Category Archives: Medicine

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos named to Raab Professorship

Mary Raab presented Emmanuel Zervos with the Raab Professorship of Adult Oncology at a celebration Thursday. (Photos by Candace Darden)

Mary Raab presented Emmanuel Zervos with the Raab Professorship of Adult Oncology at a celebration Thursday. (Photos by Candace Darden)

After years of preparation, an endowed professorship through the East Carolina University Medical & Health Sciences Foundation was conferred on its first recipient Thursday at the East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville.

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos was named the inaugural Raab Professor of Adult Oncology. Zervos is a surgical oncologist at the Brody School of Medicine, the vice chair of academic affairs for ECU’s Department of Surgery, and chief of surgical oncology at Vidant Medical Center. Dr. Zervos has dedicated his career to the study and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The professorship is named for Drs. Mary and Spencer Raab, who played a pivotal role in establishing the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center and remain iconic figures in the fight against cancer for patients in eastern North Carolina. Mary Raab joined the ECU oncology department in 1977, eventually becoming the first female chief of medical staff at what is now Vidant Medical Center. Spencer Raab led the first Division of Hematology/Oncology until his death from cancer in 1993. The Raab professorship was established that same year, but was not awarded to anyone until this week.

“We’ve been waiting for the right time and this is absolutely the right time, because of Dr. Zervos,” Mary Raab said. “He truly exemplifies the individual we wanted to fulfil the professorship in many ways through his dedication to patient care, his teaching, his mentoring and his research.”

Emmanuel Zervos accepts the Raab Professorship at a celebration at the East Carolina Heart Institute Thursday. 

Emmanuel Zervos accepts the Raab Professorship at a celebration at the East Carolina Heart Institute Thursday.

Being named to a professorship is both an honor to the named holder of the appointment and also an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it. The Raab Professorship is conferred upon a Brody School of Medicine faculty member who works closely with and has both adult clinical and research duties associated with the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center. Appointments are made by the Dean of the Brody School of Medicine in consultation with the director of the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center and the chair of the department of oncology. Professors are appointed to a five-year term with the ability to renew the professorship for one or more successive terms.

Recognizing the continued contributions of senior-level faculty as well as providing funds to push the frontiers of their scholarship are key functions of the endowed positions. The funds can propel research, extend outreach and support future faculty achievements.

Zervos said he was surprised to be named to the professorship but was “extremely humble and grateful to the Raab family.”

“It’s a singular honor for any academic,” he added.

Zervos said he has no plans on how he will use his professorship funds yet, but hopes it will help enhance the educational mission of the cancer program as well as the facilitation of patient care.

Endowed professorships are also crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty, Mary Raab said, thus ensuring ECU has the best minds that in turn attract the best students. It’s also a way to acknowledge the years of effort that she and Spencer Raab put in to advance cancer treatments in North Carolina.

“I hope that people will recognize my and Spencer’s contributions over the years,and I just want people to know that where we are today depends on what so many other people did in the past,” she said. “I hope it will be a reminder to everybody that the hard work paid off and we can continue to build on what we have and hopefully in the future have more professorships.”


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Dean emeritus receives medal for contributions to medical profession

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, was recently honored in New York City for his contributions to the medical profession and for his achievements in academic leadership.

Cunningham was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion on March 15 from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Cunningham, who served as dean at Brody from 2008 to 2016, completed his residency in surgery at Mount Sinai. He said he was humbled to receive the award, which ties him back to the roots of a strong foundation for his career in service, responsibility and medical expertise.

Dr. Paul R. G. Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine, was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion for excellence in the medical profession from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Paul R. G. Cunningham, dean emeritus of the Brody School of Medicine, was awarded the 2018 Jacobi Medallion for excellence in the medical profession from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

“The only way I’ve assimilated this is by making the analogous connection between the story of the prodigal son, and this welcome by the vaunted institution on 5th Avenue,” he said.

While the return to New York was nostalgic for Cunningham, faculty at Mount Sinai voiced admiration for his game-changing contributions to the field of medicine and to education.

“Dr. Paul Cunningham represents the very best of our profession,” said Dr. Reena Karani, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education and curricular affairs at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. “He dedicated his professional life to serving the most vulnerable in North Carolina and remains committed to equity and social justice in medicine.”

Karani “re-introduced” Cunningham to Mount Sinai, getting to know him in a professional setting and witnessing his encompassing knowledge and passion for medicine as well as his penchant for leadership.

“He listens carefully, acknowledges strengths, seeks a shared understanding of issues and promotes collaborative problem solving,” she said.

A surgeon by training, Cunningham was named Brody’s fifth dean in 2008. Previously an ECU trauma surgeon and educator, Cunningham as dean 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. He recently completed a stint as president of the North Carolina Medical Society.

His time at ECU, he said, melded with his experience at Mount Sinai to be the best of both worlds, with much of his career achievement happening at ECU.

“Greenville and the Brody School of Medicine have commonalities with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,” he said, “and at the same time, we are worlds apart. I am clearly a product of both environments, but the greatest demonstration of any competency that I may have had has been in this place, ‘down here.’”

The Jacobi Medallion has been awarded by the Mount Sinai Alumni since 1952 for distinguished achievement in the field of medicine or extraordinary service to the hospital, the Icahn School of Medicine or to the Alumni Association.

Cunningham was one of nine 2018 Jacobi Medallion recipients.

He expressed his appreciation to Mount Sinai, and said its faculty encouraged him to press beyond his comfort zone and his own vision for himself and his potential.

“I achieved much more than I could have imagined when I thought that I wanted to be a surgeon at age 16,” Cunningham said. “Life comes at you with different opportunities at different times, and keeping and cultivating a sense of wonder can really open up exhilarating experiences.”


-by Spaine Stephens, University Communications

Kickoff event set for regional program to provide better health data at lower cost

Representatives for dozens of not-for-profit hospitals and county health departments will be on hand March 6 for the kickoff of a regional program aiming to provide its participants with better health data at a lower cost.

The Office of Health Access in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, working with the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation in Cary, secured a $320,000 award from The Duke Endowment last year to help establish a standardized regional community health needs assessment process in eastern North Carolina.

To date, 23 hospitals and health departments representing 32 different counties have agreed to take part in the Eastern N.C. Regional CHNA program, which will help to streamline both the data collection and reporting aspects of the health needs assessments they must conduct.

Hospitals are currently required by the Internal Revenue Service to conduct these assessments every three years, while the state Division of Public Health requires local health departments to conduct essentially the same assessments every four years.

The new program, which standardizes the methodology and synchronizes the assessment process, will enable the participating entities to conduct the surveys on the same three-year cycles.

“It’s going to deliver better data and more consistent data, data that can be compared and contrasted across county lines. Never before have we really been able to do that,” said Al Delia, director of Brody’s Office of Health Access. “And in terms of the cost, the economy of scale and the centralizing of the process will save money overall and most of the counties and hospitals will see quite a significant cost savings.”

Tuesday’s kickoff event will also serve as the announcement of the private company that was awarded the contract to assist with the data collection, analysis and writing of the county-level reports.

The event starts at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6 in the conference room of the Eastern AHEC building, located at 2600 W. Arlington Blvd. in Greenville.

Kickoff Agenda


-Contact: Rob Spahr, ECU Health Sciences Communications,, 252-744-2482

Dr. Jennifer Arnold of ‘The Little Couple’ encourages ECU students to think big

The star of TLC Network’s, “The Little Couple,” Dr. Jennifer Arnold, was the keynote speaker for East Carolina University’s 2018 North Carolina Civility summit on Saturday, Feb. 17. She encouraged students to adopt her personal motto, “think big,” to achieve life’s goals.

Dr. Jennifer Arnold was the keynote speaker for ECU’s 2018 NC Civility Summit.

Dr. Jennifer Arnold was the keynote speaker for ECU’s 2018 NC Civility Summit. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The purpose of the Civility Summit is to create constructive dialogue to find solutions to address real-world challenges and face significant societal issues. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in sessions to discuss topics that included Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and climate change.

Born with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, which results in short stature and skeletal abnormalities, Arnold endured 30 surgeries as a child. Those experiences in the hospital and the influence of her childhood surgeon led her to dream of one day becoming a physician.

“I wanted to give back to other kids so they could have a healthy, happy life,” said Arnold.

She is now a physician and was named director of the Simulation Center at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2017. She was previously the director of the Simulation Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. During her conversation with students in Mendenhall Student Center, Arnold discussed the difficulty she faced when applying to medical school because people couldn’t see beyond her disability to notice her abilities.

According to Arnold, she attended medical school at Johns Hopkins University because it was the only program she encountered where the instructors did not doubt what she could do based on her size.

Arnold is neonatologist and stars in the TLC Network’s docu-drama, “The Little Couple.”

Arnold is neonatologist and stars in the TLC Network’s docu-drama, “The Little Couple.”

She pointed out the importance of the profession being more inclusive for people with disabilities and that .02 percent of people who graduate from medical school have a disability. She hopes to raise awareness for more inclusion in the medical profession. She knew becoming a trauma surgeon was unlikely due to her size. She joked that she chose her field, neonatology, because the patients were always smaller than her.

“It is possible to become a doctor but we have to focus on areas that promotes our strengths,” said Arnold. “My small hands made it easier for me to do some of the procedures,” she said.

“The Little Couple” follows Arnold, her husband and two children as they navigate life as little people in a world designed for people of average size. The show has been on for 10 seasons and has captured the couple’s early years of marriage and now, their most recent adventure in becoming parents and Arnold’s successful battle with cancer.

“When a great opportunity comes your way – even though it may be scary or hard – sometimes you have to try for it,” said Arnold.

The Civility Summit was open to ECU community members and included a closing session with Arnold to wrap up the day’s discussions.

“It was great; I loved it; super inspirational. I want to go to med school too,” said ECU senior Cristina Derespinis of Arnold’s presentation. “Events like this are important for awareness of things that are going on in our community and around the world. With the diverse people in our world, it’s important to get information from different perspectives,” she said.

Jon Cockerham, a junior studying political science and communications, is a committee member for the 2018 event. He said the Civility Summit allows students to exercise having civil dialogue around controversial topics with people who have differing views.

“What we’re seeing more of now is toxic dialogue, with people yelling at each other instead of sitting and listening to what the other person is saying and actually hearing them,” said Cockerham. “So, today is all about having that civil dialogue where you may disagree with the person but you’re still talking about the issue.”


-by Jamie Smith, ECU News Services

Health care quality improvement projects showcased at symposium

More than 150 people filled the auditorium of the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Wednesday to discuss, and reward, projects aimed at improving health care practices in eastern North Carolina and beyond.

The 2nd Annual Unified Quality Improvement Symposium – co-hosted by the Brody School of Medicine REACH Initiative and the Vidant Health Quality Office – featured more than 40 presenters. Their topics ranged from reducing rates of newborn hypothermia and improving HIV treatment adherence, to improving discharge processes in inpatient rehabilitation centers and limiting physician sleep interruptions.

Student presents project

Second-year ECU Brody School of Medicine student Noopur Doshi discusses her project during the 2nd Annual Unified Quality Improvement Symposium, which was held in the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Jan. 31, 2018. (Photos by Rob Spahr)

Second-year medical students Rebecca Jones and Reena Patel worked as nurses in neonatal intensive care and labor and delivery, respectively, prior to medical school.

For their symposium presentation, they discussed how they were working with a local OB-GYN to address the high infant mortality rate and maternal health disparities in Pitt County.

Students discuss their project

Omar Taha and Dr. Ahmed Hamed, left, discuss their project.

“We have a longitudinal program for mothers looking at having healthier pregnancies, reducing smoking, increasing breastfeeding and then also infant safety and CPR,” Jones said.

Patel said the program resulted in an overall decrease in anxiety for the mothers-to-be, as well as increased confidence in breastfeeding, CPR and choking rescue.

“We also compared longitudinal lifestyle changes and found that a number of people made significant beneficial lifestyle changes throughout the program,” Patel said. “As a result, we are implementing a portion of the program, the infant CPR portion, into Vidant hospital’s perinatal educational curriculum, as a medical student-run program.”

Student discusses his project

Second-year ECU Brody School of Medicine student Bennett Mack discusses his project.

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Julie Freischlag, chief executive officer of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, stressed the importance of health care professionals having integrity and being brave.

“Igniting success as health care providers, you need to be compassionate, you need to be innovative and bold,” Freischlag said. “Seize opportunities, take chances, be brave. You be the one to start the momentum, even if it’s controversial or uncomfortable.”

The following participants earned awards for podium presentations:

  • 1st Place: Diana Layne, a Vidant Medical Center nurse, for a presentation on a collaborative approach to reducing central line associated blood stream infections.
  • 2nd Place: Pooja Sarin, a third-year medical student, for a presentation on reducing the rates of newborn hypothermia by maintaining delivery temperatures of 77 F during cesarean sections.
  • 3rd Place: Kate Gitzinger, a Vidant Medical Center nurse, for the presentation “Interprofessional Education: A Powerful Tool for Improving Delivery Room Care and Competency.”

These participants received awards for their poster presentations, which were displayed in the ECHI lobby throughout the event:

  • 1st Place: Meera Patel, a second-year medical student, for a presentation on reducing the rate of contaminated blood draws coming from the ED to the microbiology laboratory at Vidant Medical Center.
  • 2nd Place: Taj Nasser, a fourth-year medical student, for the presentation “From Bits to Bytes to Reality: Reduction in Patients who Leave Without Treatment in the Emergency Department by using Computer Simulation to Redesign Nurse Staffing.”
  • 3rd Place: Sujitha Nandi, a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at Brody, for a presentation on a challenge to discharge ECU general internal medicine inpatients before noon.

For more information about the REACH program visit


-by Rob Spahr, University Communications

ECU medical faculty member honored with international educator award

Dr. Jill Sutton

Dr. Jill Sutton

An ECU Brody School of Medicine OB-GYN professor has been recognized by an international organization for her outstanding performance as an educator.

Dr. Jill Sutton was recently awarded the 2018 William N.P. Herbert, MD, Promising Educator Award by the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO).

Herbert, a former APGO president, created this award in 2007 to recognize promising junior faculty who have demonstrated accomplishments in women’s health education.

“I am incredibly honored to have received this award,” said Sutton. “Teaching medical students how to care for women is work I absolutely love to do.”

Sutton earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Wake Forest University. She completed her medical degree and residency training at Brody before joining the faculty as a clinical assistant professor in 2010. Sutton has served as Brody’s clerkship director since 2014, overseeing the clinical education of students during their third and fourth years of medical school.

“Jill’s impact as an educator is locally noted by the awards she has received from her students,” said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs. “She was recognized in May of 2017 by the third-year class with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is routinely sought out by students for teaching, mentoring, sharing stories from her life in medicine, and even to help recruit future Brody students.”

Sutton was also a recipient of Brody’s Clinical Teaching Faculty of the Year award in 2015, the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Class of 2016, and the Dr. Katherine Bray-Strickland Young Alumni Award in 2016 for her dedication to medical student education.

“Dr. Sutton’s passion and energy for educating medical students and other learners about women’s health is infectious,” said Dr. Cal Hayslip, chairman of Brody’s OB-GYN department. “She always comes to work with a bubbly positive attitude, and any time you are around her, she makes you smile. This award is well deserved.”

“Despite her hectic schedule, Dr. Sutton agreed to serve as my Albert Schweitzer Fellowship academic mentor,” said Rebecca Jones, a second-year medical student. “She has provided invaluable insight, constant encouragement and unwavering support. When our project has faced obstacles, she has always offered patient and thoughtful assistance despite her numerous obligations. Her concern for the community and commitment to service is evident in the sacrifices she makes to assist others.”

“Dr. Sutton is one of the most inspiring educators I have encountered in my time at Brody,” said Reena Patel, another second-year medical student. “She has a unique passion for sharing her knowledge, while also effectively supporting, motivating and communicating with her students. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to call her a mentor and educator.”

APGO represents academic OB-GYNs throughout the United States and Canada. It provides contemporary teaching tools to physician-educators and learning mechanisms for faculty, students and residents, with the ultimate goal of providing optimum health care to women. Sutton graduated from APGO’s Academic Scholars and Leaders Program in 2017.


-Angela Todd, University Communications

Laupus offers a glimpse into the role of medical workers during war

Nursing uniform from World War I

Nursing uniform from World War I (Photos by Layne Carpenter)

Last year was the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. Often called the Great War and the War to End All Wars because of the horrific death toll, World War I marked a major transformation in world politics, economics and industries. As warfare technology advanced, medical techniques improved in response.

Many North Carolinians offered their services to the war effort both at home and abroad. Doctors and nurses volunteered to treat the various ailments and injuries in military hospitals and on the battlefront.

Currently on exhibit through March 18 in the Evelyn Fike Laupus Gallery on the fourth floor of Laupus Library, “North Carolina & The Great War: Medical Professionals on the Western Front” offers insight into the work of medical professionals in the war, highlighting the roles of both men and women.

“Laupus Library hopes the exhibit will provide an understanding of medical care during the First World War,” said Layne Carpenter, Laupus Library history collections archivist. “Medical professionals faced many obstacles while on the front because they were treating wounds that they had never seen before.”

Surgical kit used during war

Surgical kit used by medical professionals during war

The exhibit will engage visitors with a display of artifacts, photographs and paper materials to learn about how the medical field responded to new weapon technology.

It features a section about the influenza epidemic of 1918. The worldwide epidemic had a deep impact in North Carolina and later inspired state officials to provide better health care for the state.

A Public Health Collection also is displayed along with a history on how the North Carolina Board of Health educated the public a century ago.

“The interpretative information in this exhibit is really phenomenal,” said Beth Ketterman, library director. “The flu pandemic occurring at the tail end of the war had a very immediate impact here in Pitt County. It’s enlightening to learn how our local community coped with that outbreak at a time when many providers were elsewhere dealing with wartime efforts.”

A reception will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 6 from 4-6 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., local historians will discuss the war’s influence in Pitt County specifically, including stories about local doctors and the influenza epidemic.

This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information email


–by Kelly R. Dilda, University Communications


Brody dean launches staff initiative

Brody School of Medicine Dean Mark Stacy. (contributed photo)

Brody School of Medicine Dean Mark Stacy. (contributed photo)

The dean of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, Dr. Mark Stacy, is seeking suggestions from Brody employees about how to “build a better Brody,” and he’s setting aside $100,000 to put their best ideas into practice.

The Brody Staff Leadership Initiative seeks to tap into the knowledge, experience and creativity of the medical school’s employees to improve office efficiency, morale, the work environment and the overall culture at Brody, Stacy said.

“Those employees who are closest to a process, who work in a certain area on a daily basis, are the ones who can best identify how to make things work better,” said Stacy. “I want to empower those people to influence positive change. This is their chance to make a difference.”

All Brody SHRA and CSS staff are eligible to submit a proposal. While employees are encouraged to work in groups to strengthen their requests, proposals from individuals will also be considered.

The deadline for entries is Dec. 15, 2017.

All submissions will be reviewed by a representative group of Brody staff and the Dean’s Administrative Leadership Team. Winners will be announced at a ceremony and celebration event Jan. 10.

All requests – and any questions – should be submitted to Gary Vanderpool, executive associate vice chancellor for health sciences administration and finance, at

For the proposal guidelines and template, visit


-by Amy Ellis, University Communications

ECU Neurology confirmed as leader in MS care

ECU Physicians Neurology, a leading provider of care for people living with multiple sclerosis in eastern North Carolina, has been recognized as an official Partner in MS Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This formal designation honors the practice’s commitment to providing exceptional MS care, and to working closely with the society to address the challenges of people affected by the disease. ECU first received the Partner in MS Care designation in 2013, and the renewal reflects the practice’s continued efforts to provide the highest quality care.

“This renewal of Partner in MS Care really is an extraordinary demonstration of the partnership that ECU has had with the National MS Society,” said Kristina Fransel, president of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “We renew it to make sure you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, but also that we’re fulfilling our end of the bargain as a partner to you in delivering the best quality health care to people with multiple sclerosis, which is the highest priority for the National MS Society.”

ECU Physicians Neurology received a renewal of its Partner in MS Care designation from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pictured from left are Kristina Fransel, president of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society; Dr. Robert Frere, clinical associate professor, ECU Physicians Neurology; Lovie Powers, RN; and Paige Dalton, development and programs coordinator, Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

ECU Physicians Neurology received a renewal of its Partner in MS Care designation from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pictured from left are Kristina Fransel, president of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society; Dr. Robert Frere, clinical associate professor, ECU Physicians Neurology; Lovie Powers, RN; and Paige Dalton, development and programs coordinator, Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Fransel recognized Dr. Robert Frere, medical director for ECU Physicians Neurology, for his efforts, which have resulted in doubling the number of patients with multiple sclerosis served by the practice. In addition to providing top-notch clinical care, she said, the Partner in MS Care designation recognizes the practice’s work in fundraising and advocacy for MS patients.

Joseph Hodges, clinical administrative manager for ECU Physicians Neurology, said the practice is committed to providing services across the continuum of care for patients with MS, having a medical director (Frere) with certification in treating patients with MS, and coordinating patient services with other providers including hospital services, urology and psychology.

MS is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system in which the body’s immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, disrupting the flow of information between the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body.

Symptoms can range from relatively benign to disabling and include blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, memory and concentration problems, paralysis and blindness. It is estimated that more than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS.

ECU Physicians Neurology is the largest and most comprehensive neurological medical practice in eastern North Carolina. Frere, who is board-certified in neurology and psychiatry, holds a specialty certification in neurophysiology.

The practice provides MS diagnosis, neuropsychological or cognitive evaluation and treatment, ongoing MS medical and symptom management, pain management, and patient and family education. The clinic also participates in MS clinical trials and research.

ECU Physicians Neurology is located at 2280 Hemby Lane in Greenville. For an appointment, call (252) 744-9400, or toll-free 1-800-775-4840. For more information about the practice visit


-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

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