Protect yourself from West Nile virus

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Sep 172015

Dr. Alicia Lagasca

Dr. Alicia Lagasca

With several cases across the country and a recent death linked to West Nile virus in North Carolina, state and local officials are encouraging residents to take precaution and become aware of mosquito-borne illnesses.

“West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito,” said Dr. Alicia Lagasca, a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. “Mosquitos usually acquire the virus through biting an infected bird, although other animals such as dogs, cats, horses and bats have been implicated.”

The peak season for all mosquito borne-illnesses is August, September and October, though cases of West Nile virus have historically been very rare in North Carolina. According to Lagasca, neurological complications, such as meningitis and encephalitis, only occur 1 percent of the time in West Nile patients. Most infections do not show any sign of symptoms and only 20 percent of people infected will develop a mild, flu-like illness.

Lagasca recommends that people see a physician if they believe they have contracted the illness and their symptoms include confusion, weakness or numbness of extremities, difficulty speaking and severe headache or neck pain.

“Persons older than 50, particularly those over 65, have the highest risk of severe disease, such as encephalitis and meningitis,” added Legasca. “So while it is rare to have a fatal outcome, it is possible, and taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites is key in prevention,”

Reducing your time outdoors is easiest way to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, but if going outdoors in inevitable, Lagasca suggests using repellent that contains DEET. Residents should also consider installing or repairing screen doors in order to keep mosquitos away and use air conditioning when possible.

Eliminating potential mosquito breeding grounds is also helpful when trying to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. Lagasca said people should empty standing water from flower pots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.


New lung cancer treatment offered at cancer center

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Aug 072015

Pictured from left are Khaki Stelten, communications and development manager, Lung Cancer Initiative of N.C.; Heather Gill Hooper, executive director, Lung Cancer Initiative of N.C.; Dr. Sulochana Cherukuri and Dr. Paul Walker, hematology/oncology physicians, Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center.

Pictured from left are Khaki Stelten, communications and development manager, Lung Cancer Initiative of N.C.; Heather Gill Hooper, executive director, Lung Cancer Initiative of N.C.; Dr. Sulochana Cherukuri and Dr. Paul Walker, hematology/oncology physicians, Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center.

Clinical trials of a new drug therapy will soon be available at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center for postmenopausal women with lung cancer.

The Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina – the state’s leading nonprofit organization supporting lung cancer research and education – recently awarded $25,000 to hematologist/oncologist Dr. Sulochana Cherukuri to study the effects of the drug anastrozole in female patients who have a certain type of metastatic lung cancer.

Emerging evidence suggests that some lung tumors grow more aggressively when the hormone estrogen is present, Cherukuri said. Her study involves adding this new drug – referred to as an aromatase inhibitor – to standard chemotherapy in order to disrupt the body’s production of estrogen.

“The thinking behind this is that less estrogen circulating in the body means there will be less fuel for the tumor,” Cherukuri said.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in women,” she added. “This trial is unique in that it is focusing on treatment of women with lung cancer. Adding aromatase inhibitors will change the course and outcome of aggressive biology and open new avenues for other combination therapies or sequential treatments for better outcomes in women with lung cancer.”

Cherukuri is one of four participants in the 2015-2016 Lung Cancer Initiative’s Lung Cancer Research Fellows Program, whose purpose is to further the development of local lung cancer care and research programs across the state.

The Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center provides outpatient cancer services through a collaboration between Vidant Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Through clinical trials, cancer patients have access to the latest, most promising treatments. The staff at Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center is a resource for patients wanting to learn how to manage their illness and take advantage of services available close to home. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 252-744-1888 or 800-223-9328.

Keaton Mash is named delegate of the year by the American Student Dental Association

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Jun 082015
Keaton Mash EZZ_9705

The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine is pleased to announce that Keaton Mash, Doctor of Dental Medicine Candidate 2016, has been named District 4 Delegate of the Year by the American Student Dental Association (ASDA).

Originally from Jefferson, North Carolina, Keaton has served as the ECU ASDA First Delegate and as a student member of the North Carolina Dental Society Board of Trustees. As an ASDA delegate, he has focused on helping pre-dental students learn more about the dental profession and on providing oral hygiene instruction and screening for older adults through a program called “Smiles for a Lifetime.” He has been instrumental in building ASDA membership nationally and hosting national ASDA leaders at ECU.

While as the ASDA First Delegate, Keaton represented the ECU ASDA Chapter at National Leadership Conferences in Illinois, California, and South Carolina. Besides his work as an ECU dental student, he has also been active in Centershot Ministries and Cross Trail Outfitters.

“ECU’s ASDA Chapter has become stronger and has gained momentum under Keaton’s leadership,” said Dr. Margaret Wilson, ASDA faculty advisor and vice dean of the School of Dental Medicine.

“Upon hearing that I was receiving the Delegate of the Year award, I felt very honored. I couldn’t have done it without the support of great students and faculty advisors who worked alongside me during my term as First Delegate,” said Keaton.

Each year, ASDA recognizes the significant accomplishments of one student from each of its 11 districts across the country and awards those students with the title of District Delegate of the Year. The award is based on nominations selected by national leaders prior to ASDA’s annual session. Mr. Mash was recognized at ASDA’s Annual Session Gold Crown Awards ceremony earlier this spring.


About ASDA

The American Student Dental Association is a national student-run organization that protects and advances the rights, interests and welfare of dental students. It introduces students to lifelong involvement in organized dentistry and provides services, information, education, representation and advocacy. Visit ASADA at

About the ECU School of Dental Medicine

The ECU School of Dental Medicine is dedicated to addressing North Carolina’s ongoing shortage and misdistribution of dentists. The school educates primary care dentists who desire to meet the challenges of providing care in rural and underserved areas of the state. Programs include the pre-doctoral program leading to a doctor of dental medicine degree (DMD), two post doctoral residency programs in general dentistry, and a pediatric dentistry residency program. A key component of the DMD program is the fourth-year experience in community service learning centers in rural communities across the state. The school leverages the latest educational and patient-care technologies to maximize student learning and patient care. Visit the ECU School of Dental Medicine at



CAHS Alumni Develops Occupational Therapy Video for Navy

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Mar 312015

College of Allied Health Sciences alumni and Navy Occupational Therapist Lieutenant Junior Grade Trey Elam is sharing his passion for occupational therapy through a new video developed for medical officers and prospective occupational therapists interested in a career in Navy Medicine.

Produced by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the video features actual occupational therapy patients acting out occupational therapy treatments, showing the capabilities and services of the Navy Occupational Therapy Program and illustrating the unique role and benefits that Navy Occupational Therapists provide to patients recovering from life altering injuries or illnesses.

Navy Occupational Therapist Trey Elam uses a driving simulator in a treatment session with a patient in the Navy Occupational Therapy video.

Navy Occupational Therapist Trey Elam uses a driving simulator in a treatment session with a patient in the Navy Occupational Therapy video.

“Some Medical Officers that are assigned to Marine Corps units do not have much experience with OT and aren’t aware of all we can offer,” said Trey, “ Having the video to train new residents is a valuable tool so when they get out to their respective units, they will know just how much OT can offer.”

Through the video, potential occupational therapists and medical officer learn about how occupational therapists help restore mental and motor function to improve the lives of their patients. The video also focuses on how Navy Occupational Therapists strive to evaluate patients and their routines, determining the restorative potential of the skills necessary to continue their daily activities.

Using actual patients treated by Navy Occupational Therapists, the video shows demonstrations of standard occupational therapy treatment plans that help patients not only return to everyday tasks such as brushing their teeth or bathing on their own, but to also return to active duty.

Trey, a 2012 graduate from the Department of Occupational Therapy and now an occupational therapy division officer at naval hospital Camp Pendleton, decided to pursue a career in occupational therapy after volunteering with the physical therapy and occupational therapy departments at the Caswell Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Kinston.

“Both are valued services, but I was more drawn to the functionality of what OT provides to patients and how innovative the OTs were to create just right challenges and adaptive equipment for my brother who is autistic and a resident at the Caswell Center,” he said.

After dedicating 100 more volunteer hours at the Womack Army Medical Hospital for Physical and Occupational Therapy, Trey found his niche in the outpatient Orthopedic setting.

“I fell in love with splint fabrication and post-operative upper extremity rehabilitation.”

Trey says his love for the field was nurtured by Dr. Leonard Trujillo, current OT department chair and retired Air Force Major.  Serving under Dr. Trujillo’s supervision during his graduate research project and seeking his advice regarding military OT was instrumental in developing Trey’s passion for OT according to Trey.

You can learn more about occupational therapy in the Navy visit this site:


College of Nursing honors 2015 Hall of Fame inductees

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Mar 102015

The East Carolina University College of Nursing inducted nine members to its Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the Hilton in Greenville on Friday, March 6. The event, which also recognized the college’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus, honored outstanding contributors to nursing in the areas of education, administration, research and practice.


The evening’s honorees, from left: Rita Coggins, Roseanne Leahy, Distinguished Alumnus Dianne Marshburn, Madge Dews Thompson, Michelle Skipper, Becky Whitley and Pam Reis with ECU College of Nursing Dean Sylvia Brown.

This year’s class includes inductees from a range of impressive backgrounds, including a widely acclaimed Chicago-based speaker and author, the chief nursing officer of a major health system, two members of the college’s first graduating class, the former editor of the military’s Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook, and several esteemed College of Nursing faculty members.

Not only does the Hall of Fame honor prominent nursing professionals, it has raised approximately $85,000 for a merit-based student scholarship fund since its inception in 2011. Thanks to this program, the college will award its fifth Hall of Fame Scholarship this fall. This year’s recipient, Kelsey Leonard, a master’s student in the nurse anesthetist program, was recognized at the event.

“This Hall of Fame not only recognizes our outstanding leaders, but is another way to give back to future generations of nurses,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing.

The 2015 inductees join a list of 70 Hall of Fame members representing eight states. Each new member receives a flame-shaped award that resembles the lamp illustrated on the college’s nursing pin. The lamp and its associated flame symbolize a commitment to service and a vibrant life.

This year’s Hall of Fame class:

Barbee Bancroft
Rita Coggins
Jeanette Jones
Roseanne Leahy
Pam Reis
Michelle Skipper
Jacquelyn Jones Stone
Madge Dews Thompson
Becky Whitley

On a night set aside for celebrating influential nurse leaders, the college also recognized the recipient of its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award. This year’s awardee is Dr. Dianne Marshburn, who has three degrees from the ECU College of Nursing. Marshburn recently retired from a 33-year career at Vidant Medical Center, where she served as director of clinical research at Vidant since 2008.

Learn more about the Hall of Fame by visiting