Mar 112014

When disasters strike, such as fires, tornadoes or more commonly for eastern North Carolinians, hurricanes, the American Red Cross does its part in aiding those affected by the incident. Now, one faculty member and four students from the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies in the College of Allied Health Sciences have recently been trained to provide counseling along with the American Red Cross through the “Ready When the Time Comes” program.

“Ready When the Times Comes” is a corporate volunteer program and is “designed to tap into corporate America’s expertise and desire to help people in need” according to the American Red Cross website. Through this program, Red Cross is able to prepare employees from partnering corporations to be mobilized and respond when a disaster occurs.

Navigate Counseling at ECU Team

(L-R) Members of the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies, Vanessa Perry, Celeste Crawford, Dr. Leigh Atherton, Samantha Coleman and Jeff Thomas are proud to serve as part of the American Red Cross “Ready When the Times Comes” program. (not pictured: Matt Cox)

Team leader Dr. Leigh Atherton, a clinical assistant professor and director of the Navigate Counseling Clinic, will lead four students from the department Samantha Coleman, Matt Cox, Vanessa Perry and Jeff Thomas in this endeavor. The group will not only use their skills and expertise required to provide counseling and aid through the Navigate Counseling Clinic, but also skills they learned through several required Red Cross trainings on topics such as mental health fundamentals, psychological first aid and providing emergency assistance. Now that they’ve completed the extensive training the Navigate Counseling Team at East Carolina University is ready to be dispatched if needed during a local disaster.

“Giving back to the community is a core value of Navigate Counseling Clinic, and the ‘Ready When the Time Comes’ volunteer opportunity is a perfect match for our team. We are all excited for the opportunity to provide assistance to those affected by disasters on both a local and national level,” said Atherton.

Another member of the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Services, Celeste Crawford has been a Red Cross RWTC volunteer for many years and while she isn’t part of the Navigate Counseling Clinic at ECU team, she has been on a number of national deployments. Most recently, she was part of a team of North Carolina-based volunteers who responded to the shooting on the Washington Navy Yard.

The Navigate Counseling Team at ECU is proud to honor the University’s motto “Servire” by serving those in need through the “Ready When the Times Comes” program with the American Red Cross. To learn more about how you can get involved with this program, visit the American Red Cross website at .

Feb 212014
Dr. Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas

I recently published my second article on allied health in the North Carolina Medical Journal. The latest article entitled “New Initiatives in Allied Health in North Carolina” (see here) is another opportunity to educate the medical professions about the allied health professions and the important role we play in health and health care delivery. We all know the issue – allied health by name does not represent who we are as well as titles such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy. I am often asked “What is allied health?” and I give my quick “elevator speech” in which I name several of our departments and then the light bulb lights up—they understand. That often leads to a more in depth and engaging discussion about allied health professions.

I have often referred to allied health as an” alliance” of smaller but significant health professions that, collectively, are larger than medicine or nursing. By themselves, they are unable to bargain as effectively as the larger professions of medicine, nursing and dentistry. Therefore, they form an alliance in order to garner their fair share of the health and health care resources, particularly in higher education. I recently attended a Southern Association of Allied Health Deans Meeting at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where I was employed in my first professional position in their rehabilitation center in 1970 (I felt like I was going home). At the opening session, their allied health dean, Dr. Elizabeth Protas, referred to the method for addressing this issue as “Single Voice Advocacy.” That phrase has stayed with me. It offers a very direct approach for our College to effectively advocate for our professions and educate other health professionals, and the public, about the critically important roles of the allied health disciplines within this alliance, and our significant role in the successful and cost-effective delivery of quality health care.

Single Voice Advocacy was the motivation behind my desire to write the article for the NCMJ. As dean, it is my role to promote the high demand disciplines within the College of Allied Health Sciences. That has always been and will always be a core responsibility of my job. I would like to close by challenging each and every one of you to use “single voice advocacy” when sharing the value of the allied health professions with other health care providers and the public. With the many changes occurring in health care, it is the professional disciplines within allied health that can help deliver cost-effective, high quality, and patient-centered health and health care services throughout our state and nation.

Feb 042014

For ten years, the Jean Mills Health Symposium has addressed health and health equity issues of minority populations, particularly in eastern North Carolina to audiences as large as 175 participants that have included health care providers, faith based organizations, community leaders, students and faculty. Through the symposium, Amos T. Mills III, Jean’s brother, has help keep her spirit of discovery and community outreach alive.

This year’s symposium will take place February 7 at the ECU Heart Institute with the theme, “Navigating Health Equity in the Next Decade”. The College of Allied Health Sciences along with ECU Medical and Health Sciences Foundation will welcome Dr. Lori Carter-Edwards, deputy director for research and operations for the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) and research associate professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health as the keynote speaker for the event.

Dr. Lori Carter-Edwards

Dr. Carter-Edwards will address what she sees as the long-term picture and forecast of the direction of health and health care within the Affordable Care Act on the consumers in rural areas of the state. She will focus on questions such as :

  • What will health care look like and what can the consumer expect?
  • Will the consumer be more knowledgeable about health (prevention) and health care and how to access and use it as an informed consumer?
  • What changes can we expect to see in the health profile of consumers in 10 years and where and how will they be served?
  • Technology-based innovations are an important part of health and health care delivery and will there be funds available to pay for it?
  • What is the future of rural health and health care delivery and how and where will it be delivered?

Following Dr. Carter-Edwards’ lecture will be a panel discussion featuring Jim Baluss the executive director of Access East, Inc., Dr. Lorri Basnight the executive director of Eastern AHEC and associate dean of clinical medical education at the Brody School of Medicine and Dr. Tom Irons, associate vice chancellor of health sciences campus and professor of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine.

After the panel discussion and a lunch presentation, symposium attendees can choose between two concurrent sessions. Dr. Essie Torres from AMEXCAN will lead a session discussing health concerns of Latinos in North Carolina and the role of community based organizations in fostering the appreciation, understand, and prosperity of Mexican and Latino communities through culture, leadership, health advocacy and education. As a community based, grassroots organization AMEXCAN is concerned with the complexity of issues that impact the health of the Latino population. This presentation will focus on how a community based organization collaborates with health providers, community activists, local governments and others in identifying and implementing successful health programs.

 Another session led by Terri Joyner, Pitt County Schools nurse supervisor and Leslie Ricker from the Wayne Initiative for School Health, will focus on the innovative contributions of school nurses in reducing health disparities. Joyner and Ricker will discuss the health issues they observe within their school age population and the services their organizations provide to address those issues.

The second afternoon session entitled “Using Mobile Clinics to Address Health Disparities” will center around two ambulatory clinics offered by Winston Salem State RAMS Know H.O.W. (Healthcare on Wheels) and the ECU Operation Re-Entry North Carolina mobile van.

The RAMS Know H.O.W. (Healthcare on Wheels) mobile clinic is a community outreach program provided by Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences. The mobile clinic provides quality, accessible, and integrated wellness services to reduce health disparities. The mobile clinic offers free preventive health services to East Winston residents and others, who are uninsured or underinsured, in the convenience of their community.  The clinic’s team is made up of health sciences faculty, staff, and student volunteers. This team conducts the health screenings and makes referrals to local providers, as needed. The ECU  Operation Re-Entry van is equipped with satellite communication and other technology to take medical, psychiatric and behavioral health services to veterans and their families where they live. 

Throughout the day, posters and displays can be viewed in the atrium area.

To register for the 2014 Jean Mills Health Symposium visit and search for events in February 2014.
Visit for more information about the symposium.

Nov 262013

First year students in the Department of Physical Therapy volunteered at the Pitt County Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event Oct. 25.

(L-R) First year students from the Department of Physical Therapy,  Clara Martin, Kara Clowers, Caleb Polson, Jasmine Crayton, Laura Kraich, Liz Flannery, and Marianne Gross volunteered at the Stand Down event. (not pictured: Jon McPeters)

(L-R) First year students from the Department of Physical Therapy, Clara Martin, Kara Clowers, Caleb Polson, Jasmine Crayton, Laura Kraich, Liz Flannery, and Marianne Gross volunteered at the Stand Down event. (not pictured: Jon McPeters)

The Stand Down was hosted by the QSA Foundation, a local non-profit group that works to aid homeless veterans and military families. The event’s title comes from the term “stand down” in the military culture, which is a time when exhausted combat units stop fighting and recover at a secure base camp. This is an opportunity for the unit to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, eat warm meals, and receive medical and dental care.

Applying this same idea to a community of homeless veterans, a Stand Down in the community refers to helping the homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets. For a few hours, hundreds of homeless veterans are provided with a range of services and needs, such as food, clothing, medical and dental help, job counseling, sleeping bags, and blankets. More importantly, the Stand Down was a chance for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and provide some assistance.

While at the Stand Down, the group of students registered veterans for the event, helped veterans sign up for haircuts with the barber, handed out hygiene supplies, shoes and clothing, and provided veterans with breakfast and lunch.

“I know all of us learned a lot from this event and walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the surprisingly large group of homeless and low income veterans in our community,” said physical therapy student Clara Martin, “We hope to participate again next year.”

Next year’s event will take October 24, 2014. For more information about Stand Down, visit the event’s Facebook page at

Oct 142013

From Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, students in the East Carolina University Physician Assistant Studies program celebrated National Physician Assistant Week by honoring their professors and giving back to their community.


The ECU Physician Assistant Studies program class of 2015. (photo by Michelle Messer Photography)

Events included a faculty appreciation ice cream social Thursday afternoon, held in the East Carolina University Heart Center. PA students recognized the program’s faculty for their dedication to preparing the students for careers as physician assistants.

The students continued their celebration of PA week by decorating pumpkins with the children at The Little Willie Center. The center, a facility located on Fifth Street that provides after school tutoring and mentoring services hosted the students Friday afternoon.

“Being a PA student is an awesome yet challenging experience,” said Caitlyn Fulp, a member of the class of 2015, “It can be difficult to look past the quizzes, exams, assignments, and labs that pile on top of balancing family, friends, gym, chores, and grocery shopping. Spending time with the kids at the after school program helped me do just that! Laughing, painting pumpkins, and coloring pictures of Minnie Mouse were just what I needed to recharge and get some perspective. I am excited to participate in more opportunities like this in the future.”

The East Carolina University Physician Assistant Studies program, which graduated its first class in 1999, currently has 102 enrolled students.  The program operates on a 27 month curriculum and is one of only seven PA programs in North Carolina. In 2003, the program transitioned to a master-level program with all graduates since 2005 earning Master of Science degrees in PA studies.

To learn more about the Physician Assistant Studies program at ECU visit