Apr 152013


Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News ServicesDr. Darrell Neufer, director of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, and Dr. Wiley Nifong, director of surgical robotics at the Brody School of Medicine, look over the plans for the research lab under construction on the fourth floor of the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News ServicesDr. Darrell Neufer, director of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, and Dr. Wiley Nifong, director of surgical robotics at the Brody School of Medicine, look over the plans for the research lab under construction on the fourth floor of the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ECU Notes

By this time next year, scientists and clinicians will be working together to find clues to solving the region’s — and nation’s — diabetes epidemic in new lab space on the fourth floor of the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University.

Nearby, surgical teams from around the world will be learning the latest robotic surgery techniques.

That is the goal of medical school officials, faculty members and contractors who are transforming the formerly unused space into advanced laboratories and simulated clinical rooms. The work is expected to conclude this fall and the facility should be ready for use by the end of the year.

The research space is not meant to be a permanent home to any one department or researcher. Instead, the space is meant to be “fluid,” said Dr. Wiley Nifong, an associate professor of cardiovascular sciences and director of surgical robotics at the medical school.

Traditional office and lab spaces are combined with an open bench area on the south side of the floor, stretching nearly the length of the building.

“A lot of corporate labs are like this,” Nifong said.

The robotic training area will mimic an actual operating room.

“The scope of work and scope of practice are increasing,” said Nifong, who trained 700 surgical teams on the DaVinci system at the ECU Robotic Research and Training Center.

When the $60 million, 206,000-square-foot ECHI at ECU opened in 2008 on the health sciences campus, the choice was to complete the fourth floor or the auditorium, said Dr. Darrell Neufer, professor of physiology and kinesiology, director of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute. ECU officials decided to complete the auditorium and related educational spaces and seek money for the fourth floor later.

Work on the 37,000-square-foot fourth floor is estimated to cost $11.5 million, Neufer said. Officials through the years have been plucking money from one source or another and earmarking it for the fourth floor project.

ECHI director Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr. said the project will benefit ECU and the region financially.

“This is a real economic benefit for eastern North Carolina both for the funding and the money we bring in for the training center,” Chitwood said.

The Diabetes and Obesity Institute has approximately 50 affiliated faculty members from 18 ECU departments working in basic and clinical research, Neufer said.

“It’s no longer sufficient to be one investigator submitting your grant,” Neufer said. “Medicine has gotten so broad and diverse you need more people. The more diverse we are, the better because that fosters creativity.”

At the Robotic Research and Training Center, nearly 1,400 clinical personnel have trained in robotic cardiac, thoracic, gynecologic, urologic and general surgery.


Rigsby gets top ECU leadership award

An ECU researcher and faculty member described as a tireless advocate for a high quality university education has received the campus’ top leadership award for women.

Catherine Rigsby, a professor in the geology department and a researcher with an international reputation, accepted the 2013 Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award Monday.

“She is a scholar and educator who instills in her students the importance of a strong liberal arts education regardless of the discipline,” said Jill Naar, chair of the selection committee, who presented Rigsby with the honor.

“I hope that we will all band together to defend higher education — for the future of our women and the future of our men,” Rigsby told the group, referring to state funding cuts that have trimmed university budgets as much as 17 percent. “We are an education system in crisis.”

Rigsby has worked as chairwoman of the ECU Faculty Senate and the UNC Faculty Assembly. Her commitment to that ideal has strengthened the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, said Margaret D. Bauer, Rives chair of Southern Literature and professor of English.

Rigsby’s work as a researcher and scientist includes time as a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, where she has also been awarded a rare Special Visiting Researcher designation in the Science Without Borders program.

“Rigsby has managed to serve at this exceedingly high level while still teaching undergraduates, still advising graduate students and still conducting high quality, original geologic research,” Stephen J. Culver, chairman of the geology department, said.

Ten women, including Rigsby, were recognized for their contributions to the institution, community and region at the event. Each demonstrated leadership in areas such as academics/education, outreach, research, politics, athletics and volunteering.

The other 2013 Women of Distinction are Holly Garriott, School of Art and Design; Dr. Mary S. Jackson, College of Human Ecology; Dr. Kathryn M. Kolasa, Brody School of Medicine; Dr. Kim Larson, College of Nursing; Julie Poorman, Department of Financial Aid; Dr. Cindy Putnam-Evans, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences; Maria Theresa (Terry) Shank, ECU alumnae; Dr. Kathryn Verbanac, Brody School of Medicine; Dr. Beth Wall-Bassett, College of Human Ecology.

The Allred Award received by Rigsby honors a former associate professor of psychology who died in 2005. She directed the Women’s Studies Program and advocated for women’s rights and those with disabilities.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday: Lecture: Holocaust survivor Morris Glass, 4 p.m. Hendrix Theatre, Mendenhall Student Center. Free and open to the public. Contact David Smith, 252-328-5524 or smithdav@ecu.edu.
  • Thursday: Earth Day Expo, 4-6 p.m., Howell Science Complex, featuring interactive events and displays for all ages. A lecture by UC Berkeley professor Dr. Tyrone Hayes will follow at 8 p.m., SciTech Building, Room C307, titled “From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A Tale of Toads and Men.” All events are part of the N.C. Science Festival and are free and open to the public. Contact Heather Vance-Chalcraft, 252-328-9841 or vancechalcrafth@ecu.edu.
  • Friday: ECU Storybook Theatre presents “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 7 p.m. Wright Auditorium, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Tickets $10 adults, $7 for students/youth. Call 1-800-ECU-ARTS or visit http://www.ecu.edu/familyfare.
  • Saturday: School of Communication open house, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Joyner East, featuring the new multimedia newsroom and communication center. Seventh annual CommCrew Spring Reception to follow at 6 p.m., Greenville Museum of Art. The open house is free to the public; the evening reception requires a ticket. Call 252-328-4227.

via The Daily Reflector.


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