Category Archives: Health Sciences

ECU’s Earth Day Expo

The Biodiversity Initiative and Department of Biology at East Carolina University will host an Earth Day Expo on Tuesday, April 11th from 4-6pm in Howell Science Complex with interactive events for people of all ages.  Various ECU researchers and local non-profit organizations will have displays and activities available on topics related to biodiversity.

There will be live animals and plants, lab activities, natural history story times, and more.  Kids from various after school programs will be attending and the public is welcome. Please check in at the breezeway of Howell when you arrive for a passport, map, and other information! More details are available at

For more information, please contact Heather Vance-Chalcraft at or 252-328-9841.  This event is a North Carolina Science Festival event (



-by Heather Vance-Chalcraft, Department of Biology

College of Nursing graduate named Air Force ROTC Distinguished Graduate

Jonathan Jeffries, a recent graduate of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, was named a Distinguished Graduate at his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December.

The honor is given to the top 10 percent of the Air Force ROTC graduating class nationwide, which this year included 1,815 graduates from 144 detachments. The award is predicated on success and leadership in academics, ROTC and in the community.

Jonathan Jeffries, right, receives a sabre in recognition of being named a Distinguished Graduate during his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December. (Contributed photo)

Jonathan Jeffries, right, receives a sabre in recognition of being named a Distinguished Graduate during his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December. (Contributed photo)

“I think he’s the whole person concept as far as what we would need as a leader,” said Lt. Col. Roxane Engelbrecht, Jeffries’ commanding officer who nominated him for the award. “He is physically fit and he excels academically — those are the first two things. The third is leadership quality and his ability to lead groups of people, not only in the Air Force and Air Force ROTC, but his demonstrated leadership at the university is somewhat unparalleled by most cadets.”

Jeffries was the College of Nursing’s fall 2016 senior class president. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in December with a 3.89 GPA. He helped to organize a relief effort to aid Greenville flood victims following Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016. He also spearheaded his class’s efforts to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society during the 2016 Walk MS fundraiser.

Engelbrecht has nominated five cadets for the award since she came to ECU in 2014. Of those, Jeffries is one of four to have been selected as a recipient.

“It was a huge shock and a huge honor,” Jeffries said of the award, which came in the form of a sabre Engelbrecht presented him at the ceremony. “I’m not one to care about being recognized, but when it does happen it’s definitely nice to see all the effort and all the hard work you’ve put in – throughout your time either with ROTC or at the College of Nursing – be recognized. It was a surreal moment. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far.”

Prior to attending ECU, Jeffries served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three and a half years, but separated from that branch after being injured in pre-deployment training.

Jeffries plans to make a career as an Air Force nurse. He will go to Arizona in February for the Air Force’s 10-week nursing training before being stationed at Eglin Air Force base in Florida.


-by Natalie Sayewich

Laupus Library celebrates scholarship in health sciences

Faculty and staff from across East Carolina University’s Division of Health Sciences recently gathered for an annual celebration of research and scholarship.

Dr. Leigh Cellucci, professor in Health Services & Information Management, receives the Laupus Bronze for authoring a book this year. (Photo by Kelly Dilda)

Dr. Leigh Cellucci, professor in Health Services & Information Management, receives the Laupus Bronze for authoring a book this year. (Photos by Kelly Dilda)

The William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library held its 11th Health Sciences Author Recognition Awards at the Hilton Greenville on Nov. 15, sponsored by the Friends of Laupus Library. Laupus is “proud to be a partner in the research and publication process,” noted Elizabeth Ketterman, interim director.

“It is inspiring to see the breadth of research that occurs in the division over a year’s time,” she added.

There were 114 authors honored this year, who contributed to nearly 375 journal articles, book chapters, books and other creative works between July 2015 and June 2016.

Book author Dr. Laura Gantt, associate dean for nursing support services, is congratulated by Vice Chancellor Phyllis Horns.

Book author Dr. Laura Gantt, associate dean for nursing support services, is congratulated by Vice Chancellor Phyllis Horns.

“Every year we do this we have a longer and longer list of faculty and staff who are fully engaged in the work of the university,” remarked Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for health sciences.

Dr. Nicholas Benson, interim dean of the Brody School of Medicine, applauded authors’ “effort to share your knowledge and generate wisdom…to make a real difference in the wellness of eastern North Carolina, from Murphy to Manteo, and across the nation and world.”

It was College of Allied Health Sciences Dean Dr. Robert Orlikoff’s first appearance at the event, having arrived at East Carolina this fall from a prior leadership post at West Virginia University.

“The reason that ECU exists is for our students…and how our students represent the future,” he said. “But this event focuses attention on our talented faculty who make all of that (learning) possible. Their scholarship is directly tied to the student experience, and advancing health care and transforming the region.”

Authors from Laupus, the ECU College of Nursing and the School of Dental Medicine were also recognized.

Registration for the 2016-17 author event will begin in February. More information about the annual awards ceremony – including a complete listing of this year’s published authors – is available online at

Dr. R. Todd Watkins and Dr. Geralyn Crain, both faculty in ECU's School of Dental Medicine, enjoy this year’s Author Recognition Awards Ceremony. (Photo by Peggy Novotny)

Dr. R. Todd Watkins and Dr. Geralyn Crain, both faculty in ECU’s School of Dental Medicine, enjoy this year’s Author Recognition Awards Ceremony. (Photo by Peggy Novotny)


–Kathryn Kennedy

Former ECU dean named to Order of Long Leaf Pine

A former dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has been named by the governor to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his outstanding contribution to health care in North Carolina.

Dr. Paul Cunningham, who stepped down from his post as dean of the medical school in September, was presented the award during Vidant Health’s medical staff meeting Nov. 15 by Greenville urologist and N.C. Rep. Dr. Greg Murphy.

Dr. Paul Cunningham, left, dean emeritus of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, is presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award by Rep. Dr. Greg Murphy. (Photo by Sandra Harvey)

Dr. Paul Cunningham, left, dean emeritus of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, is presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award by Rep. Dr. Greg Murphy. (Photo by Sandra Harvey)

“I have known Dr. Cunningham a long time – not only as a talented and gifted surgeon, but as a compassionate human being,” Murphy said. “He always puts patients’ needs above everything else. He leads by example, with camaraderie and with vision.”

Considered among the highest honors the governor can confer, the award recognizes citizens for their exemplary service to the state. Other recipients include Andy Griffith, Bill Friday, the Rev. Billy Graham and Michael Jordan.

Previously an ECU trauma surgeon and educator, Cunningham was named Brody’s dean in 2008. He led the school in its devotion to producing primary care physicians for the state, increasing opportunities for underrepresented minorities in medical education and improving the health status of the citizens of eastern North Carolina.

Cunningham is taking time away to prepare for teaching and research responsibilities before returning to work as a faculty member in the medical school’s Department of Surgery, with interests in trauma and bariatric surgery.

He currently leads the state’s physicians as president of the North Carolina Medical Society.

–Amy Ellis

Fulbright program builds partnership for ECU Allied Health in Bulgaria

College of Allied Health Sciences Dean Dr. Robert Orlikoff traveled to South-West University “Neofit Rilski” in Bulgaria this September to assist in developing a professional program in speech-language pathology and to promote research and clinical practice in voice and speech disorders.

Orlikoff lectures with a Bulgarian translator. (Contributed photos)

Orlikoff, right, lectures with a Bulgarian translator. (Contributed photos)

The highly-competitive Fulbright Specialist Program connects U.S. scholars like Orlikoff with their counterparts at host institutions overseas. Fulbright Specialists serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning and related subjects in over 150 countries worldwide.

Orlikoff was hosted by Professor Dobrinka Georgieva, Head of the International Relations Office at South-West University "Neofit Rilski."

Orlikoff was hosted by Professor Dobrinka Georgieva, Head of the International Relations at South-West University “Neofit Rilski.” Here, they’re pictured together in front of the Rila Monastery, regarded as Bulgaria’s most important cultural site.

Orlikoff completed several Fulbright projects in Bulgaria during his two-week residency in September. In addition to providing lectures to undergraduate and graduate students, he led faculty workshops, consulted with clinical practitioners and evaluated several courses in South-West’s program in logopedics – the European equivalent of speech-language pathology as practiced in the U.S.

“This Fulbright grant was an exciting opportunity to interact with students and to work alongside the faculty at South-West University…helping them explore ways to enhance education, research and practice at their institution and throughout Bulgaria,” said Orlikoff.

“While we remain dedicated to caring for our underserved communities in eastern North Carolina, this type of project clearly demonstrates our commitment to the advancement in healthcare nationally and globally.”

An internationally recognized laryngeal physiologist and voice scientist, Orlikoff delivered a keynote presentation at an international voice symposium in Turkey last year. He has presented his scientific and clinical work throughout much of Europe, Asia and North America.

Brody’s Department of Public Health welcomes new leader

East Carolina University is welcoming new leadership for its graduate public health programs this fall. Dr. Ronny Bell has been named chair of the Brody School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health, effective Nov. 7.

Bell earned an MED and a PhD in foods and nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and later completed a MS in Epidemiology during a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He most recently served as a tenured professor in the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, where he also directed the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity.


Bell (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A native of Lumberton, Bell believes there are many opportunities to collaborate across the health sciences to improve the health status of the region and state. His interests include diabetes, racial and ethnic minority health, and health disparities.

“I have long admired East Carolina’s mission – to serve the people of eastern North Carolina,” Bell said. “There is a need to train the next generation of public health professionals, to serve in the East – and in a number of venues, really.”

“After 25 years at Wake Forest, it was time for something different,” he added.

During his time at Wake Forest, Bell served as co-director for the Wake Forest School of Medicine Clinical and Population Translational Sciences master’s program and the Health Disparities in Neuroscience-Related Disorders master’s program. He has also worked as a lead instructor at Wake Forest and a guest instructor for classes at UNC Greensboro, Winston-Salem State University and Gardner-Webb University.

His research efforts include service on the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Behavior and the North Carolina Medical Journal. Most recently he was a co-primary investigator of the Coordinating Center for the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth, and primary investigator of the P60 Center of Excellence grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, focused on addressing disparities in diabetes prevention and control. He has over 220 publications in professional journals and has served on numerous National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control grant review panels.

Additional professional service includes time with the North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More University Collaborative, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Rural Health Task Force, and chairing the North Carolina Diabetes Advisory Council and the American Indian Health Board. Nationally, he has served on the U.S. Census Bureau Race and Ethnic Advisory Committee, the Native Research Network Board of Directors, and the American Diabetes Association Health Disparities Committee. In 2009, Bell received the UNC Greensboro School of Health and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2014, he was the recipient of the Diversity Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Public Health is focused on strategies for groups of people,” Bell noted. “Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke…if you look at eastern North Carolina versus the rest of the state, we’ve got dire conditions. We’ve got the pieces (at ECU) to make an impact.”

Bell replaces Dr. Maria Clay in the leadership post, who has served as interim chair for public health since July 2014. Clay will retain her position as chair of Brody’s Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies.

–Kathryn Kennedy

Kennerly, Sitzman inducted as fellows in the American Academy of Nursing

Two East Carolina University faculty members have been inducted as fellows in the American Academy of Nursing. College of Nursing Professors Dr. Susan Kennerly and Dr. Kathleen Sitzman were honored during a ceremony at the academy’s annual conference Oct. 20-22, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

“I am delighted to welcome this superb cohort of talented clinicians, researchers, policy leaders, educators and executives as they join the ranks of the nation’s leading nursing and health care thought leaders,” said Academy President Dr. Bobbie Berkowitz.

Selection criteria for fellowship include evidence of significant contributions to nursing and health care and sponsorship by two current fellows. Applicants are reviewed by a panel of elected and appointed fellows.

Kennerly is an eminent scholar known for her work in geriatric nursing and on the influence of nursing culture on care practices. She led entrepreneurial practice activities that enhanced nursing care delivery and outcomes and informed the science behind nursing practice environments by co-authoring the Nursing Culture Assessment Tool, the first of its kind, now used nationally and internationally to evaluate and shape nursing culture.



Kennerly is widely recognized for her pioneering work testing systematic interventions for pressure ulcer prevention in nursing homes. She was a co-investigator on the seminal research that aimed to reduce pressure ulcers by using music to cue staff to reposition nursing home residents every two hours. The pioneering study — which resulted in a 45 percent protective effect against pressure ulcers — was broadly reported in high-impact journals and serves as a key reference for subsequent work in advancing nursing best practices.

Kennerly currently serves as the co-principal investigator on a nearly $3 million National Institutes of Health grant that aims to determine if every two hour repositioning frequency can be extended to three or four hours without negative outcomes for residents at risk of pressure ulcer development. In 2014, she was a member of a working group that published standards for the International Clinical Practice Guideline for Pressure Ulcer Prevention and Treatment. Kennerly is wound care certified and a certified nurse educator, and serves as a team leader and evaluator for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Sitzman is an internationally respected expert for her knowledge and research on human caring in nursing. One particular area of her expertise is virtual caring, in which Sitzman explores the scholarship of teaching in ways that convey and sustain communities of caring among students and faculty in online classroom settings. She has been primary investigator for eight studies on this topic alone. In addition to ECU, she is an adjunct professor with the Watson Caring Science Institute and created the College of Nursing’s first Massive Open Online Course, on the topic of Caring Science, which has been attended by over 2,000 people internationally since its first offering.



In addition to publishing more than 100 journal articles, she has co-authored four successful nursing textbooks. Her book A History of American Nursing: Trends and Eras won the American Journal of Nursing Textbook of the Year Award in 2009. Two of her books are being translated: Caring Science, Mindful Practice is coming out in Chinese and Spanish; Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists is being translated into Spanish.

Sitzman serves as assistant editor and peer review board member for the International Journal for Human Caring. She is a peer reviewer and editorial board member for Nursing Education Perspectives, the journal of the National League for Nursing. She was inducted into the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education in 2015. In November, she will be a keynote speaker at the Third International Congress of Nursing in Lima, Peru, where she will receive an honorary doctorate from the Universidad Privada Norbert Wiener S.A.

Also inducted as a fellow was North Carolina State Rep. Gale Adcock, an ECU alumna, College of Nursing Hall of Fame member, and recipient of nursing’s 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The academy comprises more than 2,400 nurse leaders in education, management, practice, policy, and research. Fellows include hospital and government administrators, college deans, and renowned scientific researchers. With the new class of 164 inductees, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 28 countries are represented.

–Elizabeth Willy

Brody School of Medicine names new chair of cardiovascular sciences

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named a new chair for its Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Dr. Mark Iannettoni assumed the role Oct. 1, following a one-year appointment as acting chair and a previous stint as vice chair. In his new role he will also serve as chief of cardiovascular services at Vidant Medical Center.

Dr. Mark Iannettoni

Dr. Mark Iannettoni

“This is an extremely exciting time for me to be in this leadership role, as we are in the process of merging several opportunities within Brody and the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences,” Iannettoni said, referring to the ongoing effort between Brody and Vidant Health to integrate clinical services. “We’re bringing together a successful and very solvent medical center with a well established and highly respected medical school.

“Combining an extremely dedicated department of academic faculty with a group of talented cardiology clinicians from Vidant Medical Group – who are highly valued partners for the future – will allow us to provide additional educational opportunities for our learners to understand the complexities of both forms of practice,” Iannettoni continued. “It also offers opportunities to expand our specialty care network into different regions of eastern North Carolina as a concerted effort to improve population health issues related to cardiovascular, lung and esophageal disease.”

Iannettoni is chief of Brody’s Division of Thoracic Surgery, which focuses on operations performed on organs within the chest. He joined Brody in 2014 and organized the thoracic surgery residency program at Vidant Medical Center. He received the 2015 Socrates Award from the national Thoracic Surgery Residents Association for his commitment to resident physicians’ education and mentorship.

He earned his medical degree from the State University of New York, where he also completed a general surgery residency. He went on to complete a thoracic surgery residency at the University of Michigan and earned an MBA from its Ross School of Business.

Iannettoni’s medical career spans 30 years and has yielded several academic appointments, including the Ehrenhaft professorship and chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and staff physician in the Section of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

He sees patients at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU. His clinical interests include all diseases of the esophagus with a special focus on foregut surgery and esophageal cancer, as well as lung cancer and all aspects of general thoracic surgery.

He is board-certified in both general and thoracic surgery and completed a specialty fellowship in esophageal and lung surgery. He has published more than 100 articles in these areas of research.

“We have already developed an outstanding program here for clinical care and education,” Iannettoni said. “We now need to focus on our ability to perform outstanding clinical research to help with population health issues that plague us in eastern North Carolina.”

–Amy Ellis

Gantt named Journal of Emergency Nursing Reviewer of the Year

Dr. Laura Gantt, associate dean for nursing support services in the East Carolina University College of Nursing, has been awarded the Journal of Emergency Nursing Reviewer of the Year Award. The first-ever award recognizes Gantt for more than ten years of service that has included work both as a manuscript reviewer and a member of the journal’s editorial board.

Journal of Emergency Nursing is the peer-reviewed publication of the Emergency Nurses Association, which has more than 40,000 members representing over 35 countries. Gantt’s selection was the result of a multi-stage process, the journal’s editorial board said, and was based on the quality and quantity of her manuscript reviews.



“The editorial board appreciates Laura’s willingness to participate in the review process, her timeliness in completing reviews, and the expertise consistently demonstrated in her thorough, insightful and helpful feedback to authors and editors,” the group stated when presenting the award at an Emergency Nurses Association awards gala on Sept. 17 in Los Angeles.

Gantt’s own referred articles include three papers in Journal of Emergency Nursing on emergency department administrative issues and in publications such as Clinical Simulation in Nursing Education and Journal of Nursing Education.

Also an associate professor of nursing at ECU, Gantt joined the College of Nursing in 2006 to run its simulation and skills labs. She has helped shape the College of Nursing’s simulation labs — in which students practice real-world scenarios using manikins and other lifelike technology — into a cornerstone of the ECU nursing education. In 2015, she published the book “Healthcare Simulation: A Guide for Operations Specialists.” As associate dean, she oversees the simulation labs, instructional technology, student services, and student development and counseling.

Gantt has been a member of the Emergency Nurses Association since 1995. Her extensive experience with emergency nursing has included work as flight nurse and an administrator overseeing emergency and transport services. She continues to practice nursing in the Vidant Health Minor Emergency Department.

–Elizabeth Willy 

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