched in 2021, the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program provides recent medical school graduates interested in serving as family medicine physicians in rural communities first-hand experience in caring for patients in the kind of under-served settings they plan to practice in upon completion of their residency training.

The inaugural class of Rural Family Medicine Residency Program graduates and their plans for practicing are as follows:

ECU Health Family Medicine graduates pose for a photo with Dr. Audy Whitman, left.
ECU Health Family Medicine graduates pose for a photo with Dr. Audy Whitman, left.
  • Dr. Jim Jaralene Porquez will start a new family medicine outpatient practice located in the ECU Health Multispecialty Clinic – Kenansville and provide hospitalist coverage at ECU Health Duplin Hospital.
  • Dr. Zeel Shah will serve as a hospitalist at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital and will also provide precepting to resident physicians at Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center.
  • Dr. Raza Syed will join a sports medicine fellowship program in Spokane, Washington, with plans to return to North Carolina after his one-year fellowship commitment to start practice.
  • Dr. Amy White Jones will move to rural western Minnesota to practice outpatient medicine at Sanford Health System.

“I could not be more proud of the four inaugural graduates from the ECU Health Rural Family Medicine Residency Program, who have all embraced the rural mission and helped pioneer this important program,” said Dr. Audy Whitman, program director of the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. “Each of these physicians have a passion for serving rural communities and have embraced the challenge of providing care in areas where their services are critically needed. Their unique training has given them a unique understanding of how to deliver high-quality primary care in rural environments and I take immense pride in knowing they will have an incredible impact in the communities in which they will soon practice.”

Despite rural communities representing nearly 20% of the U.S. population, only 10% of U.S. physicians practice in rural areas. The ECU Health Rural Family Medicine Residency Program aims to increase the number of physicians practicing in rural America, especially eastern North Carolina. Studies show that family medicine resident physicians who spent 50% or more of their training time in rural settings were at least five times more likely than resident physicians with no rural training to practice in a rural setting.

The program exposes resident physicians to the breadth of family medicine — in both an academic medical center environment and in rural environments — so they are well-prepared to provide comprehensive care in a variety of practice settings. The resident physicians spend a majority of their first year of training at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville before spending the next two years training at a regional location where they build connections with their patients and become integrated into the communities they serve.

The Rural Family Medicine Residency Program also received recent approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to expand its class size and add an additional training site location, bringing the program to nine residents per class across three sites: in Ahoskie at the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center and ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital; in Duplin County at Goshen Medical Center in Beulaville and ECU Health Duplin Hospital in Kenansville; and in Roanoke Rapids at Rural Health Group Halifax Medical Specialists and ECU Health North Hospital, which is the newest training site in the program.

The newest Rural Family Medicine Residency Program class includes:

  • Dr. Flora Danquah, Ahoskie Site
  • Dr. Danh Pham, Ahoskie Site
  • Dr. Saima Shawl, Ahoskie Site
  • Dr. Andre Mancheno-Rubio, Duplin Site
  • Dr. Shelley Matthews, Duplin Site
  • Dr. Jaya Purathur, Duplin site
  • Dr. Tanweer Hoosen, Roanoke Rapids Site
  • Dr. Tobi Okafor, Roanoke Rapids Site
  • Dr. Joy Onyeanuna, Roanoke Rapids Site

“This is an exciting time at ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine as we are truly charting the future of rural academic health care in the spirit of the shared mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and dean of Brody. “When resident physicians practice and train in rural communities, they develop an intimate appreciation for the importance of rural health care. The program’s continued growth is a testament to all who have worked hard to make the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program a reality and it is humbling to know our organization is making a profound impact on rural communities through these innovative efforts.”

Community | Family Medicine & Primary Care | Featured | Press Releases

ECU Health Chowan Hospital award winners and presenters from left: Dr. Niti Armistead, Pam Ward, Brittany Proctor, Courtnay Hale, Dana Byrum and Theresa Anderson.

Greenville, N.C. – The 2024 ECU Health Board Quality Leadership Award winners were recognized by the ECU Health Board of Directors June 25, 2024. These winning teams are a representation of excellent work across the system that drives the quality goal of zero harm, creates exceptional experiences and improves patient outcomes. Numerous nominations were reviewed by the committee, and the winning team are as follows:

ECU Health Medical Center award winners and presenters from left: Dr. Niti Armistead, Aimee Dunn, Natasha Drake, Dr. Vikram Bhinder and Theresa Anderson.

ECU Health Medical Center – Cutting CAUTIs in the Neurosciences ICU: A Collaborative Approach. The project leaders were: Natasha Drake, BSN, RN, CCRN – NSICU Nurse Manager, Vikram Bhinder, MD – NSICU Medical Director and Aimee Dunn, BSN, RN, CCRN, SCRN – NSICU Staff Nurse IV. The team members were: Sarah James, BSN, RN, CCRN – NSICU Assistant Nurse Manager, Morgan McGraw, BSN, RN – NSICU CAUTI Representative and Erin Pearson, BSN, RN – ECU Health Medical Center Office of Quality.

ECU Health Chowan Hospital award winners and presenters from left: Dr. Niti Armistead, Pam Ward, Brittany Proctor, Courtnay Hale, Dana Byrum and Theresa Anderson.

ECU Health Chowan Hospital – Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Prevention in the Inpatient Setting. The project leaders were: Courtnay Hale, BSN, RN – Manager of ICU/MedSurge, Dana Byrum, DNP – Vice President, Patient Care Services and Matthew Rapp, MD – Hospitalist Director and Beverly Venters, MSN – Quality Director. The team members were: Brittany Proctor, BSN, RN, Pam Ward, ICP, Katie Hall, QNSIII.

ECU Health Bertie – Family Medicine, Windsor award winners and presenters from left: Dr. Niti Armistead, Kristin Woodard, Kelsey Gurganus, Dana Byrum and Theresa Anderson.

ECU Health Ambulatory – ECU Health Bertie – Family Medicine, Windsor – Improving Diabetes Management in the Ambulatory Setting. The project leaders were: Kristin Woodard, MSN, RN – Education Nurse Specialist, Phillip Harris, MD and Kelsey Gurganus, MSN, RN – Manager of Family Medicine, Windsor. The team members were: Erica Ford, PA, Teddie Gore, NP, Jesse Ann Hamilton, NP and all staff of Family Medicine, Windsor.

To receive this honor, team members submitted projects that demonstrated at least two of the following requirements:

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

“We are proud of our teams who dedicate themselves to improving patient care in eastern North Carolina,” said Robert Greczyn, chair, ECU Health Board of Directors. “The Board Quality Leadership Awards symbolize the excellence and compassion our team members demonstrate every single day as they care for our patients across our region. On behalf of the Board, we are grateful to all ECU Health team members for their tireless efforts in delivering excellence in rural care and helping us meet our mission to improve the health and well-being of the region.”

Awards | Family Medicine & Primary Care | Neurology

Pictured Tess Judge, Outer Banks Health board chair, Lynne Miles, FACHE, administrator of regional operations, Walter Holton, MD [retired], Barbara Holton, and Ronnie Sloan, FACHE, president.

Manteo, NC – March 21, 2024 – Outer Banks Health celebrated a significant milestone on March 19 as it broke ground for the expansion of its Family Medicine practice in Manteo. The groundbreaking ceremony was a momentous occasion coinciding with the 22nd anniversary of the opening of The Outer Banks Health Hospital on March 19, 2002.

The expansion project aims to double the size of the existing building, creating a 7,500-square-foot facility dedicated to providing primary care services to the community. With more than 16,000 primary care patients currently served by Outer Banks Health, the Manteo practice stands as the second largest in Dare County, with 3,600 patients, second only to the organization’s primary care practice in Kitty Hawk.

Ronnie Sloan, FACHE, president of Outer Banks Health, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to enhance health care services in Dare County, stating, “We have been fortunate enough over the last year and a half or so to recruit six additional providers to Dare County for primary care.”

Pictured Tess Judge, Outer Banks Health board chair, Lynne Miles, FACHE, administrator of regional operations, Walter Holton, MD [retired], Barbara Holton, and Ronnie Sloan, FACHE, president.
Pictured left to right are Tess Judge, Outer Banks Health board chair, Lynne Miles, FACHE, administrator of regional operations, Walter Holton, MD [retired], Barbara Holton, and Ronnie Sloan, FACHE, president.

Sloan also highlighted the visionary leadership of Walter Holton, MD, one of the first full-time physicians in Dare County.

“You know, at the end of the day, we couldn’t do any of this without this man here, this physician, Dr. Holton, who came here in 1974 and worked here for 40-plus years and then turned over the reins,” Sloan said. “He had this vision himself. I’ve seen it on paper, to expand this clinic one day.”

The new building’s entrance will face the highway, and is being built to enhance accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities, a crucial aspect of Outer Banks Health’s dedication to ensuring access to care for all members of the community.

Outer Banks Health remains steadfast in its commitment to the community. The expansion of the Family Medicine practice in Manteo along with the recent opening of the state-of-the-art Cowell Cancer Center, reflects Outer Banks Health’s ongoing commitment to advancing health care delivery and meeting the evolving needs of the residents and visitors of Dare County and the surrounding region.

For more information about Outer Banks Health and its services, please visit www.outerbankshealth.org. To find a primary care provider, call the Primary Care Access line at 252-449-4540.

Family Medicine & Primary Care | Press Releases