Jun 072013

This week, we’ve enjoyed kicking off the summer season – and the launch of our new ECU Division of Health Sciences Twitter and LinkedIn pages – by participating in National Sun Safety Week. It’s a topic that hits home for all of the schools and colleges within our division, as sun damage can affect all parts of the body.

Our research-based tweet tips are a good place to start for those of us who need a sun safety refresher course heading into the warmest months of the year. But protecting your skin from harmful rays can be just as much about what not to do.  With that in mind, here are four ways some sun worshippers get burned:

1)      Skipping sunscreen on overcast or cloudy days. A common misconception is that the risk of sunburn on cloudy days is less, but the sun’s damaging UV light can pass through clouds (in fact, up to 40% of UV radiation reaches earth on a completely cloudy day!). So, don’t let the weather be what determines your SPF use; wear it no matter the forecast.

2)      Putting off dermatology check-ups. While skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, it is also one of the most treatable. The key is to get checked regularly – especially if you fall into any of these high-risk categories.

3)      Neglecting to reapply. Many times, we think we’re covered by lathering up with sunscreen once. Not true, says the American Academy of Dermatology: sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours and/or after swimming or sweating heavily, perhaps after a rigorous game of beach volleyball. Keep that sunscreen bottle by your bag, rather than buried at the bottom of it.

4)      Assuming the sun can’t find you in certain places, times or by wearing “protective” covering. We often think about getting sunburned in the obvious places and ways: usually, on the beach, in a bathing suit, on a hot summer day. While that’s certainly a high-risk setting for overexposure, UV rays can also hit us in everyday places we don’t think about: in the car, through our clothes, and in mountainous or wooded areas. The lesson: use sunscreen liberally no matter the time, place – or outfit.

Keep sun safety in mind all year round and you’ll ward off skin cancer – and be able to enjoy the warm summer weather that much more.


Jun 042013

Imagine knowing what you want to say but being unable to produce the words.  Imagine hearing words that others say but being unable to understand them.  These are difficulties that may confront people living with aphasia. 

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s language skills.  The production or comprehension of speech, reading, or writing may be difficult for someone with aphasia.  It is important to note that aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence.  Accessing ideas and thoughts through language may range from a mild impairment to being so severe as to make communication extremely difficult.  Aphasia manifests itself in a variety of ways and combinations.

The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.  In fact, 25-40% of stroke survivors acquire aphasia. (www.aphasia.org)  However, aphasia can also occur when someone experiences head trauma, brain tumors, or infections.  Language capabilities can also become slowly and progressively impaired with no known neurological trauma.  This is known as Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Aphasia affects about one million Americans and is more common than Parkinson’s disease or cerebral palsy. (www.aphasia.org)  Aphasia can occur at any age and affects people of all races, nationalities, and gender.

Although there is no cure for aphasia, speech-language pathologists can significantly help the individual with aphasia and their families/friends learn strategies to improve communication.  Language skills can continue to improve over a period of years after the initial brain injury.  Some individuals with aphasia are able to return to work and many others continue to participate in activities they enjoyed prior to their brain injury.

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month.  The ECU Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic provides individual evaluations and treatment sessions for individuals with aphasia.  An aphasia group also meets each Friday during the semester for individuals with aphasia to practice their communication skills and enjoy interactions with others.  Call 252-744-6104 for more information.

Sherri Winslow, MS, CCC-SLP
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders


May 172013
HIM CLASS-Harris, Lacey Williams, Angela Falsetti, Tina Carlton, Callie Woodard, Deniece Russell, Ethel Wright, Susan M

From left: Dr. Susie Harris, Lacey Williams, Angela Falsetti, Tina Carlton, Callie Woodard, Deniece Russell, Ethel Wright, Susan M. Haddock, Faisal Olayan Alharbi, Dr. Xiaoming Zeng. Not pictured: Dawn Camden

East Carolina University graduated its final class of Health Information Management students on May 10, 2013. 

The graduation ended a long history of educating close to 600 health information management professionals.

The Medical Records Administration department was created in 1970, with Mrs. Peggy Wood as the first chairperson.  She remained in that position for 26 years. In 1993, the department was renamed Health Information Management.  It was later expanded to include the BS in Health Services Management, and renamed the Department of Health Services and Information Management in 2002.

Since its beginnings, more than ninety percent of the health information management professionals in eastern NC received a degree from ECU.

The decision to discontinue the bachelor’s degree is due to the change in health information technology. In the future, more emphasis will be placed on the sharing of medical information, and computer specialists trained at the graduate level in health informatics will be needed.   Accordingly, as one chapter closes, another will open through the MS in Health Informatics and Information Management.  The first class of students will enter in fall 2013.

Congratulations HIM students!

Last HIM class of 2013

Apr 302013

kenwidmerApril is Counseling Awareness Month, a time when all counselors make an effort to help the public better understand their profession, the work they do, and the contributions they make to the communities they serve.

Ken Widmer, a student in the online substance abuse graduate certificate program, tells why he chose this field.

My name is Ken Widmer and I live in Wasilla, Alaska. I have a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling, but only worked in this field for a few years. I enjoyed the work, but I was young and looking for something more exciting.  I chose to become a firefighter for the Anchorage Fire Department where I worked for 31 years, before I was forced to retire because of a debilitating injury.

I have always had a desire to help people, which is one of the reasons I chose to be a firefighter and why I am currently enrolled in the substance abuse certificate program at ECU. Working as a firefighter, I had firsthand experience with the homeless, alcoholics and drug abusers in Anchorage. Over the years, I came to the realization that they were not that different from what society considers “normal people.” Many were quite intelligent and had skills that would provide them with all those things necessary to be a member in good standing in society except:  a few bad decisions, genetic factors, being born in the wrong place, a predisposition toward addiction, coming from a dysfunctional family, etc.

My plan is to return to work to see if I can help people like this make changes that will improve the quality of their life. The classes that I have taken through ECU have taught me that there is no simple solution to substance abuse, but I feel that whatever difference I can make will be worth the effort.

In my life time I have dealt with many people whose job it is to help the sick, the drug addicted and the mentally ill. Some are great while others make you wonder why they are in this line of work. My advice to those that are planning to enter this field is to go to an AA meeting or a NA meeting, volunteer with the homeless. Instead of passing the street person, stop and talk to them. If after doing this, you do not feel empathy for them, then, in my opinion, you have chosen the wrong field.

Apr 122013

IMG_1674[1]aOTs are part of a vitally important profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Meaghan Johnson, on an adaptive tricycle, is a second year ECU OT student. She describes why she decided to pursue occupational therapy.

I was first introduced to OT a few years ago when I was a teacher assistant in a pre-kindergarten special needs classroom. While there, I was able to observe the school OT as she worked with a few of our students within the classroom setting. But, it was when I observed a private OT session for a student that I was babysitting that I was really drawn to OT and knew it was the perfect career for me. The students’ OT had me sit in the room during the therapy session and explained all the things that she was doing and why she was doing them. She then explained activities and techniques that could be implemented in the classroom based on school related concerns that I mentioned. Her ideas resonated with me; I was able to immediately see how occupations can be used as a means to improve quality of life. I began researching more about the field- the more I learned, the more excited I became to start pursuing OT as a career.

 Tell me about being an OT student at East Carolina University.

I am a second year student in the OT program at ECU with only a few more weeks of classes remaining.  After completing the spring semester, I will begin two 3-month fieldwork experiences—one at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh and the other at Duke Hospital in Durham.  Although my time as a classroom student is coming to an end, I can look back at my time and see how much I have learned and grown from my experiences in this program. 

 There are 25 students in the OT program; we all have every class together except for labs where the class is split in half. Needless to say, we have grown very close to one another. Our program focuses on teaching us the fundamental skills we need to be competent therapists in whatever environment or setting we choose. Our curriculum is a balance of theory, assessments, and treatment techniques and how to implement these to address participation in daily life activities such as dressing, feeding, social participation and leisure activities. Our professors encourage us and want us all to succeed, not only in the classroom but out in the field as well. 

 We are all members of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA).  Through this organization we have had the opportunity to volunteer at events and programs like the Special Olympics and the Autism Society and participate in walks to raise money for ALS and Autism. We have also learned from educational events- like CarFit and non-violent crisis prevention.  These community activities have helped us to advocate for occupational therapy as well as expand our professional knowledge and develop new interests.