ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.

As part of its commitment to growing a high-quality nursing workforce for the region, ECU Health recently held a New Graduate Nurse Hiring event to connect with upcoming nurses, many of whom will begin their career with the organization in a few months.

The two-day event was hosted at the TowneBank Tower and the Williams-Clark Club Level on East Carolina University’s campus.

The February hiring event featured 301 scheduled interviews with prospective nurses, many of whom are from right here in eastern North Carolina, allowing candidates to interview for various units and connect with nursing leaders within the organization. To date, 96 future nurses have accepted positions across the ECU Health system.

This event underscores ECU Health’s commitment to recruiting and retaining exceptional nurses as we continue to shape the future of rural health care.

ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.
ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.

“The New Graduate Nurse Hiring event was really a great turnout,” said Trish Baise, chief nursing executive, ECU Health. “The opportunity to connect with future nurses was priceless. It was beneficial to engage in a casual environment before interview day and it allowed our team to speak with them informally. Every year it gets better. New graduate nurses are an important part of our workforce pipeline. It’s important for us to make sure that those who have grown up in eastern North Carolina and/or have been educated here, have a wonderful clinical experience with us.”

The hiring event spanned two days, with Friday dedicated to networking and allowing candidates to interact with recruiters and nursing leaders from several ECU Health entities, and Saturday dedicated to interviews.

“The key message that resonated well with the nursing candidates was ECU Health is the land of opportunities,” said Dr. Kamilah Williams, administrator for Professional Practice Development & Clinical Education at ECU Health. “There are so many opportunities for launching nurses’ careers in every specialty of nursing practice across ECU Health.”

If you’re interested in reading about our new graduates and their experience at ECU Health, check out the People of ECU Health articles on Brianna Cavaliere and Samantha Nichols.

Community | Featured | Nursing

Haley Behm, a third-year medical student at Brody School of Medicine, places a Legacy Teacher pin on Cleve Smith during the fifth Legacy Teachers Celebration.

Haley Behm was completing one of her first rotations in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University at an outpatient clinic when Cleve Smith showed up for a routine check-up with his father, Emmett Smith. Cleve, a wheelchair user, has seen his fair share of medical students come through the clinic throughout his visits over the years but this was his first time working with Behm.

As a medical student with limited patient interactions, Behm was nervous about how she would connect with one of her first real patients, let alone her first patient with a disability. But when she met a lighthearted, humorous father-son duo in the patient room, she felt a little more at-ease.

“I was running through a depression and anxiety screening, and I got to a question where it asked ‘Have you ever been so restless you couldn’t sit still?’” Behm recalled. “I felt so bad even having to ask him that question.”

A question that Behm initially dreaded having to ask turned in to the start of a punchline for Cleve and Emmett, and it’s one they’ve practiced more than once.

Haley Behm, a third-year medical student at Brody School of Medicine, places a Legacy Teacher pin on Cleve Smith during the fifth Legacy Teachers Celebration.
Haley Behm, a third-year medical student at Brody School of Medicine, places a Legacy Teacher pin on Cleve Smith during the fifth Legacy Teachers Celebration.

“Haley has been really sweet, and I haven’t forgotten her since the first time we met,” said Cleve. “I could see that question really bothered her because I laughed and she didn’t immediately. So I wanted to assure her everything was fine.”

Added Emmett, “Through the years we have met many medical students at the clinic, and the one I remember is Haley. She had such a kind, caring demeanor. She really cared about Cleve’s feelings and what she could do to help him.”

Behm’s connection with the Smiths was just one of the powerful stories shared at ECU Health and Brody’s fifth annual Legacy Teachers Celebration on April 5. At the Legacy Teachers Celebration, third-year medical students share their experiences in the forms of short stories, poems or videos that honors patients who taught them valuable lessons – the type that can’t be learned in the classroom but can last a lifetime. The event also provides an opportunity for students to reunite with their Legacy Teachers and honor the special connection.

“The stories we hear at the Legacy Teachers Celebration are really emblematic of the types of experiences our students have here at the Brody School of Medicine and ECU Health,” said Dr. Jason Higginson, executive dean, Brody. “Medical students learn so much important information in the classroom and on clinical rotations, but sometimes the most impactful lessons they learn come from those they have the honor of caring for. It’s so gratifying to see our students reconnect with the patients who left a lasting impact on their journey toward becoming a physician.”

For Behm, her experience with the Cleve and Emmett gave her a different perspective on her role as a patient advocate, especially for patients with disabilities who may face difficulties accessing the care they need.

“Patients with disabilities have various accessibility needs, which may not be evident before a visit. It is important to be flexible and modify plans, exams and surroundings,” said Behm.

In total, 22 medical students shared their stories at the Legacy Teachers Celebration, which featured gift baskets, a photo station, lapel pins and remarks from ECU Health and Brody leaders – all designed to create a memorable experience for students and their legacy teachers.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and dean of Brody, provided remarks at the celebration along with Dr. Higginson. Like the students, they shared their deeply personal stories of important lessons they learned as students.

The speakers shared common themes around the importance of positive, trusting relationships between patients and care teams.

Students and guests sit during the fifth Legacy Teachers Celebration.

“The relationship between a physician and a patient is a sacred one,” said Dr. Waldrum. “Each patient we interact with provides us an opportunity to reflect on who we are and why we do what we do. For these medical students, who are driven by their passion to make a lasting difference in the lives of others, this event provides them with an opportunity to reflect on the legacy teacher that made a difference in their educational experience.”

While Cleve, Behm and Emmett were able to reunite at Legacy Teachers and share their story and learn of other stories, Behm expressed how important the Legacy Teachers Celebration is to reflect on the lessons learned from patients.

“The biggest part of Legacy Teachers is I have something to learn from all of my patients,” Behm said. “And some make the lessons easier than others.”

Community | Featured

Lacey Boldyrev, a PICU nurse at Maynard Children's Hospital, stands on her unit.

To be a health care provider is to answer a calling. For some, the journey to health care is a straight line; for others, the road is winding. This series features stories from ECU Health team members who took the winding road, but found the destination to be worth the effort.

Lacey Boldyrev, staff nurse II in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), has worked for ECU Health since 2020. “I started in the middle of COVID,” she said. “My last semester of nursing school was entirely online and we weren’t even allowed to go into the hospital for clinicals, so it was a challenge.” Prior to attending Coastal Carolina Community College for her RN degree, Boldyrev was a stay-at-home mom while her daughters were young, and once they went to school, she pursued her dream of being a teacher.

“I started school but didn’t finish my degree,” Boldyrev said. “I was a substitute teacher and a paraprofessional in Brooklyn, where we lived, for seven years.”

At that time, she and her family moved to North Carolina where she worked in a preschool at Camp LeJeune until the birth of her son.

“He was born at Onslow Memorial Hospital,” Boldyrev said. “We had a normal pregnancy and ultrasounds, nothing special. But after he was born and I went to get him, they told me I couldn’t pick him up. They told me to return to my room and the doctor would see me.”

It was at that moment Boldyrev learned that her son had congenital heart disease and the hospital was sending him to Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. “I had never had a child with health issues before,” Boldyrev said. “All of the sudden we’re living in a hospital for a year and a half and taking medical flights to different states.” Her son died on Christmas Day, 2015.

“After he was gone, there was this big empty hole,” Boldyrev shared. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.” The time she spent with her son in the hospital, she said, inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing. “I had given him his medications and his oxygen and feeding tubes,” she said. “All these things I’d done for him, and I learned from the nurses taking care of him. I took that as a sign.”

Although she had never previously considered a career in health care, her work with children in education set a foundation for how to communicate with kids and their families in the hospital. “I understood from my work in the schools some of the challenges children face and how they develop,” Boldyrev said.

After graduation, Boldyrev knew she wanted to work at Maynard Children’s Hospital. “Everyone who was working there when my son was there treated me with such compassion and listened to me. The PICU was the only place I wanted to be; I’m not sure I’d be as happy if I was anywhere else.”

Part of what makes her work so special, Boldyrev said, is the PICU team. “The reason I came back to Greenville, and keep in mind I commute over an hour to get here, is my team,” she said. “The people I work with provide exceptional care. Not once since I started have I felt alone or that my team doesn’t have my back. There are other places I could work that are closer but that’s not what makes a good job. It’s the people and the pride you take from what you do.”

Boldyrev’s experience with her son has given her a unique perspective for the patients and families she serves in the PICU.

Lacey Boldyrev, a PICU nurse at Maynard Children's Hospital, stands on her unit.

“You don’t know anything about what it’s like if you’ve never had an unhealthy child. When my son was born, it opened a new world. I didn’t even know what congenital heart disease was, but now it’s unfathomable that I didn’t know,” she said. She recognizes that working in health care can be challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding thing she’s ever done. “If you’re passionate about medicine and helping people, but you’re hesitant to start the journey into health care, I say put your fears aside and take that first step.” Being able to provide compassion and support to children and families is something she’s very proud of, and she’s glad she took that first step. “I can be there for families going through the same type of situation I experienced,” Boldyrev said. “I feel like I’m able to make a difference in their lives. I believe there are reasons why we’re set on a path, and I take a lot of pride in saying that I’m a nurse.”

Read more

Journey to Health Care

Children's | Featured | Nursing

A family looks at a solar eclipse in a public park.

On the afternoon of Monday, April 8, the skies over eastern North Carolina will offer a spectacular sight: a solar eclipse. However, ECU Health ophthalmologist Dr. Ann Ostrovsky emphasizes a crucial caution: never gaze directly at the eclipse without proper eye protection. Doing so risks severe and potentially irreversible damage to your vision and eyesight, even leading to blindness.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon blocks the sun from view over a period of a couple of hours.

According to Dr. Ostrovsky, looking directly at the sun during the eclipse can cause a burn to the retina, even after a few seconds. This damage can cause a range of vision impairments including color distortion and reduced clarity. This risk extends to viewing the sun through any optical aid such as camera lenses, telescopes or binoculars.

A family looks at a solar eclipse in a public park.

“The consequences of retina damage from direct eclipse viewing are often permanent, with symptoms appearing within a 24 hours,” said Dr. Ostrovsky.

However, there are safe methods to watch the eclipse. Specialized eclipse glasses or pinhole cameras provide effective protection. It’s important to note that eclipse glasses differ significantly from standard sunglasses.

Dr. Ostrovsky stresses the importance of using proper eclipse viewing equipment.

“Ensure you have certified solar eclipse glasses with the appropriate grading, and always inspect them for any signs of damage or wear before use,” said Dr. Ostrovsky.

Should you suspect any optical damage following the eclipse, immediately contact your eye care provider.

While the solar eclipse promises a memorable sight, remember to protect your eyesight should remain the foremost priority during this awe-inspiring event.

Featured | Health News

On April 3, hospitals across the HonorBridge service area participated in a Pause to Give Life event to recognize the importance of organ donation.

A Donate Life flag was flown outside of ECU Health Medical Center to honor donors, their families, those who are waiting, and recipients who received the gift of life. Typically an outdoor ceremony, this year’s event was hosted in the Interfaith Chapel at ECU Health Medical Center due to inclement weather.

A moment of silence was held at 10:08 a.m. to signify that one donor can save eight lives.

Last year, ECU Health Medical Center had 31 organ donors and 75 organs were transplanted while 17 were sent out for research. The Medical Center had 49 tissue donors with 140 tissues recovered. Additionally, there were 80 eye donors with 98 corneas transplanted, 28 placed for research and 16 whole globes were recovered. This marked a record number of transplants performed at ECU Health Medical Center, including 130 kidney and kidney-pancreas transplants and 5 pediatric transplants.

ECU Health Medical Center President Jay Briley gives opening remarks during the Pause to Give Life event at ECU Health Medical Center's Interfaith Chapel.
ECU Health Medical Center President Jay Briley gives opening remarks during the Pause to Give Life event at ECU Health Medical Center's Interfaith Chapel.

During the event, Jenny Godwin, a former nurse at ECU Health Medical Center, spoke about the importance of organ donation. In February, Godwin donated a kidney to the 3-year-old daughter of a co-worker and said she felt called to step up for a friend.

“We knew I was going to be a match when I went in for testing. It was this feeling that me and my husband had and we felt very passionate about doing this,” Godwin said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to experience peace throughout the whole experience so it was amazing.”

In her time at ECU Health, Godwin worked on transplant teams and she said it was a full-circle moment to be on the other side as a patient.

She said the opportunity to be an organ donor has given her a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

“People always say it’s better to give than receive and I can tell you it’s been an awesome feeling to know that I have given her life,” Godwin said. “I mean, she’s 3 years old and has her whole life ahead of her. It’s really awesome to know that I was able to be a part of that.”

Godwin said she was tired for the first couple weeks after surgery but a little more than a month removed, she’s feeling great and back to her old self – including running around with children of her own.

Dr. David Leeser, chief of transplantation at ECU Health Medical Center, also spoke during the event and said it’s important to recognize those who have said “Yes” to organ donation, whether it is as a living donor or a donation after a person has passed. He also said with 100,000 patients across the country and 3,000 patients here in North Carolina waiting for a donation, it’s crucial to raise awareness of the need for organ donation.

He said transplantation takes a village and none of what he does as a transplant surgeon is possible without the many teams working to make each surgery possible.

Jenny Godwin speaks during the Pause to Give Life event.
Jenny Godwin, who recently donated a kidney, shares her story during the Pause to Give Life event.

“The transplant team is huge – you have organ procurement organizations like HonorBridge, they spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to come to hospitals, meet with families and get donors,” Dr. Leeser said. “Once they have the donor, they arrange having surgeons available to take out the organs for transplant and figure out who the organ is going to and all the pieces that go into getting the organ to the recipient hospital before the transplant even occurs. Each transplant program has social workers, dietitians, nurses and physicians – everyone is so crucial to make sure a transplant is successful. We stand on the shoulders of so many dedicated professionals that do the hard work of getting our patients ready to go to the operating room.”

At ECU Health, we are grateful for the over five million North Carolinians who have registered as organ, eye and tissue donors. We also appreciate the efforts of our North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles partners, who ask the questions every day as part of their job. Together, we are united in a mission to save and heal lives and create a culture where donation becomes a fundamental human responsibility.

Those interested in learning about organ donations or interested in becoming an organ donor can visit ECU Health’s donor registration portal or the Donate Life website for more.

Read more

New Bern couple shares kidney transplant journey

Featured | Transplant

Pediatric patients at the Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center had an opportunity to get outside in beautiful spring weather and have a little fun with their care teams during a Jell-O toss event on Tuesday, April 2.

With doctors, nurses, therapists and more Maynard team members lined up in chairs, patients dipped their hands into bowls of Jell-O and tossed the snack onto their care teams.

For patients, it was an opportunity to get out of their rooms, see their providers in a new way and relieve some stress.

One parent, Jillian Berntsen, said the opportunity was invaluable for her daughter Ella. While she was hesitant about participating at first, her care team encouraged her to join the event. Jillian said her daughter was glad she attended – even if she was covered in Jell-O by the end.

“This is incredibly important. For children like Ella who have long stays here in the hospital, it’s really important to get the outside and thinking about something other than their diagnosis so that they can have those moments being a child again,” Jillian said. “She’s just 13 years old so being stuck in a hospital room for most of her day can be tough. Things like this that get her smiling, laughing and around others are really important.”

For Abby Coderre, a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital, the event meant more to her than a few laughs with patients and fellow members of her care team as she was splattered with the green Jell-O.

In 2019, Coderre was a patient herself at ECU Health Medical Center with lymphoma and shared a special relationship with her care team. She said passing on her experience as a patient to those she cares for now is crucial and these events give her a chance to connect with her patients in a different way.

“It’s great to give them an outlet and something fun to do while they’re at the hospital,” Coderre said. “Anything to make them smile, I would do it. It’s just a great opportunity to get to know these kids and continue to build that relationship.”

Ella Berntsen was diagnosed with leukemia in November and recently had an infection which led to eight surgeries. Her mother, Jillian, said the care teams at Maynard Children’s Hospital have been a difference-maker for her daughter and the connection she has to the care team is special.

“We feel so supported by all of the staff here, I can’t compare them with anything,” Jillian said. “The relationships and bonds we have formed with these people throughout this short period of time have been unbelievable – they’re like family to us. Ella has been through an incredible struggle, for me there has been a lot of doubt. To have these moments of happiness, it’s just really important.”

Further reading

Watch: Doctor and nurse share unique bond, respect after life-saving encounter

Children's | Featured

A team gathers to discuss patient care at the ECU Health heart center.

The VAD (Ventricular Assist Device) program at ECU Health Medical Center has recently undergone its fourth successful Joint Commission survey, receiving exceptional praise.

As the largest health care accrediting body in the nation, the Joint Commission emphasizes patient safety and quality of care. The Joint Commission surveys the program’s compliance every two years with more than 40 standards organized into six different chapters in the disease-specific care manual.

ECU Health Medical Center’s VAD program is led by a team committed to providing cutting-edge care for patients relying on ventricular assist devices. A ventricular assist device is a surgically implanted device that helps in the functioning of the heart‘s pumping mechanism. At the Medical Center, VAD patients are often cared for in the following specialized units: CVICU, CIU, CICU, ED and Medical Rehab.

A team gathers to discuss patient care at the ECU Health heart center.

The surveyors highlighted the VAD program’s holistic approach to patient care, acknowledging the dedication of the multidisciplinary team.

“The survey holds our VAD program accountable and ensures that we are providing the highest quality and safest care possible to our patients,” said VAD Coordinator Andrea Matthews. Reflecting on her own participation in the program, Matthews shared her appreciation. “Having the opportunity to be involved in this program and care for this specialized patient population is truly an honor.”​

VAD Coordinator Emily Knight echoed this sentiment and emphasized that the resilience of patients and their families is what makes her job rewarding. Knight shared that she’s excited to see what the future holds for the program.

“I am thankful that ECU Health is able to provide this care and treatment close to home for the patients of eastern North Carolina,” Knight said. “I am excited to see the program grow and evolve to reach more patients in our community.”

Since its inception in 2017, ECU Health’s VAD program has grown significantly. The program has successfully implanted 71 left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) and currently cares for 43 patients. Courtney Saunders, advanced heart failure cardiologist, expressed her gratitude for the exceptional individuals within the VAD team who play a crucial role in the program’s success.

“It has evolved into the program it is through the individuals recognized by the surveyor developing a gold standard of LVAD care,” Saunders said. The surveyors specifically highlighted Dr. Tae Joon Lee, Dr. Kari Kirian and Terrani Moore.

Jay Briley, ECU Health Medical Center president, joined the surveyors in commending the team for their hard work in this achievement.

“The Joint Commission survey results demonstrate the program’s dedication to excellence, teamwork and patient-centered care,” Briley said. “Congratulations to all the teams involved in the successful survey.”

The VAD program team at ECU Health Medical Center poses for a photo to celebrate their recognition by the Joint Commission.

Featured | Health News | Heart and Vascular

Nolan Davis, who matched at ECU Health Medical Center, poses for a photo with his family during Match Day 2024.

On March 15, medical students across the country celebrated Match Day as they learned where they will spend their residency training as they continue in their physician journey. Locally, all 79 students in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University Class of 2024 matched, including 14 who will stay in eastern North Carolina to continue their training at ECU Health Medical Center.

Dr. Jason Higginson, chief health officer of ECU Health and executive dean at Brody, said the match statistics of this class reflect Brody’s commitment to leading the way in training primary care providers for the state, as more than half of the medical students matched in North Carolina and 43 of the 78 matched into primary care residencies.

“We have a 100% match rate, well above the national rate, which is also a testament to our faculty and staff,” Higginson said. “About 50% of our graduates are staying in North Carolina, which is our primary mission, and about 20% are staying locally. They are great kids. It’s one of our best classes ever.”

Nolan Davis, who matched at ECU Health Medical Center, poses for a photo with his family during Match Day 2024.
Nolan Davis, who matched at ECU Health Medical Center, poses for a photo with his family during Match Day 2024.

William Taylor matched with ECU Health’s Family Medicine Residency. Taylor is also an ECU alumnus in both undergraduate and soon-to-be medical school. He said growing up in a smaller town made him connect with the needs of eastern North Carolina.

“It has grown a lot now, but when I was growing up, Garner didn’t have as many resources as a big city like Raleigh, and I wanted to impact people in small communities like where I grew up,” said Taylor. “Greenville is my second home, and I want to learn to treat people in North Carolina and eastern North Carolina and make an impact on this area.”

Taylor is excited to continue in Greenville and complete his residency in family medicine and continue to build relationships with patients across the region.

“I want to do family medicine because it gets you closest to the patient where you can build those relationships and interactions over long periods of time and make a real impact on patients and their lives and their families,” said Taylor.

Growing up in eastern North Carolina made the Match Day moment of opening their envelopes even more exciting for a couple of ECU Health matches from Brody.

Nolan Davis is from Duplin County and has fond memories growing up in a small town being close to his family. His mother, Bernice, said Davis made a poster in the second grade that showed he wanted to attend Brody and become a doctor in eastern North Carolina. Davis is one step closer to that goal after matching with his number one choice, internal medicine – pediatrics at ECU Health.

“Eastern North Carolina is a wonderful region, and it’s underserved,” said Davis. “My family lives here, good people live here that all deserve high-quality health care, and Brody is good at getting us to do that. I have seen how hard it is to get a doctor in a small town, and I want to be part of the solution. I was born and raised in eastern North Carolina, and I plan to practice here after residency.”

Marsha Hairr is from Sampson County and matched to ECU Health’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency program.

She said her personal experience with physical therapy growing up drove her interest in that area of medicine and her upbringing makes it a joy to serve the region.

“I grew up in a very small town and rural area,” Hairr said. “Even though Greenville and ECU Health is a bit bigger than where I grew up, it still has a rural vibe. It feels like home and I feel so honored that I can continue my training here and meet the mission of fellow eastern North Carolinians.”

For Julia Horiates, who matched into ECU Health’s Emergency Medicine Residency program, the opportunity to continue serving eastern North Carolina in the fast-paced world of the Emergency Department was a dream come true.

She spent most of her childhood in eastern North Carolina and has worked and volunteered as an EMS in Pitt and Greene counties for about 10 years. As a 2017 graduate from ECU and an upcoming Brody graduate, Horiates is proud to be a “triple Pirate.”

Marsha Hairr, who matched to ECU Health’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency program, celebrates during Match Day 2024.
Marsha Hairr, center, who matched to ECU Health’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency program, celebrates during Match Day 2024.

“I’ve hit the trifecta now, undergrad, medical school and residency,” Horiates said. “Giving back to a rural community and being involved here still is so special to me. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to stay. I’ve been able to see how much this community has grown and how much of an impact ECU and ECU Health have had on this community. Being able to be a part of this, and a physician in this community is so important to me.”

Keeping bright minds in eastern North Carolina has long been a priority for ECU Health CEO and Brody Dean Dr. Michael Waldrum. He said a Brody education uniquely prepares future physicians to provide high-quality rural health care, and the training they receive can have an immense impact across the rural region ECU Health serves.

Dr. Waldrum said he’s not surprised that so many Brody graduates find their calling in eastern North Carolina.

“I like to think that all physicians share a common passion for wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they serve,” said Dr. Waldrum. “Brody students get to spend four years here in eastern North Carolina learning about medicine, connecting with our community and experiencing first-hand the immense impact they can have on rural populations. We’re proud to know that many of our Brody students go on to make a difference in communities across the country, but we’re especially proud when we get to see it happen right here in eastern North Carolina at ECU Health.”

Learn more about Match Day for the Class of 2024 here.

Community | Featured

Dr. Matthew Ledoux speaks to students during a Chat with a Doc event through Health Sciences Academy at ECU Health Medical Center.

Like many health care organizations across the nation, ECU Health is facing an immense challenge: solving the growing health care workforce shortage.

Through community partnerships, the health system is doing its part to grow its workforce, starting right here in eastern North Carolina.

On March 14 at ECU Health Medical Center, students from several local high schools participated in the Health Sciences Academy event “Chat with a Doc.” Nine physicians from various specialties within ECU Health spoke to the students about their responsibilities, the diverse opportunities in the health care field and the rewarding experiences that come from caring for the people of our communities.

Each physician gave a brief overview of their specialty, and students had the opportunity to ask questions along the way. Dr. Matthew Ledoux, Pediatrician in Chief at Maynard Children’s Hospital, shared his insights as a health care provider with the students.

Dr. Matthew Ledoux speaks to students during a Chat with a Doc event through Health Sciences Academy at ECU Health Medical Center.
Dr. Matthew Ledoux speaks to students during a Chat with a Doc event through Health Sciences Academy at ECU Health Medical Center.

“I was so excited to participate in ‘Chat with a Doc’. I loved talking about the amazing and incredibly diverse opportunities in medicine. I hope the students were just as excited to hear about the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives helping, supporting and healing members of our community. I can’t imagine doing anything other than practicing pediatrics here in eastern North Carolina.”

The students also had the unique opportunity to tour several areas of the hospital and learn first-hand how they all work together to offer high-quality care for patients. The tours included the echocardiography, electrophysiology and catheterization laboratories at the medical center. Students also got to experience the emergency department, a mock operating room and trauma bays.

Lisa Lassiter, workforce development director for ECU Health, was one of the tour leaders. She expressed her excitement about the potential opportunities that an event like this could bring. “Students are our future, and we want to expose them to as many areas and roles throughout health care as possible so they can make an informed decision on their future career path. We are thankful to the physicians and departments who have given their time to make this event possible and help educate our youth.”

Melanie Thompson, a junior at J.H. Rose High School, shared her takeaways from the “Chat with a Doc” event. “It was great to see the doctors so passionate about what they do in their specialties. It was really nice to see that even though they have a stressful job, they love what they do and are passionate about treating patients here.”

Caleb Spruill, a senior at Pitt County Schools Early College, added that it was exciting to connect with the doctors on a real and personal level. “Not only are they passionate about treating patients, but they’re also just normal people. I’ve always put them on this pedestal, but they are normal people, just like us, who went to medical school and worked hard to achieve their goals. That’s inspiring to see.”

Both Melanie and Caleb shared their gratitude for the opportunities they received from the Health Sciences Academy. Melanie mentioned that the Academy has exposed her to a whole new world of medicine that she was previously unaware of, and it helped her realize that anyone can pursue a career in health care as long as they put in hard work. Caleb emphasized that it’s an excellent way to figure out which career path to take. “It’s a great opportunity for people who aren’t sure if they want to go into medicine. Events like this are foundational for understanding what health care is and learning about all of the different careers in this field. Everyone thinks it’s just doctors and nurses, but there’s so many things you can do.”

The “Chat with a Doc” event is another representation of ECU Health’s commitment to growing health care talent locally. Through the Health Sciences Academy, ECU Health partners with public schools to provide eastern North Carolina’s youth with the education and resources to pursue exciting and fulfilling futures in health care. During high school, Health Sciences Academy students complete a minimum of six courses that expose them to potential health care careers and prepare students to pursue college-level health science programs upon graduation. They participate in job shadowing, mentoring, internships, medical research opportunities, career exploration and volunteering.

The Pitt County Health Sciences Academy offers high school students the opportunity to explore different careers in health care and receive real experiences in the health care setting.

The program is a partnership between Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University, the Brody School of Medicine, Colleges of Allied Health Sciences, Engineering and Nursing at East Carolina University, School of Dental Medicine at East Carolina University, the Eastern Area Health Education Center and the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce.

Community | Featured

A local student with Pactolus Global School works on her stuffed animal during the Teddy Bear Hospital event.

Nurses and child life staff from ECU Health went to Pactolus Global School on Tuesday, March 19, to host the Teddy Bear Hospital event as part of Pitt County Health Sciences Academy. This fun, interactive event aims to familiarize elementary-aged children with health care workers in a friendly environment.

Elementary school students donned scrubs and personal protective equipment (PPE) to bring their favorite stuffed animals to the Teddy Bear Hospital. Students assumed the role of parents responsible for the toy’s care, starting with checking their stuffed animal into the waiting room to be triaged. ECU Health nurses then examined the stuffed animals and gave them a diagnosis. Nursing staff provided a treatment plan to help the stuffed animal get better. Through this interactive process, ECU Health nurses and child life team members engaged with the children, fostering valuable interaction and promoting health during workshop sessions.

According to Reed Potts, coordinator of Pitt County Health Sciences Academy, the event serves a number of purposes including to increase the awareness of health care, reduce anxiety around doctor’s visits and introduce students to different health care careers.

A local student with Pactolus Global School works on her stuffed animal during the Teddy Bear Hospital event.

“They’re having an absolute blast,” said Potts. “You never know, we may have a couple of nurses and doctors in here who wind up taking care of us one day.”

Nancy Turner, workforce development consultant, ECU Health, said students have really been engaged with the event and enjoyed the process.

“Students are learning all about health care process as if they are at a doctor’s office or even a hospital,” said Turner. “The students have been great. We’re talking to them after their rotations, and they’re excited to share how our nurses helped their stuffed animals ‘get better’ whether it be with a cast or a band-aid.”

While this may be the first exposure to health care careers for some students, it will not be the last. ECU Health team members, in partnership with Health Sciences Academy, participate in a number of career exploratory events with middle school and high school students including job shadowing, career fairs and “Chat with a Doc.”

“The most important thing is we are able to reach out to students of all ages,” said Turner. “We expose students to health care careers starting in elementary school and continue in middle school and high school letting them know that there a lot of different careers in health care. We’re letting students know there is a health care role for anybody and everybody.”

The Pitt County Health Sciences Academy is a partnership between ECU Health, Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University, the Brody School of Medicine, Colleges of Allied Health Sciences, Engineering and Nursing at East Carolina University, School of Dental Medicine at East Carolina University, the Eastern Area Health Education Center and the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce.

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