Feb 072014

To commemorate African-American History Month, the Brody School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity Affairs and the Student National Medical Association will sponsor an illustrated talk entitled, “Entering a ‘White’ Profession: Black Physicians and Racial Exclusion, 1865-1920.” Todd L. Savitt, PhD, assistant dean of diversity and professor in the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies, will speak noon-1p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20 in Brody 2N-86.

Black physicians in the highly race-conscious turn-of-the-century South were gaining recognition and achieving a measure of success.  Like other physicians, they faced the problems of gaining patients’ confidence and establishing collegial relationships with other local doctors.  They had to earn their status among patients and practitioners.  But black physicians of the period lived always with another issue that affected their careers and personal lives—race.  For example, they had to overcome black patients’ reluctance to use their services, low remuneration from a generally poorer, predominantly black clientele, and an unfriendly reception and professional exclusion from many white physicians. The sorts of situations Southern black physicians encountered and the ways they coped with them in their dealings with black patients, white physicians, white patients, and fellow black doctors as they entered the previously white medical profession are the subject of this article.

Race added an extra measure of uncertainty to the arrival of a black practitioner in town.  Few blacks and even fewer whites had ever met and dealt with, personally or professionally, a black person with a medical degree.  So the same black citizens who accorded black physicians high status in the community also treated warily someone so different from themselves who took on a role (“doctoring”) usually reserved for whites.

Southern white doctors took advantage of black practitioners’ vulnerable positions to isolate them professionally.  In addition to refusing to consult with or assist blacks, they barred their black colleagues from joining local and state medical societies, refused them admitting privileges to local hospitals, and overtly and subtly tried to reduce their competitiveness for patients who could afford to pay.  This gulf of isolation based on race appeared almost immediately after blacks entered the medical profession in the 1860s.  Such exclusionary policies extended to all Southern medical societies through the 1940s.

Black physicians fought against professional isolation in several ways.  Personal contact with white physicians sometimes helped.  More fruitful were activities that sought to circumvent the formal racial isolation imposed by whites.  Though these methods simply established parallel segregated institutions for black physicians, they did provide professional opportunities that were otherwise unavailable.  Occasionally black physicians in a city established a local medical society and met regularly for professional or social purposes.  Others simply recognized common needs and acted to assist one another, even in rural areas.

In general, black physicians adapted to medical practice in the segregated South despite the variety of racial problems and barriers they faced.

Savitt, Todd

Jun 142013

Dr. Elizabeth Baxley

East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine is one of 11 schools in the nation selected for a $1 million grant from the American Medical Association to change the way it educates students while keeping its focus on rural and underserved populations.

The American Medical Association announced the winners June 14 at its annual meeting in Chicago. ECU will receive funding through the AMA’s $11 million Accelerating Change in Medical Education Initiative aimed at transforming the way future physicians are trained.

“This grant provides Brody and the ECU Division of Health Sciences with the opportunity to create and test new models of medical education. All students will benefit from the changes we are planning,” said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs and professor of family medicine in the Brody School of Medicine. Dr. Luan Lawson, assistant dean of academic affairs and professor of emergency medicine, is co-principal investigator for the grant.

The university will implement a new comprehensive core curriculum in patient safety and clinical quality improvement for all medical students. It will feature integration with other health-related disciplines to foster interprofessional skills and prepare students to successfully lead health care teams as part of the transformation, Baxley said.

“Our medical schools today not only have the imperative to teach the art and science of medical care, but to train our graduates how to work in, and improve, complex health systems,” Baxley said. “Preparing students to work in teams with other health professionals is a hallmark of the needed changes, as is a better understanding of the ‘health’ of a community and how we can positively impact that.”

Additionally, up to 10 students each year will be selected to become Leaders in Innovative Care Scholars. These students will complete additional course work, lead projects and earn a certificate in health care transformation and leadership.

The grant also will provide training for faculty members through a new Teachers of Quality Academy, which will focus on patient safety, quality improvement and team-based care and explore new ways of engaging students to be more active in their own education, Baxley said.

Strategies will include e-learning, simulation, problem-based learning, clinical skills training and targeted clinical experiences. Emphasis on rural and underserved populations remains a fundamental part of Brody’s mission.

In addition to ECU, the following schools received funding: Indiana University School of Medicine; Mayo Medical School; NYU School of Medicine; Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine; Penn State College of Medicine; The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; University of California, Davis School of Medicine; University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine; University of Michigan Medical School; and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The AMA will provide $1 million to each school over five years. A critical component of the AMA’s initiative will be to establish a learning consortium to disseminate rapidly best practices to other medical and health profession schools.

Of the 141 eligible medical schools, 119 – more than 80 percent – submitted letters of intent outlining their proposals in February. In March, 28 individual schools and three collaborative groups of schools were selected to submit full proposals before a national advisory panel worked with the AMA to select the final 11 schools.

For more information about the initiative, visit www.changemeded.org.  


Nov 202012

Newly elected political leaders, take note: Ask and listen, and you will find untapped ways to serve.

That’s what ECU’s Lessie Bass believed seven years ago – and it’s what led the university and its partners to receive the respected C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award last week.

Bass, an associate professor of social work, began listening to residents of west Greenville back in 2005. She pondered how to help the struggling community meet social, economic and health needs. So, she asked them.

Knocking on doors and research from the ECU Center for Health Disparities led Bass and a friend, Deborah Moody, to identify a gap in service. Together they began a true partnership between west Greenville residents, the City of Greenville, Pitt Community College and ECU. Their common goal: to bring family- and neighborhood-strengthening programs to the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center.

Today, residents of west Greenville are using the center to build a better community with help from dedicated volunteers. Many of them are ECU faculty and students.

From a community garden to diabetes management and health screenings to after-school tutoring, the community center is a hub of activity and learning for kids, adults and seniors.

ECU health sciences students and faculty support a number of initiatives at the community center. One of the newest, IGCC Fit, provides health screenings for youth, adults and seniors each Tuesday. College of Nursing student volunteers have helped with initial health screenings to collect information on people with risk factors and monitor them throughout the year.

The Brody School of Medicine is involved in a study of African-American women with Type 2 diabetes, and the center is an enrollment and screening site for the study.

We are proud of our students and staff for their dedication to the community. This work falls directly in line with our mission to serve, particularly those who lack adequate access to care. We’ve long believed service benefits our state and enriches student experience. This recent national award is confirmation we’ve been moving in the right direction for some time.

The true inter-departmental collaboration between social work, business, health sciences and others shows: when we work together, we win.

Although Bass passed away in 2009, we’re confident she would be proud.

Read more about the award at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/mktg/community_engagement_award.cfm.



Nov 132012

We like dessert first, too. But only in this tip series, not at the table.

We recognize no Thanksgiving meal is complete without dessert. It’s tradition, and it’s delicious. Pecan pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie and cheesecake: These are all traditional desserts, but one is better than the others.

So here’s our first Thanksgiving tip from the Brody School of Medicine to keep your meal calorie count in check:  If you’re going to make pie, choose pumpkin.


First, pumpkin is a vegetable! It’s not often your dessert counts as a vegetable serving. Pumpkin is full of fiber and beta-carotene (Vitamin A). Fiber is excellent for weight control and colon health. Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are good sources of beta-carotene, which is good for vision, immunity and overall health. Make sure you’re using canned pumpkin, not “pumpkin pie filling.”

Second, pumpkin pie only has one layer of crust. Pie crust, with its significant amounts of butter and sugar, is loaded with calories. Although apple pie may seem like a healthier option, the top crust adds as much as 100 calories per slice.

Pumpkin pie contains lots of sugar, but you can make it with Splenda or an alternative sweetener. Instead of ice cream, garnish with low-fat or sugar-free whipped cream.

Other dessert ideas:

  • Make minis – mini cupcakes or pies automatically control portion size
  • Go crustless – baked apples or pears with spices and nuts can be served with low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt
  • Copy Bill Cosby – Many pudding and Jell-O mixes have little to zero fat and few calories, but still satisfy a sweet tooth




Nov 092012

Activity at our house is picking up in advance of the Dec. 1 opening of the Festival of Trees at the Greenville Convention Center. This event is an annual fundraiser for the Family Support Network of Eastern North Carolina, a non-profit group that uses a parent-to-parent support model to help families adapt to the demands of caring for and raising children with special needs. We (OK, mostly my wife Bettie Ann) have volunteered with this group for almost all of its 25 years of existence.

One of the inevitable consequences of life is death. Our first child, Frances, was stillborn 26 years ago. The pregnancy progressed to full term, and after a normal prenatal checkup on Monday, Bettie Ann went into labor on Thursday. The regular rush and confusion characteristic of the emergency department became more focused and frantic….the fetal heartbeat was absent. More intensive imaging and monitoring equipment brought the same result. After a fairly typical labor, Frances was stillborn. Testing placed the time of death about 24 hours before Bettie Ann went into labor. And in spite of extensive record and tissue analysis, Frances remained in that 1 percent of fetal deaths for which no cause can be determined.

Dealing with the loss of a child is tough, and for us magnified by the build-up of the anticipated arrival of our first child. The next year was grey – I was emotionally numb and just going through the movements. For me, one of the strange sources of support was organized by the Brothers at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Two other couples in the parish also lost babies in a three-month interval. It was strangely comforting to gather and talk about our loss, knowing that you were not ruining the other person’s day. Their day was already ruined. For all of us, the pain was constant, and never far from the surface. Even today, the pain never goes away; it is just joined by other emotions.

A group called “Parents Supporting Parents” (now Family Support Network of Eastern NC, www.fsnenc.org) formed a few years later, and my wife and I joined and were trained to support parents who experienced neonatal loss. Twenty-five years later, this group remains an important part of our lives. One mechanism to deal with loss or struggles is to turn to others who face similar challenges.  Support of other parents provides an effective, personal compliment to the health care system.

I hope you can visit the Greenville Convention Center this holiday season, enjoy the beautifully decorated trees, and learn more about the power of support groups.

Robert Carroll, PhD

Professor of Physiology

Pirate decorations adorn one of the featured Festival of Trees in 2011.

Associate Dean of Basic Sciences for Academic Affairs

Brody School of Medicine