Mar 172013



Guest column

Paul R. G. Cunningham, MD, FACS

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Someone once told me that “the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about at all”.

Well, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University is certainly in the news. The Daily Reflector has published two articles of real significance about our school. Recently, there was an accounting of the history of the development of the school, and now there is the report that indicates the school is achieving what it was intended to do — prepare primary care physicians who want to stay in North Carolina.

Down East we don’t brag much, and are most comfortable being modest. But this is just too much good news for me to stay quiet. We should all be very proud of our school.

Before I sustain a deluge of “Bless Your Hearts,” I want to explain what I meant when I was quoted in the most recent story as saying “We don’t really deserve that praise — that is what we’re supposed to do. That’s precisely the mission the school was created to serve.” The report was indicating the stellar statistics that our school has achieved in creating primary care doctors.

However, my statement falls short in giving credit to the many mission-driven, dedicated faculty and staff who have given their all to make the remarkable statistics our reality. Our school was created in a time of turmoil and challenge, and today’s results would not have been achieved without the “service-before-self” attitude that has been displayed every single day since the school was created.

We were given a “mission impossible” more than 40 years ago. First, recruit underrepresented students from North Carolina and make them into doctors; second, make them into primary care doctors who want to serve in our communities, and last, cure the disastrous health conditions that even today run rampant throughout the eastern one-third of our State.

The early leaders worked undaunted to accomplish the dream of a transformed health system.

Today, 26 percent of North Carolina doctors who attended medical school in the state are Brody School of Medicine graduates. Those graduates are bringing both healing and financial wellness to the communities that they serve. The downstream effects of these doctors’ individual practices generate as much as $2 million in each of the communities where they practice. This economic benefit is a valuable byproduct of the social good that is being created.

It is not a coincidence that we are embedded in a Health Sciences Campus with the most prolific and well respected College of Nursing and College of Allied Health in the state. Add in the new Dental School, and the other resources across the campus, and in collaboration with our sister schools, we are poised to revolutionize health care in our region.

Undeniably, the success that is evident today could not have been achieved if we did not have willing and supportive partners. At the inception, there was the Pitt County Memorial Hospital, then University Health Systems, and now Vidant. Valuable support came from physicians in private practice who quickly learned that the integration of a medical school with eastern North Carolina would enhance their abilities to serve their patients.

Medicine is undergoing a transformation as we speak, and we believe that we can achieve even more. Our school has favored collaboration over competition, and we believe that this approach will be an essential component for our success in the future.

We are poised to continue the work. Expanding the capacity of the school to continue to serve is clearly on the agenda. My colleagues and I pledge to continue to work to serve our region’s needs while continuing this track record of success.

Paul R. G. Cunningham, MD, FACS is dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

via The Daily Reflector.


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