Dr. Brodish and team pose for a photo to celebrate 100 patients treated with Inspire Therapy Procedure.

On June 14, 2024, Dr. Brian Brodish, an otolaryngologist with Eastern Carolina ENT, in collaboration with ECU Health, performed his 100th Inspire procedure at ECU Health Medical Center. Inspire is an FDA-approved obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) treatment option for people who cannot use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy.

“We have a high incidence of sleep apnea in eastern North Carolina, but a lot of patients can’t tolerate a CPAP,” said Dr. Brodish. “There’s a ​significant morbidity to not treating sleep apnea, and up until now, I had nothing to offer. This is one of the first successful surgical alternatives for our patients with sleep apnea.”

OSA affects 22 million Americans. When left untreated, it doesn’t just affect one person, but also those around them. OSA can cause vehicle and workplace accidents, worsening mood and memory, stroke, heart attack and other serious issues.

CPAP is the main treatment for OSA, but unfortunately a large percentage of people don’t see benefit from or can’t tolerate CPAP. Dr. Brodish is proud to offer Inspire as another treatment option for this population.

“Patients were feeling miserable and had nowhere to turn,” Dr. Brodish said. “I finally have a tool I can offer these patients and we’re seeing fantastic results. It’s a low-risk procedure and patients recover in a few weeks.”

Dr. Brodish and team pose for a photo to celebrate 100 patients treated with Inspire Therapy Procedure.
Dr. Brodish and team pose for a photo to celebrate 100 patients treated with Inspire Therapy Procedure.

Inspire works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea. Mild stimulation opens the airway during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally. The patient uses a small handheld remote to turn Inspire on before bed and off when they wake up.

“We want the patient to use the device for at least four hours a night or more, and we are looking for their apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which is the number of times per hour a patient stops breathing, to be below 15,” Dr. Brodish explained. “Some of our patients stop breathing more than 50 times a night before treatment, but 80 percent of our patients have achieved our goal of 15 episodes or less. Some have even achieved zero.”

The Inspire system is implanted during a short, outpatient procedure. The system is placed under the skin of the neck and chest through two small incisions. Most patients return home the same day and take over-the-counter pain medications to manage pain as needed.

“We are excited to have completed the 100th Inspire procedure at ECU Health Medical Center,” said Dr. Brodish.  “This option is a part of ECU Health’s goal to provide state-of-the-art, high-quality care for eastern North Carolina, and we’re seeing patients benefit from this technology.”

Featured | Health News

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

A man discusses symptoms with a nurse

ECU Health offers many opportunities for team members to further their education and pursue their dreams, including the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement. After years of deferring her dream to become a nurse, Michelle Dixon, now a staff nurse IV working in the ECU Health Patient Testing Center, used the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement to receive her associate’s degree in nursing.

Michelle Dixon, staff nurse IV working in the ECU Health Patient Testing Center.

Michelle Dixon

When she was in high school, Michelle said she didn’t have many people encouraging her in her education.

“My plan was to be a childcare teacher because I love kids,” she said. But her brother’s mentor, George Lauteres, encouraged her to think about nursing as a career. “He always wanted to see my reports cards and said, ‘Michelle you are smart; you should be a nurse.’ And then he’d bring the newspaper to show me how many nursing jobs there were. He said, ‘You’ll always have a job.’”

After high school, Michelle attended Pitt Community College to complete her prerequisites for the nursing program, but she ended up having to drop out due to changes in her circumstances. She worked in various jobs until a connection through a temp agency in 1998 landed her a position at what was then know as Pitt County Memorial Hospital, now ECU Health, in the Central Services Department, where she worked for eight years.

“But there was a point when I wanted to do more,” Michelle said; and that’s when she thought about her original plan to become a nurse.

She heard about the HomeGrown program through co-workers who were going through the program to become surgical technicians. When her manager in Central Services, Audrey Williams, learned Michelle was interested in a career change, she supported her fully.

“She made it possible for me to work the hours I needed so I could take classes and participate in clinicals,” Michelle said. “She did everything she could to help me, and every time I completed a class, I couldn’t wait to show her my grades. She made me want to be better.”

The HomeGrown Program allows ECU Health team members to go back to school for specific degree programs, including RN, surgical technology or respiratory therapy, while working 20 hours a week and keeping their full salary and benefits. This was enormously helpful to Michelle, who said that without the program, she would not have been able to continue to work while also working toward her degree: “I was able to work 10 hours on Saturdays and 10 on Sundays, which let me take my classes and study and attend clinicals during the week.”

Applying for the program was easy; “it was getting into the program that was the hard part,” she laughed. Through the HomeGrown Program and with her manager’s support, Michelle completed her degree in 2008. After graduation, she joined the 2 South team in Internal Medicine, and she trained as a charge nurse and clinical coach.

In 2020, Michelle again felt there was more she wanted to do, so she returned to school to get her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington (UNCW).  It was at this point she joined the team in Patient Testing Services. Again, she found herself surrounded by supportive and encouraging mentors. Heather Smith and Glenda Flemmings, both RNs in the Patient Testing Center, encouraged Dixon to complete the Aspiring Nurse Leader Program and pursue certification in Ambulatory Care Nursing.

“They allowed me to take the time I needed, and they encouraged me to get my master’s, which is what I decided to do,” she said. Using ECU Health’s tuition reimbursement, Dixon recently returned to UNCW to get her master’s in Healthcare Administration.

Michelle said without the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement, as well as the support she received from her mentors along the way, she wouldn’t have been able to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

“For that initial nursing degree, I had to go to clinicals, and I just couldn’t do that and work 40 hours a week. I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to go back to school and be a nurse.” And she loves being nurse, mostly because of the time she gets to spend with patients. “I feel like I’ve learned as much from them as I have from my education,” she said. “They help me appreciate life and give me a whole new perspective.”

The HomeGrown Program, Michelle said, is important because it helps entry-level team members like her to grow the organization from within.

“This is a way we can grow our own team members and keep them within the organization,” she said. “With the nursing shortage, these types of positions are crucial.” That’s why Michelle wants everyone to know about the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement. “Because of ECU Health, I am the first person in my family of 13 children to graduate from college,” she said. “A lot of people have aspirations like me, but they don’t know the route to get there.”

The HomeGrown Program has been offered at ECU Health for more than 30 years, and candidates are selected through a highly competitive application process. Team members must meet eligibility requirements and go through interviews before being admitted to their program. After successfully graduating, team members have a two-year commitment to work full-time for ECU Health.

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

A volunteer fills a home library box for families of newborns during a Book Harvest event.

Books from Birth, a Book Harvest program, will begin providing children’s books to families of babies born in Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center starting in summer 2024. The books will help families foster early language and reading routines from a baby’s first days.

In preparation for the upcoming go-live, ECU Health hosted an event to educate team members at Maynard Children’s Hospital on Friday, June 14. Team members learned about Books from Birth, how these books can help families bond and improve early childhood education.

Book Harvest is an organization based in Durham that provides ongoing literacy support and an abundance of children’s books to families.

By partnering with Maynard Children’s Hospital, this collaboration will provide families and children in the East with the support and books they need to foster early language and reading routines at home from a baby’s very first days.

A volunteer fills a home library box for families of newborns during a Book Harvest event.
A volunteer fills a home library box for families of newborns during a Book Harvest event at Maynard Children's Hospital.

“The Books from Birth program is really designed to bridge early education and health,” said Book Harvest Chief Operating Officer Jeff Quinn. “Early literacy lays a foundation for life-long learning and healthy development. This program is meant to give children the opportunity to be what they want to be in life. We could not be more proud to help serve Pitt County and eastern North Carolina through this collaboration.”

N.C. House Rep. Tim Reeder, MD, District 9, secured funding of $500,000 for the project in the North Carolina State Budget. Rep. Reeder thanked Book Harvest and ECU Health for their willingness to partner on this important initiative. With his medical background in-mind, Rep. Reeder detailed the importance that early literacy has on the development of children as they grow, as well as the importance of improving access to education in eastern North Carolina.

“As a practicing physician, I see first-hand the benefits of early childhood literacy in terms of creating success in the classroom and in children’s behavior,” Rep. Reeder said. “Per data released from the state, about 50% of the children in Pitt County are not reading at grade-level. Early intervention and early reading is critically important to setting our children up for success. These books will help set families on a path to literacy that we know is really important to long-term development. I was proud to advocate for this funding and I am excited to see the impact this partnership will have.”

The Books from Birth program will provide a box of 10 board books, helpful reading education materials and a onesie for families who deliver babies in the Maynard Children’s Hospital.

“The benefit of giving these books at birth is that they help form loving and bonding relationships between babies and their caregivers,” said Dr. Matthew Ledoux, pediatrician in chief, ECU Health, chair of pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “As a rural academic medical center serving a third of the state, it is incredibly valuable to get these books in the hands of families throughout eastern North Carolina. For that, we are very grateful.”

According to Tara Stroud, vice president, Women’s and Children’s Services, Maynard Children’s Hospital, the program will provide around 4,300 boxes of books to patients and families.

“This is our chance as a health system to change what it looks like for literacy in eastern North Carolina starting from the beginning,” said Stroud. “Our goal is that we demonstrate for our families the importance of books as a way to connect and bond with their child and improve their development.”

Event attendees pose for a photo during the Book Harvest event at Maynard Children's Hospital.

Children's | Featured

Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame Award inside her office.

Keeping patients safe while they receive high-quality compassionate care is at the heart of what ECU Health does for eastern North Carolina. This is especially important to Dr. Teresa Anderson, ECU Health’s senior vice president for Quality, who recently celebrated her induction into the East Carolina University (ECU) College of Nursing Hall of Fame.

She joins a number of colleagues, mentors, friends and former classmates in the Hall of Fame, which recognizes the accomplishments of ECU’s exemplary nursing graduates and faculty members.

When Dr. Anderson enrolled at ECU, nursing school was not the path she thought she’d take. She started out in education but after a semester of tutoring, she realized it was not her passion. She started on her nursing course work and never turned back.

“I always had a heart of service,” she said. “Then I got into nursing school and on we went. I actually started at [ECU Health] Medical Center in 1996 as a nursing assistant while I was in nursing school. I hit 28 years of service this May.”

Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame Award inside her office.
Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her plaque recognizing her induction into the ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame inside her office.

Over those 28 years, Dr. Anderson has worn many different hats. From the nursing assistant role to a bedside nurse and working in various medical roles before taking on management and administration, she believes her varied experiences have helped her be successful in her current role in Quality.

Along with the variety of her work and the mentors she has learned from, Dr. Anderson said it’s the patients and ECU Health’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina that keeps her coming back each day.

“Our mission and the population that we serve are special and important to me,” Dr. Anderson said. “We serve a very complex population. I know that we’re doing so much good for our patients and our community, and there’s so much more we can do now alongside the Brody School of Medicine. There’s just going to be so much more that we can do with population health and making sure that people get all the services and access to care that they need.”

Dr. Anderson is a three-time ECU graduate with her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the university. She’s also been recognized as a Great 100 nurse in 2016 and received a Leadership DAISY Award in February of 2021.

Dr. Amy Campbell, a quality nurse specialist at ECU Health and an ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame inductee last year, submitted the nomination for Dr. Anderson to be admitted to the Hall of Fame. In the nomination, Campbell noted that Dr. Anderson is an outstanding role model and mentor who influences positive change while recognizing her team’s accomplishments.

“Over the years, she has served in many leadership and administrative roles that have led to improvements in patient outcomes. In addition, she has served on numerous community boards and enhanced the lives of Pitt County Residents,” Campbell wrote in her nomination. “On a personal note, Teresa has been a mentor to me personally and professionally over the last 14 years. She encouraged me to go back to school of my Ph.D. and was an active member of my dissertation committee. She has walked with me through tough times and give me priceless feedback to help me grow. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Dr. Anderson said she was humbled and grateful to have been nominated and accepted into the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame members, new and former winners along with family and friends, attended a ceremony and had their nomination letters read before they were presented with a plaque to honor their induction.

Members of the Hall of Fame help fund a scholarship for the next generation of nurses and Dr. Anderson said this was one of the most special parts of the recognition for her.

“They showed a video from one of the recipients of the scholarship money at the event,” Dr. Anderson said. “She talked about how much it meant to her and it was very nice to know that the money collected goes to a great cause and to fund students in need. She talked about making ends meet and paying rent and all of her work in school. I remember those days, so it feels great to give back to future nurses.”

Resources

ECU Health Nursing

ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame

2023 ECU Health Inductees

Awards | Featured | Nursing

The nine 2024 Project SEARCH students sit together during their graduation at the Monroe Center in Greenville.

Greenville, N.C. – Project SEARCH, an educational program offered at ECU Health Medical Center, is proud to announce nine students recently graduated from the program: Camarion Allred, Jordan Bell, Kevin Caudle, Caitlyn Ferry, Region Jenkins, Nicholas Tripp, Xavier Vaughan-Holliday, Eric Williams and Maxwell Wilson. Project SEARCH is a one-year internship program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities during their last year of high school with the goal of providing real-world practical skills and increasing the chances of competitive employment.

“ECU Health is very proud to host Project SEARCH to bring educational opportunities to everyone in the East,” said Doris Hill, Project SEARCH coordinator at ECU Health. “This program gives students the opportunity to learn job skills that can be applied after graduation and brings diversity to our organization and the local workforce. We are proud of the tremendous growth of our nine graduates throughout the program, and we are all very proud of their accomplishments.”

The nine 2024 Project SEARCH students sit together during their graduation at the Monroe Center in Greenville.
The nine 2024 Project SEARCH students sit together during their graduation at the Monroe Center in Greenville.

The Project SEARCH program at ECU Health Medical Center began in 2015 through partnerships with Pitt County Schools, RHA Health Services and the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Students complete internships in various departments at the hospital, including the ECHO Lab, Endoscopy Center, Environmental Services, SurgiCenter, hospital cafeterias, Hospitality and the Neuroscience Intermediate Unit.

“Project SEARCH gives our students support to transition into the workforce through skills development and a customized job search in the second half of the program,” said Katie Houmard, Project SEARCH instructor. “This program grows confidence and independence in all our students, and many of our graduates have gained competitive employment in our community. I am so proud of all our students and am excited to see them continue to grow and become employed.”

The employment rate for youth with disabilities is about 60 to 70 percent less than youth without disabilities, according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Project SEARCH has proven results with a 65 percent employment and 90 percent retention rate nationally.

Students who participate in the program are enrolled at various Pitt County high schools including J.H. Rose, D.H. Conley, South Central, Farmville Central, North Pitt and Ayden-Grifton. This is the ninth graduating class.

The Project SEARCH program began in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and was developed as a means to meet entry-level employment needs at CCHMC, support their diversity initiative and partner with schools and community services agencies. Project SEARCH is now an international program with over 716 program sites in 48 states and 11 countries.

Community | Featured | Press Releases

ECU Health behavioral health nurse Samantha Nichols signs the beam that is slated to go inside of the new behavioral health hospital.

Updated June 19, 2024

A beam adorned with signatures from ECU Health team members, behavioral health care teams, leadership and the Thomas Construction team was raised into place at the site of the upcoming behavioral health hospital in Greenville.

The beam raising served as a backdrop for an event showcasing the construction progress of the new 144-bed behavioral health hospital, a partnership between ECU Health and Acadia Healthcare, slated to open in summer 2025. ECU Health and Thomas Construction team members paused their important work to witness the historic milestone.

Glenn Simpson, service line administrator for behavioral health at ECU Health, said this event was another historic step, celebrating about 15 years of work to bring a behavioral health hospital into the ECU Health system to serve eastern North Carolina.

A beam, signed by ECU Health and Thomas Construction team members, is raised into position at the future site of a behavioral health hospital in Greenville. A United States of America Flag and ECU Health flag hang from the beam.

“Today is only the beginning of so much excitement around this facility,” Simpson said. “We couldn’t be more excited to be partnered with Acadia Healthcare and working with Thomas Construction to build this facility. This is all allowing us to offer outpatient services, specialty services that we cannot provide today and we’ll be able to treat a population of children and adolescents who used to have to drive over 70 miles for inpatient treatment.”

Mary Branch-Ellis, a registered nurse with the behavioral health team at ECU Health Medical Center, has been with the system for 41 years. She said she was working at the former Pitt County Memorial Hospital years ago when the behavioral health unit first opened in the 1980s.

She said seeing the facility come together is something she will never forget and she’s glad eastern North Carolinians in need of the services will have everything under one roof.

“It’s just wonderful to be a part of this as someone who is invested in this work in eastern North Carolina,” Branch-Ellis said. “I’ve worked so many years in mental health and been an advocate for patients and now we’re seeing this state-of-the-art facility being built and it’s a wonderful experience to see these beds – which we need – opening up. I’m excited to see it coming to Greenville and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

ECU Health team members sign beam slated for upcoming behavioral health hospital

Recently, ECU Health team members had the opportunity to leave their mark on the upcoming state-of-the-art, 144-bed behavioral health hospital in Greenville, slated to open in 2025.

The Thomas Construction team brought a beam, which is slated to be installed in the hospital’s gymnasium, to ECU Health Medical Center for team members to sign. More than 100 team members signed the beam and many signatures will be visible in the gymnasium even after construction is complete.

Amy Albritton, a recreational therapy assistant in Behavioral Health Services, has been with the system for more than 25 years. She said it’s special for her to see the plans for the new hospital come together after her years on the unit.

“I think being able to see the beam and sign it helps make it a little more real,” Albritton said. “It’s been talked about for a while now but having this here that we can touch, it’s a really exciting time. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

ECU Health behavioral health nurse Samantha Nichols signs the beam that is slated to go inside of the new behavioral health hospital.
Samantha Nichols, a nurse on the behavioral health unit at ECU Health Medical Center, signs a beam that is slated to go inside of the upcoming behavioral health hospital in Greenville.

Glenn Simpson, service line administrator for behavioral health at ECU Health, said engaging team members in the lead up to the hospital opening is a great opportunity for education and building excitement.

“With building a brand-new hospital, it’s special to give our team members the opportunity to be part of the history of that by signing one of the beams,” Simpson said. “When they’re finished with the gymnasium part of the structure, they’ll be hoisting the beam into the framework. This is great for team members to sign the beam and know that their name will forever be a part of that hospital.”

Renderings of the upcoming hospital were also on display during the beam signing to allow team members to see the plans again. The beam was in the hospital for about a week before being returned to the construction site.

To learn more about new behavioral health hospital, please visit: ENCBehavioralHealth.org

Resources

ECU Health Behavioral Health Services

ECU Health Mental Health Expo

Behavioral Health | Featured

An ECU Health team member talks to local students about careers in health care.

ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University participated in Eastern AHEC’s Health Careers Expo on Monday, April 29. The event welcomed high school students from Wayne County Public Schools to explore diverse health care professions and educational pathways available in eastern North Carolina.

Eastern AHEC Pathways Program serves the health care community by building a group of future providers that are equipped for their career. As part of their student services, they offer health care education resources to middle and high school students in Greenville and throughout eastern North Carolina to improve the geographic distribution, retention and quality of health care providers throughout the region.

At this expo, participants from ECU Health, Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center, East Carolina University, Wake Tech, Methodist University, the University of North Carolina, Pitt Community College, Carolina Therapy Connection and Wayne Community College displayed tables and spoke with students about health care career paths, both clinical and non-clinical, and gave advise on how to achieve their career goals.

An ECU Health team member talks to local students about careers in health care.

In addition to career insights, students received essential training on identifying overdoses and administering Narcan, a life-saving medication. Dave Schiller, technical operations manager of the clinical simulation program at Brody, hosted the training. ECU Health emergency medicine physicians reinforced the importance of Narcan administration training.

During the training, a standardized patient, trained to mimic real-life scenarios for educational purposes, portrayed a patient experiencing an overdose, complete with simulated pale skin to replicate oxygen deprivation. Students were tasked with assessing vital signs and the patient’s belongings to recognize the overdose scenario. Subsequently, the training staff guided them through the process of administering Narcan.

“Events like these are great opportunities to give students hands-on experience in a safe learning environment to expose them to patient interactions and prepare them for their futures,” said Schiller. “Students learned about exciting career opportunities within the health care field and even worked with a simulated patient without causing harm with health care professionals guiding them through a scenario.”

By immersing students in practical training sessions and exposing them to a spectrum of health care careers, events like these expose students to careers they have never thought of and help develop a future workforce in eastern North Carolina.

Community | Featured

A community member takes a green bell pepper to take home during a Food is Medicine event in Pinetops.

ECU Health and Conetoe Family Life Center hosted a Food is Medicine event at the Pinetops Community Center on May 1, to bring fresh produce and health screenings to the community. The initiative aims to bridge the gap in health care access and nutritional resources by providing essential services directly to the community.

Every Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. the Conetoe Family Life Center brings its bus of fresh produce for community members to receive free fresh produce. Paired with health screenings provided by the ECU Health team, this creates a reliable and accessible avenue for residents to prioritize their health needs.

Nurses from ECU Health provided vital health screenings to attendees. These screenings included measuring blood pressures, blood sugars and A1C levels, crucial metrics for assessing overall health. ECU Health team members engaged in meaningful conversations with community members, offering personalized insights and guidance on maintaining and improving their well-being.

A community member takes a green bell pepper to take home during a Food is Medicine event in Pinetops.
A community member takes a green bell pepper to take home during a Food is Medicine event in Pinetops.

“Our overall goal is to touch the lives of our community members and improve how they feel about their overall health and well-being,” said Madison Stevens, an administrative fellow at ECU Health. “Rural areas like eastern North Carolina often lack health care resources and access to healthy and fresh foods. With Food is Medicine, we want to address the root causes of health disparities and empower individuals to make informed choices about their health.”

The program is funded by a grant from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, and ECU Health completes surveys with attendees to collect data from these events to measure how community members feel about their overall health from the start to the end of the program, if they are spending less money at the grocery store, making recipes they receive from the Food is Medicine event and feel in control of their health.

“We also recognize the importance of access to health care services beyond events like these,” said Rob Zerniak, an administrative fellow at ECU Health. “We are actively connecting attendees with resources to become insured and connecting them with primary care providers, ensuring that the benefits of the Food is Medicine initiative extend far beyond the event itself.”

Since November 5, 2023, this partnership has made an impact on the community, particularly through ECU Health’s primary clinic in Pinetops, which plays a crucial role in understanding the needs of the patients we serve during visits by conducting social determinants of health screenings and guiding them to available resources. The event on Wednesday saw over 50 participants bring home fresh produce like bell peppers, lettuce, carrots, strawberries and onions. For more information about future events, please contact [email protected].

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