Nov 122013

In 1972, farmland covered the Pitt County countryside where the ECU health sciences campus is today.

It’s hard to imaclass1972_5x7gine the changes that have been made since the first medical school students entered ECU that same year.

Those 20 students knew they had to succeed their first year in Greenville, after which they would transfer to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was the first step toward ECU having its own medical school.

The program helped fulfill the vision of Dr. Leo Jenkins, president of what was then East Carolina College, to build a medical school on campus. The first class was honored Nov. 8-9 by the ECU Medical and Health Sciences Foundation during ECU’s homecoming.

In 1965, a year after Jenkins began his campaign for a medical school, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized East Carolina to establish a school and provided planning funds for its development.

The first ECU medical faculty members started work in 1970, under the leadership of Dr. Wallace Wooles, a pharmacologist and the first dean. The following year, the General Assembly appropriated operating funds to allow enrollment in the one-year program.

In 1972, those first 20 students arrived, followed by two more classes of 20 each, all North Carolinians, in 1973 and 1974.

The thinking in Greenville, Raleigh and at the UNC General Administration offices in Chapel Hill was that ECU would grow to a two-year program, with expansion to a full four-year program later.

But in late 1974, plans changed. The next year, upon recommendation of the UNC Board of Governors, the General Assembly appropriated $43 million for initial construction of facilities and implementation of a four-year medical school at ECU. The charter class of 28 students enrolled in 1977. The school received full accreditation in February 1981, and the first class graduated that spring.

Today, the Brody School of Medicine at ECU enrolls 80 students with each class.

And the farmland has been replaced by a bustling health sciences campus made up of the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, the Laupus Health Sciences Library, the East Carolina Heart Institute, ECU Family Medicine and many other clinics taking care of patients.

“It is just fascinating to be here at a time when the school has clearly come into its own, and the earliest graduates are displaying all of the high qualities of the profession, in leadership and service, that were imagined so many years ago,” said Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the medical school.


Dr. Evelyn McNeill, left, an original ECU medical faculty member, talks with Dr. James Parsons, a member of the first one-year medical class, during a gathering Nov. 8 at the Brody Medical Sciences Building. (Photo by Doug Boyd)




Nov 012013

In the United States, nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. And the American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.

North Carolina exceeds the national average in the prevalence of diabetes, and East Carolina University scientists are recognized as international leaders in the study of metabolic diseases.

Research at the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute encompasses several fields including bariatric surgery, insulin signaling, glucose transport, bioenergetics, exercise physiology, pediatric healthy weight programs, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cardiac arrhythmia, and many other areas.

The core research philosophy of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute is an integrative, interdisciplinary approach. Major discoveries by ECU researchers include: type 2 diabetes, previously thought to be incurable, can be reversed within several weeks to months after bariatric surgery; and, insulin resistance in muscle, a precondition that leads to diabetes, is caused by elevated production of hydrogen peroxide produced by mitochondria.

But the research goes hand in hand with preventative care. Now in its 12th year, the annual Winning with Diabetes Conference is a one-day community program for people with diabetes, friends, families and health care providers that feature speakers, screenings and demonstrations.

It will be held 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

The morning will feature speakers on neuropathy, kidney disease and effective self-management, while the afternoon will offer screenings and cooking demonstrations. One of the featured speakers is Dr. Robert Tanenberg, medical director of the diabetes and obesity institute and professor of medicine at ECU, and medical director of Vidant Medical Center’s inpatient diabetes program. 

Those attending will get:

•          Expert advice from doctors, nurses and nutritionists

•          Foot, blood pressure, kidney and vascular screenings

•          Cooking demonstrations        

Spots are filling fast. Register by calling Kristen Brooks at 252-847-8265. Fee is $25 per person and $20 for each additional person. The program is made possible by the ECU Brody School of Medicine, the ECU College of Nursing, Vidant Medical Center and the Pitt County Health Department.

American Diabetes Month is observed each November by the American Diabetes Association to bring attention to diabetes and those impacted by the disease.

Oct 252013

ECU’s Brody School of Medicine is following a national trend of all-time high applications and enrollment as seen in data released today by the Association of American Medical Colleges.  

In 2013, Brody had 884 applicants, which is more than the school has had in 10 years (with the exception of 2010), according to Dr. James G. Peden, Jr., associate dean for admissions at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

That’s more than 11 applicants for each of the 80 available seats for the entering class at Brody, which only considers applicants who are legal residents of North Carolina, Peden said.

Across the nation, the total number of applicants to medical school grew by 6.1 percent to 48,014, surpassing the previous record set in 1996. First-time applicants, another important indicator of interest in medicine, increased by 5.8 percent to 35,727. The number of students enrolled in their first year of medical school exceeded 20,000 for the first time, a 2.8 percent increase over 2012.

As a result, Brody officials share a national concern about a limited number of residency training slots in the face of a growing number of medical school graduates, Peden said.

“At a time when the nation faces a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the end of the decade and millions are gaining access to health insurance, we are very glad that more students than ever want to become physicians. However, unless Congress lifts the 16-year-old cap on federal support for residency training, we will still face a shortfall of physicians across dozens of specialties,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “Students are doing their part by applying to medical school in record numbers. Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment. Now Congress needs to do its part and act without delay to expand residency training to ensure that everyone who needs a doctor has access to one.”

The overall growth in medical student enrollment can be attributed, in part, to the creation of new medical schools as well as existing schools’ efforts to expand their class sizes after the AAMC, in 2006, called for a 30 percent increase in enrollment to avert future doctor shortages. Brody expanded its class size from 78 to 80 students in 2012.

As in past years, the total number of men and women applying to and enrolling in the nation’s medical schools is fairly equally split, with male enrollees accounting for approximately 53 percent and female enrollees accounting for 47 percent of the 2013 class. At Brody, 41 students or 51 percent are male, and 39 students or 49 percent are female. Of those, 43 or 54 percent are Caucasian and 37 or 46 percent are non-Caucasian.

The overall quality of this year’s application pool remained strong, with nearly three-quarters of applicants reporting research experience and two-thirds reporting voluntary community service. This year’s applicants reported an average undergraduate GPA of 3.54 and a combined median MCAT score of 29. Brody was above the national average with undergraduate GPA at 3.7 and the average graduate GPA at 3.8. The average MCAT for the entering class at Brody was 29.5 (total of three numerical sections).

For more information on Brody’s student body, go to


The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 128,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians.

Oct 112013

A void in mental health providers now qualifies 58 of North Carolina’s 100 counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas, according to federal guidelines. The effects of this shortage are far-reaching:

For patients, there are long lines and limited access to psychiatric counsel.

For the (mostly rural) hospitals navigating these at-risk patients – usually through their emergency departments, due to lack of local mental health facilities – the shortage means a less efficient, more expensive business to manage.

For ECU, a school dedicated to increasing health care access across our state, this shortage signaled something else. An opportunity to make a difference.

Telepsychiatry uses real time, two-way interactive video and audio connections to connect patients with physicians located remotely. The Brody School of Medicine’s innovative approach to telepsychiatry has already begun increasing delivery of care and decreasing costs for some of eastern North Carolina’s most vulnerable hospitals.

Beginning in January, up to 80 more hospitals across the state will benefit from our telepsychiatry model, thanks to the General Assembly’s recent measure to expand the program to underserved hospitals statewide. This announcement, made official by Gov. Pat McCrory’s visit to our campus, is big – for both North Carolina and ECU – for many reasons.   

Why we need it: The percentage of people admitted to hospital emergency departments in North Carolina with mental health issues is nearly double the national average – and that doesn’t even include substance abuse-related cases. Again, more than half of our state’s counties lack sufficient mental health resources (in fact, a majority of the state’s hospitals lack access to a full time psychiatrist). In a nutshell: as long as North Carolina’s growing demand for mental health services far exceeds supply, wait times and costs will continue to soar as efficiency and quality of care plummet.

How ECU’s telepsychiatry program works: An emergency department nurse rolls a camera, monitor and audio equipment into the room of a patient experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. They are quickly connected with a remote intake specialist and psychiatrist who assess the patient’s mental state and recommend treatment to the hospital physicians.

How it’s working now: Telepsychiatry stands as a shining example of Brody’s innovative approach to solving North Carolina’s health care access problem. Founded in 1992, ECU’s telepsychiatry program is one of the longest running clinical telemedicine operations in the world.

The network currently serves 14 hospitals in eastern North Carolina. And it’s producing results: cutting the length of inpatient stays in half, dropping 30-day recidivism rates and reducing involuntary commitments to inpatient psychiatric facilities.

Worthy of expansion: The recent state appropriation of $4 million over the next two years will help expand the state’s telepsychiatry network to up to 80 hospitals statewide. When the expansion takes effect in January, we expect these great results to continue. Patients, hospitals and their communities will all benefit – and ECU will remain hard at work to continue pairing North Carolina’s health needs with innovative solutions.


Sep 242013

On Oct. 1, Laupus Library will host an opening reception for a new art collection by Brody School of Medicine faculty member Walter J. Pories. The works display a range of talent and interests for Pories, who serves as a Professor of Surgery, Biochemistry and Kinesiology and the Director of Brody’s Metabolic Surgery Research Group.

Dr. Pories calls the collection of cartoons, sculptures, water colors and digital art his “reflection on medicine, science and academia.”

With his myriad of responsibilities as a faculty leader at one of the region’s top medical schools, it’s a wonder that Dr. Pories has ample creative energy to channel into works of art he creates. Don’t miss this opportunity to get a peek into the mind of one of our campus’ most creative, innovative leaders.

The opening reception will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 1 from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Evelyn Fike Laupus Gallery. If you can’t make the reception, be sure to drop by the gallery later this fall. The art will be on display through Dec. 6.

For more information, please visit:

–Kelly Rogers Dilda
Laupus Library