Community | Pharmacy

“Jim will be very humble and tell you he was in the right place at the right time,” Dr. April Quidley, pharmacy supervisor, critical care/emergency medicine and PGY1 Pharmacy Residency Program director, said about Dr. Jim Worden’s impact on ECU Health and in his community.

Dr. Worden retired on March 22 after working for ECU Health for 41 years. During his retirement reception, however, he was surprised to learn he’d also won the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, the highest honor North Carolina’s Governor can bestow on a person for their contributions to the state.

Dr. Worden, a Tennessee native, moved to Greenville, North Carolina for his first job out of his pharmacy residency to work as a clinical coordinator. “I’ve been here [at ECU Health] since August of 1983,” Dr. Worden said. During that time, he held a few different roles, including assistant director of clinical services, the director of pharmacy and most recently, the systems service line administrator for pharmacy.

Jim Worden poses for a photo with ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum after Worden received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.

During that time, Dr. Worden was instrumental in setting up ECU Health’s pharmacy services by “working closely with physicians in a direct, bedside patient care role” and by founding the Drug Information Center, which, according to Dr. Worden’s award nomination documents, “served as a resource for all health disciplines in eastern North Carolina in the time that evidence-based medical practice expanded.”

“When we think about pharmacy services at ECU Health, Jim is the guy who gets all the credit,” Dr. Quidley said. “He worked hard to form those interdisciplinary relationships with physicians and to advocate for patients. He is the founding director of our residency program, the Pharmacy Practice Residency, which is one of the oldest in the country at 30 years old.”

He went on to develop additional pharmacy residency training programs for critical care, emergency medicine and infectious diseases. “He’s been on the cutting edge of everything we do in pharmacy,” Dr. Quidley said. “He’s done exceptional things for the department.”

As a result of his dedication, ECU Health’s services represent a leading practice in pharmacy care, especially for a rural region, and he’s helped expand services to improve the medical and pharmacy care across all of eastern North Carolina.

On March 22, a retirement reception was held to celebrate Dr. Worden’s more than four decades of service. Little did he know, however, that there was an ulterior motive to the event. “We surprised him with the Long Leaf Pine award at the event,” Dr. Quidley said. “Dr. Mike Waldrum, Dr. Herb Garrison – also a recipient of the award – and Brian Floyd were there to present the award to Jim, and it was a great surprise.”

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award is among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina, and it is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the state and their communities, going above and beyond the call of duty and making a significant impact on and strengthened North Carolina. Nominations can be made for retiring individuals who have 30 or more years of service in North Carolina, and nominations must include documents that attest to the person’s work and service, supported further by letters of recommendation.

Dr. Worden said he knew of the award, but he didn’t think he was the sort of person to win it. “It’s an impressive, austere award, but I didn’t think I’d done anything in my life that was at the level to win it. I was humbled to be considered for something that noble.”

Dr. Quidley and those who wrote supporting letters of recommendation think differently. Dr. Worden has made a significant impact not only at ECU Health, but also in his community. He is on the Board of Directors for the Community Crossroads Center, which is the only emergency homeless shelter in Greenville and Pitt County. He joined the board three years ago after a fellow church member let him know a position was opening.

“I felt like my conscience told me I should apply, that God was calling me to help, so I applied, and they voted me in,” Dr. Worden said.

In the past year, he worked with ECU Brody School of Medicine to restore medical services for residents of the shelter. For his dedication to the board and the shelter, the board elected Dr. Worden to be president next year. He is also actively engaged in Greenville’s First Presbyterian Church, where he has in the past served as the Chair of the Missions Ministry, Chair of the Worship Ministry, a member of the Stewardship committee and twice as an elder on the Session, the church’s governing body.

“I’m very committed to my church,” Dr. Worden said. He plans to continue that service now that he’s retired. “I’m going to enjoy time away from work, but I won’t be sitting around. I will of course be the president of the shelter’s board, and we will have activities that will keep me busy. I will continue to work in my church, and I hope to play some tennis and pickleball.”

Jim Worden poses for a photo after he was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at his retirement party in March of 2024.

Dr. Worden also plans to travel with his wife of 34 years, Tammy, who is also a pharmacist at ECU Health and who helped Dr. Quidley nominate Dr. Worden for the Long Leaf Pine award. “When you’ve been married to someone that long, it is an accomplishment – you need that person and they need you,” he said.

As Dr. Quidley predicted, Dr. Worden remained humble about his contributions to ECU Health and beyond.

“This is not about me,” Dr. Worden said of winning the award. “I’ve started some good things, and I’ve been fortunate to have the resources, teamwork and leadership to do these things, but it really does take a village. I will take credit for some of it, but a leader can only do so much by themselves.”