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




Thanksgiving Meal Tip #1 – Make a pumpkin pie

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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




Dealing with loss

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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, 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 






Nov 072012

The most recent North Carolina infant mortality numbers are causing a stir. The rate rose slightly in 2011, just one year after the state achieved its lowest rate ever.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported last week that the infant mortality rate reached 7.2 in 2011, up from 7.0 in 2010. This means 7.2 babies died for every 1,000 born alive.
The increase is just under 3 percent, but any upswing is unacceptable.
Data also shows eastern North Carolina’s infant mortality rate holding steady despite sharp increases in other regions. This is encouraging news for our area. Even so, our rate of 8.1 is still 12 percent higher than the state average.
Many factors contribute to infant mortality risk, including race, income and access to prenatal care. 
The three major causes of infant deaths are: prematurity (less than 37 weeks) and low birth-weight (less than or equal to 5.5 pounds), birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 
Major causes of premature birth and low birth-weight include:
• Smoking during pregnancy or exposure to second-hand smoke
• Malnutrition and poor vitamin intake during gestation
• Closely spaced subsequent pregnancies
• Sexually transmitted diseases
• Maternal drug or alcohol use
• Poor weight management (both obesity and underweight mothers are at risk)
We can mitigate many of these factors by ensuring adequate access to education and care for all mothers. We must continue to do more to increase SIDS awareness and safe sleep practices, invest in evidence-based early intervention health programs and teen pregnancy prevention, and improve access to care in rural, impoverished areas.
At ECU, maternal-fetal medicine specialists offer advanced care for high-risk pregnancies in our Regional Perinatal Center located in the outpatient center at the Brody School of Medicine.
In research, Dr. Elizabeth Jesse in the ECU College of Nursing has led studies that indicate a correlation between low-income women and preterm births or low birth weight. Earlier this year, she received a National Institute of Mental Health grant to expand her research into the effectiveness of a program for low-income women in reducing their risk of prenatal, or antepartum, depression. 

It’s clear we still have a lot of work to do. ECU and the Brody School of Medicine are committed to doing our part to help mothers in need, and to educating our students to address the factors contributing to this challenge in underserved areas.


The Brody Family doing their part to make Greenville…. PINK!

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Oct 232012

Last Thursday night, many of the Brody family came out to roll the dice, have fun and raise money for a cause that is close to the heart of many that work on the Health Science Campus.

Greenville Women’s’ League along with Carolina Breast and Oncologic Surgery sponsored the 9th annual Bunco for Breast Cancer at the Greenville Convention Center. All proceeds benefit Gardeners for Hope, a fund that has been assisting local breast cancer patients for many years.

Gardeners for Hope began by a group of friends to honor the memory and spirit of a dear friend lost to cancer in 2002. Their friend, Joan Balch, was a consummate gardener and fascinating companion. Her devotion to her family and friends were inspiring and her spirit, strength, and joy in life as well as her fight against the disease gave all who knew her the hope they needed during her illness. Joan’s friends wish to pass on that hope and strength to others coping with breast cancer. The fund is a way to help patients maintain hope and gather strength by receiving care and support.

All proceeds donated to Gardeners for Hope are given to patients actively undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Breast cancer patients who are challenged by economic problems or are in need of positive encouragement receive assistance from the fund. There is no income qualification to receive assistance.

The Gardeners for Hope funds are distributed to the patients through the dedicated social workers and nurses that work at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center. Other local oncology centers such as Carolina Breast & Oncologic Center and the McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge will contact the fund to assist local breast cancer patients in need as well.

Operational costs for Gardeners for Hope are minimal. There are no personnel or building maintenance costs. No one receives any type of compensation from the fund. Only the breast cancer patients receive assistance. Retired nurses and social workers still remain active on the board of Directors of the fund and volunteer at events. It is the mission of the fund founders, who continue to remain active, that this fund remains unrestricted to assist patients with various things in their time of need in a timely and efficient manner. The Gardeners for Hope fund is completely operational due to the generosity of others.

Due to the vast geographical landscape that the Vidant Hospital system incorporates in eastern North Carolina, more patients are being diagnosed and sent to the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center for treatment. Due to the rising cost of gasoline, many patients are struggling to make chemotherapy appointments. Assistance with transportation has become a large portion of what the fund assists with covering for breast cancer patients. More patients are traveling further distances to receive treatment at Leo Jenkins Cancer Center. Some of the local patients are elderly and cannot drive. The fund has assisted with transportation costs such as taxis, ambulance transportation and minor car repairs such as a tire or battery.

Assistance with Co-Payments for Prescriptions has been another area that the fund has seen increase tremendously. Due to the economic climate, many patients do not have insurance. The patients with insurance are foregoing filling prescriptions. This is due to the escalating cost of co-payments for drugs, especially without generics available and the reported shortage. Without assistance, prescriptions are not being filled therefore, at times possibly slowing recovering for some of the patients and hindering treatment.

Jan Tysinger, Health Science Personnel; Reagan Askew, Health Science Personnel; Cindy Reaves, BSOM Dean’s Administration; Amy Tysinger

Gardeners for Hope have been able to assist many patients with many needs. In addition to the transportation and prescription assistance, the fund has also assisted patients with their utility bill, wigs, mammograms, massages, new clothing due to rapid weight loss, prosthesis, family portrait for terminal cases, flowers to light spirits, eye glass prescription, grass mowing service and many other items for many situations.
As we enter the holiday season, please consider making a tax deductible contribution to honor the survivors, the ones we have lost and the ones currently in the fight. For more information please contact Anita Proctor, Nurse Manager at Leo Jenkins Cancer Center at 252-744-3740 or by email

To those of you that attended, thank you for your willingness to help others in their time of need and with painting Greenville PINK!

Marsha Hall
Daughter of a Breast Cancer Survivor
Treasurer, Greenville Women’s League
Business Coordinator, Medical Education & Student Development