Budget to provide critical funding for rural health care

Statement from Dr. Waldrum

Dr. Michael Waldrum

Dr. Michael Waldrum

“ECU Health is grateful to legislators for their commitment to supporting rural health care with Medicaid expansion and other critical funding in the state budget. Thanks to their commitment, eastern North Carolina will receive support to improve access to care, medical education opportunities, funding for the medical examiner’s office and more. In short, this budget enables ECU Health and other rural health care providers to improve the lives of those we serve. This budget also sets the stage for innovation with NC Care which will positively transform health care delivery in rural communities across the state. I want to again express my appreciation to lawmakers in both chambers and Gov. Cooper for recognizing the extraordinary challenges facing rural health care and designing solutions that benefit the citizens of North Carolina, including making Medicaid expansion a reality. ECU Health will continue to strongly advocate for rural health care in North Carolina and remain at the forefront of creating a national academic model for rural health delivery.”

Press Releases

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University’s Lora Joyner was recently selected as the National Bleeding Disorders Foundation (NBDF) Physical Therapist of the Year. Each year, NBDF honors those who have made significant contributions to the inheritable blood and bleeding disorders community at its annual Awards of Excellence program.

“It is an honor to be recognized for my life’s work as a physical therapist in the bleeding disorder community by fellow therapists, health care professionals, patients, families, and HTC colleagues,” said Lora Joyner, MS, PT, PCS, physical therapist and clinic manager at ECU Health Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC). “I am grateful that my name will be associated with Donna Boone and previous award winners and recognized as a role model and mentor for current and future health care professionals in the bleeding disorder community.”

Physical Therapist of the Year, given in honor of Donna Boone, PT, honors an individual who has demonstrated service to the inheritable blood and bleeding disorders community above and beyond their daily responsibilities in an HTC PT role. This person serves as a role model for others in the physical therapy field and has a minimum of two years’ experience working with individuals with blood or bleeding disorders at an HTC. Donna Boone was a pioneer in physical therapy and bleeding disorders and served as a mentor for many professionals.

“We are proud of Lora for all of the hard work, dedication, and leadership she has put into this clinic and into our patients,” said Dr. Beng Fuh, director of pediatric hematology and oncology, “Bleeding disorders, sickle cell disease and cancer are life-changing diagnoses for patients and their families. Lora is an invaluable asset and works hard to ensure patients can live their best lives as possible after diagnosis. Lora’s passion for her patients is reflected by this well-earned achievement.”

Joyner has worked at ECU Health HTC for 32 years as a physical therapist and as the clinic manager for seven years. As HTC manager, Joyner is responsible for selecting patients for clinical trials and research, supporting transition needs of the clinic, quality improvement and writing grants and reports. As a physical therapist, Joyner is responsible for treating any muscular skeletal complications, most commonly joint or muscle bleeds. If left untreated long enough, joint/muscle bleeds can cause chronic pain, long-term joint problems and limited mobility. Joyner also facilitates safe participation in sports and physical activity of patients, including medication management, which allows patients to live an active and fulfilling life. Additionally, Lora has held leadership roles in multiple regional and national organizations. She is the currently the national chair of the physical therapy committee of the NBDF.

“When you see the joy on the face of a little one when you say ‘yes you can play baseball’ after their diagnosis, after they’ve thought they wouldn’t be able to do normal activities, that’s one of my favorite parts of my day,” Joyner said. “All parents dream that their children are able to do normal things, and I’m able to help children do that.”

ECU Health HTC is a nationally recognized comprehensive lifespan clinic with both adult and pediatric specialty services that is one of only three in North Carolina and is part of a national network of over 140 Comprehensive Hemophilia Diagnostic and Treatment Centers, which provide comprehensive specialty care to people with rare inherited bleeding disorders and their families.

Awards | Community | Press Releases | Therapy & Rehabilitation

The exterior of ECU Health Medical Center, near the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower.

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health Medical Center recently earned accreditation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). This accreditation means patients will receive comprehensive, personalized care provided by a team of specialists working closely together, access to information on clinical trials and new treatment options, ongoing monitoring of care and lifelong follow-up, mental health support, financial guidance, survivorship care and other long-term services.

“I am proud of our ECU Health team members and physicians who work hard to provide the most advanced cancer care to eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, president of ECU Health Medical Center and chief operating officer of ECU Health. “Cancer is a terrible disease that has touched most, if not all, of us in some way. As a regional academic medical center, ECU Health Medical Center strives towards excellence in all it does. This accreditation is a testament to the tireless efforts of our cancer care teams, who make a difference in the lives of so many in our region.”

The exterior of ECU Health Medical Center, near the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower.

As a CoC-accredited cancer center, ECU Health Medical Center applies a multidisciplinary approach and treats cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other health care professionals that specialize in caring for cancer patients. Cancer patients benefit from having access to clinical trials, screening and prevention events, palliative care, genetic counseling, rehabilitation, oncology nutrition, and survivorship services.

“Eastern North Carolina faces a disproportionately high rate of cancer, and as the largest health care provider in the East, ECU Health is committed to maintaining excellence in the delivery of comprehensive, compassionate, patient-centered, high-quality care for patients with all types of cancer,” said Dr. Darla Liles, Cancer Committee chair at ECU Health, professor and chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “This accreditation demonstrates our holistic approach to cancer care that includes preventive measures, educational resources, clinical trials, support and survivorship services and treatment with the latest technologies and highest clinical standards.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.9 million new cancer cases and approximately 609,820 deaths from cancer are expected in 2023 in the United States. Of those, 67,690 new cases are expected in North Carolina. Residents in eastern North Carolina have access to ECU Health’s cancer care network that spans across nine hospitals – including the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville that is home to both inpatient and outpatient cancer services – five radiation oncology sites, three joint ventures and numerous outpatient clinics.

“The Commission on Cancer brings together experts and advocates from across the country to develop standards for cancer care so that patients with cancer receive the highest quality care coordinated by a team of dedicated physicians and specialists,” said Timothy Wm. Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS, professor, general thoracic surgery medical director, Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Networks University of Kentucky, and chair of the Commission on Cancer.

Awards | Cancer | Community | Press Releases

ECU Health Medical Center Echocardiography Laboratory team poses for a photo with their certificate.

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health Medical Center Echocardiography Laboratory (Echo lab) earned a 20 Year Bronze Accreditation Milestone for its reaccreditation and pediatric echocardiography reaccreditation by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC). The Echo lab has also been granted a three-year term of accreditation by the IAC in Echocardiography in the areas of adult stress, adult and pediatric transthoracic and adult transesophageal.

Accreditation by the IAC means that ECU Health Medical Center Echo lab has undergone an intensive application and review process and is found to be in compliance with published standards, thus demonstrating a commitment to quality patient care. Comprised of a detailed self-evaluation followed by a thorough review by a panel of medical experts, the IAC accreditation process enables both the critical operational and technical components of the applicant facility to be assessed, including representative case studies and their corresponding final reports.

ECU Health Medical Center Echocardiography Laboratory team is shown working in a patient setting.

“ECU Health takes great pride in bringing state of the art, high quality care that’s close to home for eastern North Carolina.” said Dr. Dave Harlow, senior vice president of Allied Health at ECU Health.  “ECU Health’s partnership with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University allows us to provide world class training and technologies for clinicians and medical students alike which ultimately improves patient outcomes. These efforts are tailored to our mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina, and I am proud of the teams that earned this reaccreditation and the effort it represents.”

A noninvasive ultrasound study called an echocardiogram is commonly used to evaluate heart structure and function and can detect heart disease or signs of serious conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. On average, one American dies every 34 seconds of cardiovascular disease. Each year nearly 40,000 infants in the United States are born with a congenital heart defect, making it the most common type of birth defect. Congenital heart defects are also the most critical, causing more deaths during the first year of life than any other birth defect.

There are many factors that contribute to an accurate diagnosis based on echocardiography including the training and experience of the sonographer performing the procedure, the type of equipment used and the quality assessment metrics each facility is required to measure. IAC accreditation is a “seal of approval” that patients can rely on as an indicator of consistent quality care and a commitment to continuous improvement.

“Eastern North Carolina sees higher rates of chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes and stroke, all leading to higher rates heart disease,” said ECU Health Medical Center Echo lab medical director Dr. Raj Nekkanti, who also serves as a professor in the Division of Cardiology and Program Director of the Cardiology Fellowship Program at Brody. “Having a high-quality, consistent Echo lab helps ensure accurate diagnoses and is instrumental in creating treatment plans for patients. Early diagnosis of heart disease can drastically improve outcomes for patients, highlighting the necessity of these types of services. We are proud to offer this high-quality care to a region that depends on it.”

Awards | Heart and Vascular | Press Releases

ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum speaks during a press conference unveiling ECU Health's logo.

Greenville, N.C. ECU Health is grateful to elected officials for making Medicaid expansion a reality for more than 600,000 people in the state, including more than 100,000 people here in eastern North Carolina. ECU Health is also grateful to see Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program (HASP) funding included in the bill, providing much-needed relief to rural hospitals across the state.

“This is a historic day for health care in our state and especially here in eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO, ECU Health. “ECU Health has advocated for Medicaid expansion for more than six years as we witness first-hand the challenges uninsured and underinsured patients face. With expanded coverage, more patients can receive the care they need to keep them well. We appreciate lawmakers recognizing the importance of providing coverage for our vulnerable community members and this landmark moment is a major accomplishment that will improve the lives of many families across the state. While Medicaid expansion and HASP funding will not solve all the challenges facing rural health care, ECU Health is grateful to see this important legislation become law.”

ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum speaks during a press conference unveiling ECU Health's logo.

Community | Press Releases

ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum speaks during a press conference unveiling ECU Health's logo.

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum issued the following statement:

“This is an important moment for rural health care in North Carolina as our legislators have struck a deal to move Medicaid expansion and the Healthcare Access Stabilization Program (HASP) forward in the legislative process and one step closer to passage. Medicaid expansion will provide coverage to more than 100,000 people in the East and HASP is vitally important to stabilize health care delivery in rural North Carolina. On behalf of ECU Health and the communities we are proud to serve, I extend my deepest gratitude to our elected leaders for this important development and we look forward to it becoming a reality. While this won’t solve all of the challenges we face in rural health care, this is a critical and necessary step.”

ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum speaks during a press conference unveiling ECU Health's logo.

Press Releases

ECU Health leadership and government officials stand outside of the Halifax County Health Department.

Halifax, N.C. – ECU Health proudly joined community officials and business and health leaders at a Medicaid expansion roundtable hosted by U.S. Congressman Don Davis at the Halifax County Health Department Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, followed by a tour of ECU Health North Hospital.

Jay Briley, president of ECU Health community hospitals, and Jason Harrell, president of ECU Health North Hospital, attended the roundtable to offer insights on health issues impacting Halifax County and eastern North Carolina. Officials urged the need for Medicaid expansion, and community leaders offered perspective and insight on how to best advocate for expansion in North Carolina, which would provide invaluable health and economic benefits to communities across the region. With Medicaid expansion, more than 600,000 North Carolinians – 100,000 of whom live in eastern North Carolina – would have access to the affordable health care coverage they need.

ECU Health leadership and government officials stand outside of the Halifax County Health Department.

“ECU Health is grateful for the opportunity to meet with Congressman Davis and other community leaders to discuss Medicaid expansion and other important health care needs for Halifax County and the region we so proudly serve,” said Briley. “Medicaid expansion is a crucial initiative that would provide numerous benefits for the state, and especially here in rural eastern North Carolina, where we see high rates of chronic diseases and high rates of uninsured patients. Simply put, Medicaid expansion would make an important difference in the lives of so many, and we are committed to advocating for this important measure.”

Following the roundtable, Briley and Harrell welcomed Congressman Davis to ECU Health North Hospital for a tour of the hospital, including the oncology unit and women and children’s unit. During the tour, the leaders discussed how Medicaid expansion and the Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program would help provide much-needed relief for rural hospitals across the state, ensuring that rural North Carolinians have access to high-quality health care.

“Rural hospitals like ECU Health North play a critical role in the communities they serve,” said Harrell. “Our hospital is not only a hub for high-quality care, but it is also the largest employer in the county. Medicaid expansion should be a top priority for the state, and we appreciate Congressman Davis’s efforts to advocate for the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”


State of Health Care

Community | Health News

An ECU Health team member assists a patient during a mammogram.

Greenville, N.C. – The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), a quality program administered by the American College of Surgeons, has granted accredited status to ECU Health Medical Center for the ninth year. Patients receiving care at a NAPBC-accredited center have access to information on clinical trials and new treatment options, genetic counseling, and patient-centered services including psychosocial support, rehabilitation services and survivorship care.

“ECU Health serves a vast rural region burdened by high prevalence of chronic diseases including cancer,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer of ECU Health and president of ECU Health Medical Center. “Our partnership with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University allows us to provide research and clinical trials for patients, as well as recruit high-quality cancer care providers, both of which largely contribute to our accreditation. Bringing standardized, quality care close to home for the 1.4 million people we serve helps us meet our mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”

An ECU Health team member assists a patient during a mammogram.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The even higher prevalence of cancers in eastern North Carolina highlights the importance of having an accredited cancer care center in the region. Access to preventative screenings and early detection allows for less invasive treatments, a greater variety of options and a greater potential to prevent the spread of breast cancer.

“ECU Health is committed to maintaining excellence in the delivery of comprehensive, compassionate, patient-centered, high-quality care for patients with all types of cancer,” said Dr. Emmanuel Zervos, executive director of cancer services at ECU Health, and professor at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “Patients with breast cancer at ECU Health benefit from a robust team of disease site specialists in surgery, oncology and radiotherapy who are committed to working together to provide the type of care this important designation represents. I am grateful to our ECU Health team members and new breast cancer program leader, Dr. Karinn Chambers, for not only adhering to these standards but surpassing them.”

Accreditation by NAPBC is granted to programs proven to provide the best possible care to patients with breast cancer. To achieve voluntary NAPBC accreditation, a breast center demonstrates compliance with the NAPBC standards that address a center’s leadership, clinical services, research, community outreach, professional education and quality improvement for patients. Breast centers seeking NAPBC accreditation undergo a site visit every three years.

To learn more about breast cancer screenings and treatment options near you, please visit ECUHealth.org/breast-cancer.

Cancer | Featured | Press Releases

Parker Byrd and his care team pose for a photo outside of an ECU Health EastCare ambulance to celebrate the Patient Transport of the Year Award.

Greenville, N.C. ECU Health’s EastCare team was awarded MedEvac Transport of the Year by the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) for their initial transport of East Carolina University freshman Parker Byrd and subsequent transports throughout his recovery. The EastCare air medical team, Steve Bonn, pilot, Henry Gerber, EMT, Milando Stancill, EMT, Leigh Ann Creech, communication technician, Jessica Rispoli, flight RN and John vonRosenberg, flight paramedic, accepted the award on Oct. 26 for their efforts rendering life-saving care to Byrd.

On July 23, 2022, Byrd, an incoming freshman and baseball player at ECU, was boating in a remote creek when his legs were cut by the propeller, resulting in severe trauma. A friend and teammate was able to pull him back in the boat and immediately applied a makeshift tourniquet. First responders on the scene recognized the severity of his injuries and requested air medical transport. The EastCare air medical team jumped into action, rendering life-saving trauma care on the flight to ECU Health Medical Center, the only Level 1 Trauma Center east of Raleigh.

Parker Byrd and his care team pose for a photo outside of an ECU Health EastCare ambulance to celebrate the Patient Transport of the Year Award.

“EastCare team members dedicate themselves to ensuring the people of eastern North Carolina who live in vast, rural areas have access to timely and life-saving care,” said Trey Labreque, director of EastCare. “Thanks to the quick actions of everyone involved, including Beaufort County EMS for their initial response and clear communications with the flight crew, the transition of care was quick and efficient, and the patient made it to the trauma center stabilized, which is our objective as a flight team. This award is testament to all EastCare team members who live the ECU Health mission.”

Quick actions by the flight crew dramatically improved Byrd’s vital signs prior to arriving at ECU Health Medical Center. Flight nurses administered plasma, blood products and treatment for traumatic hemorrhagic shock during the air transport. In the following weeks, due to the severity of injury, the EastCare team provided Byrd transportation to the wound care center twice daily, multiple times per week to receive specialized care and hyperbaric treatments at ECU Health’s Wound Healing Center.

“The EastCare team has been nothing but phenomenal to me,” said Byrd. “From day one, they were doing their job to the best of their ability. I want to thank each and every person on the EastCare team for what they have done for me.”

Byrd was discharged in mid-August, nearly one month after his injury. After 22 surgeries and a partial leg amputation, Byrd continues to undergo outpatient care and rehabilitation in his recovery process. Byrd plans to continue classes at ECU and practice with the baseball team while he undergoes rehabilitation.

Please join ECU Health in recognizing the EastCare team for their rescue of Byrd and their efforts to render emergency care to all patients across eastern North Carolina.

Awards | EastCare | Emergency & Trauma | Featured | Press Releases

ECU Health Medical Center

Greenville, N.C. – After an extensive search and interview process with stakeholders across the organization, ECU Health is pleased to announce and welcome Andrew (Andy) Zukowski, MBA, as the health system’s new chief financial officer (CFO), effective Nov. 28.

“It is my great honor to welcome Andy as the next CFO of ECU Health,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “Andy brings more than 20 years of experience in highly-matrixed health care organizations with expertise in value-based care models and strategic financial planning and analysis that drive positive results. In addition to Andy’s vast financial background, his mission-focused mindset and passion for serving others are attributes we value and are at the core of who we are as ECU Health.”

Financial operations are a critical component of the joint operating agreement between ECU Health and Brody which outlines the goal of establishing a shared leadership and shared services model to support the enterprise. The CFO position will directly report to the health system’s CEO and have additional oversight and responsibility for Brody’s financial services and structure. This structure creates a more effective approach to integrating financial services and realizing efficiencies that will benefit patients and care teams across the organizations.

“This is an exciting time for me personally and professionally,” said Zukowski. “ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine are both synonymous with rural academic and clinical excellence. I look forward to joining the leadership team at ECU Health to advance the important mission-driven work positively impacting the lives of the 1.4 million people who call eastern North Carolina home.”

Prior to joining ECU Health, Zukowski served as UNC Rex Healthcare’s chief financial officer since 2016. Zukowski’s arrival to ECU Health comes in succession of current CFO David Hughes’ planned retirement Dec. 30 after serving the organization and eastern North Carolina for 25 years.

“David’s leadership and expertise were instrumental in our ability to lay the building blocks that have positioned ECU Health to successfully realize its vision of becoming a national academic model for providing rural health care,” said Dr. Waldrum. “I greatly appreciate David’s contributions to our region and wish him the very best in his retirement.”

ECU Health looks forward to welcoming Zukowski to eastern North Carolina where his expertise, leadership and partnership will help the organization continue to deliver high-quality care as well as educate and train the next generation of health care professionals.

Press Releases