Category Archives: ECU People

Vaughn lands NOAA scholarship


EC Scholar Thomas Vaughan will intern with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association as part of a national scholarship. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

An EC Scholar and East Carolina University Honors College student has landed a scholarship and an internship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thomas Vaughan, a sophomore from Murfreesboro, was awarded the Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship on April 1. Only 126 students nationwide were selected for the honor this year, which is valued at approximately $30,000.

Vaughan is pursuing a degree in applied atmospheric science from the Department of Geography. Launched in 2010, the new degree program is one of the things that drew him to East Carolina.

“The applied component (of Vaughan’s degree) is consistent with the goals of NOAA,” said Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor and advisor to Vaughan. “Thomas is learning how to apply the physical principles of the atmosphere to remote sensing, geographic information science (GIS), GPS and other spatial tools that help meteorologists better collaborate with other natural and social scientists and communicate with the public.”

As part of the Honors College, Vaughan was encouraged by faculty and administrators to apply for the Hollings Scholarship. Honors College Faculty Fellow Dr. Tim Runyan took Vaughan to visit NOAA’s National Weather Service station at Newport/Morehead City to help inspire the essay required as part of the scholarship application.

“The Honors College student experience at ECU combines classroom and out-of-class learning,” said Dr. Richard Eakin, dean of the Honors College at ECU, where the EC Scholars program is housed. “We encourage our students to seek scholarships and internships that broaden that learning as they prepare for their life’s work.”

Vaughan could be placed at any U.S. NOAA office for his summer 2014 internship – from Wilmington to California, he explained. He’s hoping, however, for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

“Growing up near the coast and experiencing hurricanes made me interested in tropical meteorology,” Vaughan said.

Plus, he added, he’s just not cut out for snow.

More information about the Hollings Scholarship is available online at

Information about ECU’s degree in applied atmospheric science is available at

Learn more about the Honors College and EC Scholars program at

Steel Chef event engages students in culinary competition


ECU student Kim Opsal, right, and Monisha Mayo of J.H. Rose High School work together on team “Slim Jim” during ECU’s Steel Chef competition. (Photos by Jay Clark)


By Nicole Wood
For ECU News Services

Orange juice, mint leaves and five medium turnips: they might not sound like the best mix for a sweet concoction, but at an East Carolina University culinary competition, those ingredients were combined into mint turnip cupcakes that took first prize.

The ECU Steel Chef competition was held April 3 at the Golden Corral Culinary Center on campus as part of the College of Human Ecology’s celebration of Hospitality Week.

The annual event pits teams of students against one another in an event modeled after television’s popular Iron Chef competition. Four teams of students were given two secret ingredients and told to complete an entrée and appetizer (or dessert) in just under an hour. In a new twist this year, each team included a mystery chef, chosen from students in J.H. Rose High School’s culinary arts program.


Standing left to right, Maryssa Kuchta, Kim Opsal and Andrew Reynolds speak about their creations to Chef Paul Cyr, seated at left, and Warren Brothers. Brothers is owner of Warren Brothers Farm, which provided the secret ingredients.

Now in its fifth year, the Steel Chef competition is gaining momentum. ARAMARK Culinary Director Chef Paul Cyr has served as head judge each year. He said the students’ creativity and competency levels have risen each year, but the turnip mint cupcakes were the most creative dish he has seen in the history of the competition.The winning team, titled “Lettuce Turnip the Beet,” included ECU students Jennifer Freeman, Amanda West and Elizabeth Kroeger with mystery chef Nydeira Council.

The other teams were “Legendiary,” with Frank Walsh, Ashton Kidwell and William Scott Allen; “NutriYummy!” with Ayushi Shah, Michelle LaRue, Maria Bailey and Matt Haak; and “Slim Jim” with Maryssa Kuchta, Andrew Reynolds, Kimberly Opsal and Monisha Mayo.

ECU hospitality leadership student Elizabeth Copeland has been a part of the event for three years and was chosen to manage this year’s event. “The event went very smoothly especially given that we added the high school students to the mix,” Copeland said.

“I am very happy about how things turned out and quite proud of everyone because the food was delicious. Also, it was an amazing opportunity to work with ECU-TV to record the event for their channel. It really helps us to reach a broader audience,” she said.

J.H. Rose High School student Nydeira Council saw the competition as a way to challenge her problem-solving abilities. “Everything we learn in the food classes at school helped prepare me for the event, but being in the kitchen at Steel Chef really challenged me to think on my feet,” Council said.

Cyr said he looks forward to even more competitors next spring. “The more the merrier. Come on out and show your stuff; it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

“We are very proud of all of the student competitors – even if it was a nutrition team that ultimately won this hospitality event,” said Dr. Robert O’Halloran, chair of the School of Hospitality Leadership. “Next year we will reclaim the top spot!”

The event is sponsored by the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, Eta Sigma Delta and the Pirate Planners.

Association honors longtime professor

East Carolina University professor Dr. Kenneth R. Wilson was honored Feb. 22 with the 2013 North Carolina Sociological Association’s Award for Contributions to Sociology.

Wilson is professor of sociology and co-director of the sociology department’s community research lab. He joined ECU in 1974.


Dr. Kenneth Wilson

North Carolina Central University professor emeritus George Conklin presented the award at the organization’s annual conference. Conklin said, “Dr. Wilson’s expertise in applied sociology has been nationally significant, with an emphasis on improving the quality of human life.” Conklin serves as editor of the NCSA journal, Sociation Today.

“I am proud to receive this award from an organization that has focused attention on ways to combine scholarship and teaching to serve the needs of our students and our communities,” said Wilson.

Dr. Marieke Van Willigen, interim chair of ECU’s sociology department said she was happy to see Wilson honored. He has “facilitated the collection, analysis and reporting of data on issues ranging from differential impacts of hurricanes to factors affecting the quality of life of breast cancer survivors, to how researchers deal with ethical dilemmas in their research. He is truly an applied sociologist in the best sense of the term,” she said.

Wilson joined ECU after completing his doctoral degree from Purdue University. During his 39-year career at ECU, Wilson has focused upon specific issues in which applied sociology may contribute, including procedures for basic research, emergency responses during natural disasters and health care and technology access disparities. He has received $1 million in funds to address these social issues through applied sociology, and he has published more than 32 articles and a half-dozen book chapters within his field of research.

“I enjoy doing research that makes a difference,” said Wilson. “I am particularly proud of my research on the Digital Divide in North Carolina, which…helped the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and the NC Department of Commerce document the need to extend broadband to rural regions. I really enjoy working with a team that is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in North Carolina.”

Wilson is past president of the North Carolina Sociological Association and past president of the UNC Faculty Assembly. He is the founding director of the Sociology Community Survey Lab in ECU’s Department of Sociology.

He also has been involved with the American Sociology Association, American Association of Public Opinion Research, American Statistical Association, Southern Sociological Society, Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction and Alpha Kappa Delta.

For additional information, contact Wilson at 252-328-4897 or

Research addresses discrimination through access

East Carolina University sociology professor Dr. Mamadi Corra will study how race affects access to commodities such as jobs and real estate, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant of $191,514.

Corra will study the impact of racial status on gatekeeper-client relationships. He defines gatekeepers as individuals who provide access to information and services for potential customers. Examples of gatekeepers include employment agents, car sales representatives and real estate agents.



“When clients are members of racial and/or ethnic minority groups, employment agents may steer them to lower paid, less desirable jobs,” Corra said. “Car salespersons may ask for and receive higher prices and real estate agents may show only segregated housing.”

Corra conducted research in 2002 that demonstrates gatekeepers’ fees are determined by the value of access granted to clients. This research will extend that analysis by asking whether a gatekeeper’s fee varies with the racial status of both gatekeeper and client. Specific research questions include: Do African-American gatekeepers gain smaller fees from Caucasian clients? What happens when Caucasians are gatekeepers? Do African-American clients pay higher fees for access? What is the impact of the race of individuals to whom clients seek access?

Through the results of his study, Corra aims to show how racially grounded status differences affect access to commodities that people value, potentially shedding light on one of the systemic, structural ways in which discrimination persists.

“While the research focuses on the impact of race on gatekeeping, I believe that the results will prove widely applicable across an array of social relations and structures,” Corra said. “The underlying theoretical process outlined is not limited to racial status. It should apply to any gatekeeping setting where any ‘status characteristic’ (identifiable attribute of individuals that carries with it cultural beliefs and/or evaluations of worthiness and competence) becomes salient. Gender, age, beauty and sexual orientation, for example, are all status characteristics, and when they become salient in a gatekeeper-client relationship, effects should be the same as those predicted for racial status.”

The NSF funding will support four graduate research assistants throughout the two-year study, providing research training for those ECU students, which Corra said will advance “ECU’s mission of being a leading regional research institution.”

“I am delighted to receive the award, both for myself and my department, college and ECU,” Corra said.

Corra joined ECU in 2003, after receiving a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. He earned an MBA and B.S. in sociology and business administration from Gardner-Webb University in 1995 and 1993, respectively. He was a 2012 ECU Scholar-Teacher award winner and a nominee for the 2013 ECU African American Awards of Excellence. He has been nominated for ECU’s Department of Sociology Annual Teacher of the Year Award for Lower Division Courses every year since 2004. He received the Thomas Harriott College of Arts and Sciences Research Award in 2007 and was inducted that year into Omicron Delta Kappa, ECU’s National Leadership Honor Society. Corra has authored or co-authored more than two-dozen publications in his field, and he has been a frequent presenter at meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Southern Sociological Society.

For additional information, contact Corra at 252-328-4836 or via email at

Lassiter receives alumni award

The East Carolina University School of Communication’s Seventh Annual Spring Reception on April 20 included presentation of the school’s distinguished alumni award to communication professional Valeria Lassiter.

Valeria Lassiter

Valeria Lassiter

The award recognizes alumni with a minimum of four years of work history, outstanding and uncommon achievement in one’s profession, in civic affairs, and/or politics.

Lassiter, who graduated from ECU in 1990, is the founder and CEO of Lassiter & Associates, a strategic partnership and fundraising management firm based in Chevy Chase, Md. She has more than 20 years of experience in the private, government and nonprofit sectors. Her clients come from education, arts and culture, unions, faith-based and public policy organizations.

“It is an honor for me to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Communication. I am deeply appreciative of my experience at ECU,” Lassiter said.

Lassiter is an instructor for the Georgetown University executive nonprofit management certificate program, where she has trained more than 1,000 executives in corporate-nonprofit partnerships, development and fundraising. Before forming Lassiter & Associates in 2003, she was vice president of development for the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation and project director for the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities, Bridges from School to Work program.

A champion for women’s rights and women in leadership, Lassiter served as the administrative director for the 75th anniversary celebration of women suffrage in America, and she is chair of the board of directors for the Women’s Roundtable at ECU, leading an effort to create a legacy of women leaders and raise access scholarships for students. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from ECU, Lassiter holds a master of divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

The annual reception is organized by CommCrew, the school’s alumni and supporters’ organization. The reception followed an open house to showcase the school’s new multimedia newsroom and communication center.




Study of immunotoxicity leads to national award


From left, research specialist Quing Hu, doctoral students Jason Franklin and Qixiao Jiang, and Dr. Jamie DeWitt discuss their research in DeWitt’s lab in the Brody Medical Sciences Building. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Dr. Jamie DeWitt, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has received the 2013 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology.

The award is given to investigators who are 10 or fewer years out from obtaining their doctorates who have contributed substantially, through scholarly research, to the field of immunotoxicology. To date, DeWitt has 24 scholarly publications that focus on immunotoxicity and a total of 34 publications.

DeWitt received the award at the group’s annual meeting in March in San Antonio, Texas.

“It’s a huge honor as the scientists who’ve been selected for this award in the past have made monumental contributions to the field of immunotoxicology,” said DeWitt, who then mentioned her mentors and advisors during her educational and professional career.

Her research focuses on systemic and developmental immunotoxicity following exposure to environmental pollutants. One of her main interests is the impact of exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, a compound used to manufacture many industrial and commercial products such as Teflon, on immune function.

Her goals are understanding the long-term effects of developmental toxicant exposure on behavior and immune function, evaluating common signaling pathways for nervous and immune system development and identifying critical windows of developmental exposure.

“I think this award also indicates that the immunotoxicology community values developmental immunotoxicity research and research that explores the connections between the immune and nervous systems,” DeWitt said. “These are both areas that are relatively new in the discipline and areas that are somewhat understudied in relation to other areas of immunotoxicology.”

Ultimately, DeWitt wants to extend her studies in developmental immunotoxicology to investigate the potential role of immune modulation in the development of disorders such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

DeWitt has been at ECU since 2008. In addition to being on the pharmacology and toxicology faculty, she is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Public Health at the medical school. She also chairs the Brody Women Faculty Committee and is the incoming president of the North Carolina regional chapter of the Society of Toxicology.

DeWitt completed her doctorate in 2004 at Indiana University-Bloomington in environmental science and neural science and completed post-doctoral studies in immunotoxicology at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. David Taylor, DeWitt’s department chair, praised DeWitt’s research and her collaboration with faculty members from across ECU. “The university, Brody School of Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology are fortunate to have Dr. DeWitt as a member of the faculty,” he said.

ECU professor edits book on prejudice in sports


East Carolina University kinesiology professor Dr. Melanie Sartore-Baldwin edited and authored two chapters in “Sexual Minorities in Sports: Prejudice at Play,” available at



Sartore-Baldwin wrote the chapters “Gender, Sexuality and Prejudice in Sport” and “What’s Next?” in the book, which addresses what it means to be a sexual minority in the arena of competitive sports.

Sartore-Baldwin earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education/exercise science from Western Illinois University in 2000. She received a dual master’s degree from Indiana University in 2003 and a doctorate from Texas A&M University in 2007.

ECU geography professor earns Fulbright



Tom Crawford, associate professor in the East Carolina University Department of Geography, has been awarded a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research.

Crawford will spend the spring semester in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland conducting research on the impacts of urban spatial form on greenhouse gas emissions. His project began Feb. 1.

Crawford is one of the 1,200 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2012-2013.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program is one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the U.S.

Pories recognized for contributions to medicine


Dr. Walter Pories
(Photo by Cliff Hollis)

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Dr. Walter Pories, a pioneering surgeon and researcher at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, is the recipient of the 2013 John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award.

Pories is a pioneer in bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery, and his team at ECU discovered patients who had diabetes before the surgery showed no signs of it afterward. The surgical procedure Pories developed, called the Greenville gastric-bypass, excludes part of the large intestine from the digestive process. Researchers worldwide are now working to discover how the intestine causes the disease and how to stop the responsible molecules.

Pories came to ECU in 1977 to start the surgery department at the new medical school. He is also a military veteran, having served in the Air Force and Army.

Among other accomplishments, the award recognized Pories for his work in pediatric, thoracic and oncologic surgery, his research into zinc an essential nutrient for life in animals and humans, and conclusive results that the Greenville Gastric Bypass results in durable weight loss and causes a long-term remission of type 2 diabetes.

The John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award, established in 1993, is presented annually by the Houston Academy of Medicine in collaboration with the Harris County Medical Society, to recognize a physician whose career has been founded on ideals championed by Sir William Osler, the “father of modern medicine”: humane and ethical care, commitment to medical humanities and writing, research and harmony between the academician and medical practitioner.

McGovern, for whom the award is named and the recipient of the first award, founded the American Osler Society, dedicated to furthering Oslerian values. Other past recipients of the award include renowned heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley of Texas.

Pories accepted the award Jan. 18 in Houston.

Feinstein raises funds for Sandy Hook

A ground of former Sandy Hook students raising money for victims of the Newtown shooting included ECU student Sarah Feinstein, daughter of a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher.


ECU student Sarah Feinstein, daughter of a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher, was quoted in a Huffington Post article about “Santas for Sandy Hook.”

The group of former Newtown Public School students, including Feinstein, are raising money for families of those killed in the Dec. 14 Newtown school shooting.

The article is available at

A more detailed interview with Feinstein appeared in The Republican at



Gilbert to oversee advancement

ECU News Services

Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, has been named interim vice chancellor for advancement at East Carolina University.

Dr. Glen Gilbert

Gilbert has been dean of the College of Health and Human Performance since 1999. Under his leadership the college has grown from approximately 50 to now more than 100 full-time faculty members and added several degree programs including an interdisciplinary doctoral degree in bioenergetics. He is now the longest serving dean at East Carolina University and served as interim vice chancellor for research and graduate studies in 2005.

“Dr. Gilbert is a trusted leader at ECU and shares wide respect across the university,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said. “Combined with his knowledge of advancement, he is the perfect choice for this role.”

As interim, Gilbert will have responsibility for the overall operations of the Division of University Advancement.  He will continue to serve as dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. Gilbert’s salary while he is in the interim role will be the equivalent of $250,000 per year.

Mickey Dowdy, who led the advancement division since 2006, will begin work this month as chief development officer and vice president at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

“I look forward to serving the institution in this new role,” Gilbert said. “I appreciate the confidence the chancellor has in me and I am excited about the opportunity.”

Gilbert graduated from the University of Oregon in Eugene with a bachelor’s in health and physical education. He holds a master’s from the University of Oregon in health education and a doctorate in health education from The Ohio State University.

The Division of University Advancement supports, encourages and promotes East Carolina’s strategic directions by engaging with alumni, friends, and the community. Its goal is to connect these constituencies with the university to garner support and secure private fund raising that will enhance East Carolina’s distinct role in higher education.

ECU physicians ranked as ‘top doctors’

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Forty-one faculty members at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University have been named in U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Doctors” listing  for 2012.

U.S. News Top Doctors was developed in collaboration with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., publisher of “America’s Top Doctors” and other guides, and was built upon data from Castle Connolly’s “Top Doctors,” in which physicians nominate other physicians for their excellence.


Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr.

Among ECU’s physicians on the list, Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., was recognized as being among the top 1 percent of cardiothoracic surgeons in the country.

The other ECU physicians named among the best are Drs. John Cahill and Mariavittoria Pitzalis, cardiology; Drs. Hyder Arastu, Eleanor Harris and Beth Lindsay, radiation oncology; Dr. Prashanti Atluri, medical oncology; Drs. M.J. Barchman and Paul Bolin, nephrology; Drs. Cynthia Barker and William Johnstone, obstetrics and gynecology; Drs. William Bogey and C. Stephen Powell, vascular surgery; Drs. Emily Bray and Tommy Ellis, family medicine; Drs. Sharon Buckwald and Prem Shekhawat, neonatology; Dr. David Collier, pediatrics; Dr. Fiona Cook, endocrinology; Dr. Charles Daeschner, pediatric hematology/oncology; and Dr. Alex Dalzell, pediatric infectious diseases.

Also named to the list are Dr. John Diamond, child and adolescent psychiatry; Dr. Calvin Hayslip, reproductive endocrinology; Drs. Robert Harland and William Chapman, surgery; Dr. Guillermo Hidalgo, pediatric nephrology; Drs. Stuart Lee and Keith Tucci, neurosurgery; Drs. Edward Newton and Jeffrey Livingston, perinatology; Drs. Raymundo Millan and Daniel Moore, physical medicine and rehabilitation; Dr. Darla Liles, hematology; Drs. Keith Ramsey and Dawd Siraj, infectious diseases; Dr. James Peden, internal medicine; Dr. David Rodeberg, pediatric surgery; Dr. Karen Schmidt, clinical genetics; Dr. Dennis Steed, pediatric cardiology; and Dr. Richard Zeri, plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Many of these physicians were also named to the 2013 “Best Doctors” list, part of which was published in the December issue of “Business North Carolina” magazine. The annual list is compiled by Best Doctors Inc., a Boston-based group that surveys more than 45,000 physicians across the United States who previously have been included in the listing asking whom they would choose to treat themselves or their families.

Corbitt leads team of scientists to Antarctica

Palmer Station in Antartica will provide a home base for ECU researchers as they study groundwater discharge in the region. (Contributed photo)


ECU News Services

East Carolina University researcher Reide Corbett will lead a team of scientists on a project to study processes that provide fuel for primary production offshore and down-current of the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

The 3-year project is funded by a $530,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Pograms. Researchers will quantify the rate of submarine groundwater discharge, or the exchange of groundwater between land and sea, and associated flux of nutrients and iron to coastal waters of the WAP.


Corbett, a professor in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Geological Sciences, a research scientist at the ECU Institute for Coastal Science and Policy and co-program head for coastal processes at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, has studied submarine groundwater discharge throughout his academic career.

“Gill, from ‘Finding Nemo,’ summed it up best,” said Corbett. “‘All drains lead to the sea.’”

“Similarly, in our case, groundwater in coastal aquifers flow down slope and ultimately discharge to the coastal ocean, a process we refer to as submarine groundwater discharge,” said Corbett. “This process is very common and the water discharged is comprised of terrestrial freshwater mixed with seawater that has infiltrated coastal aquifers. What’s important is that this water often has high concentrations of nutrients and other potential contaminants. Our study in the Antarctic is focused on quantifying the rate of discharge and evaluating whether it might contribute to the iron concentration in the Southern Ocean.”

The waters offshore of the WAP, and many other locations throughout the Southern Ocean, are high nutrient-low chlorophyll environments that have been shown to be iron and light limited.

“Therefore, if you add iron to the waters, primary production increases, linking the ecosystem and this project to the global carbon budget,” said Corbett. “Recent research has shown increased primary production through the delivery of iron-rich, continentally-derived sediments from wind and icebergs.”

Corbett and his colleagues hypothesize that the exchange of groundwater between land and sea will contribute a significant proportion of iron to coastal waters, and that mixing across the continental shelf will deliver this important nutrient to offshore waters.

“The Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing significant glacier melting and sea ice retreat associated with a warming climate,” said Corbett. “Changes in the ecosystem, from primary production to the penguins, have been attributed to the volume of freshwater input to the near shore environments. We are attempting to quantify a source of freshwater and nutrients that have yet to be considered in this part of the world. That alone is pretty exciting.”

The scientific team, including faculty and students from ECU, the UNC Coastal Studies Institute and Coastal Carolina University, will leave the United States Dec. 6 to board the RV Lawrence M. Gould in Punta Arenas, Chile. Corbett and his team will spend the following two months collecting and analyzing samples, either on the ship or at Palmer Station, one of four permanent US research stations on the continent of Antarctica.

Individuals may follow the team’s research expedition at Live broadcasts that will be conducted during the expedition between Corbett’s team and several schools will be available at a later date. For additional information, contact Corbett at 252-328-1367 or via email at


Littleton named fellow of American Psychological Association

Dr. Heather Littleton, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at East Carolina University, was named a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.


Fellow status is an honor bestowed upon APA members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology that has had a national impact on the field.

Littleton was awarded fellowship status through Division 35 (Psychology of Women) of the APA. Applicants for fellowship through Division 35 must receive letters of endorsement from three current Division 35 fellows, and they must demonstrate evidence of outstanding and unusual contributions that have had national or international impact in the psychology of women. Littleton was one of three individuals named as a Fellow through Division 35.

For additional information, contact Littleton at 252-328-6488 or

Veterans Day special for dental faculty member

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Veterans Day carries extra meaning for one faculty member at the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine, whose own personal ties with the military and those of his family run deep.

Dr. Stevan Thompson joined the faculty this year after 27 years on active duty in the Army. He retired at the rank of colonel. His service included a 2005 deployment to Afghanistan, where he served with the 249th General Hospital at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. There, he helped stabilize wounded troops for transport to a military medical center in Germany.


Dr. Stevan Thompson

He also cared for locals hurt by land mines, gunfire, accidents and disease. Thompson and some other members of his unit received the Bronze Star for their service.

Thompson was born in Charlotte, and both of his parents were World War II Navy veterans. He graduated from N.C. State University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology.

Throughout college, he knew he had a good chance of being drafted in the Vietnam War, but never was. Following dental school and a residency in oral and maxillofacial pathology at Emory University in Atlanta, he taught oral and maxillofacial pathology at a university in South Africa. Afterward, he joined the Army to practice pathology, provide patient care and teach residents.

“It was a good opportunity,” Thompson said of his decision to join the Army. “It was not necessarily my intent to stay as a career.”

But, he said, he had good assignments and enjoyed the people he worked with. He completed oral and maxillofacial surgery training at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga.

Among his assignments was a stint at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.

“We never had anybody come to South Africa to visit, but they did come to Hawaii,” he said.

Thompson met his wife, Madge Gay, while working at Emory University Hospital during dental school. She is a native of Winterville, a 1977 ECU nursing graduate and a part-time instructor in the ECU College of Health and Human Performance.

She is also the daughter of the late Kenneth Dews, a World War II Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, and the granddaughter of Dennis McLawhorn, a World War I Army veteran of the American Expeditionary Force in France.

“I heard many stories from Kenneth about his World War II experiences and Pearl Harbor,” Thompson said.

After serving in Afghanistan and completing a fellowship in New York, Thompson was assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. While there, he became the integrated chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery as Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center were merged into one military medical center. He helped restore soldiers’ disfigured faces, many with limbs and eyes missing from IED explosions or militant attacks and at least one with no limbs at all.

Thompson received the Legion of Merit award for his service at Walter Reed.

“There are a lot of men and women who have sacrificed quite a bit, including their lives, to keep us free,” he said. “It’s something we should never forget.”

Kerns awarded Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Retired East Carolina University professor Dr. Richard Kerns was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a certificate presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state.

Dr. Richard Kerns

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is considered the state’s highest civilian honor, and it has been given to notable North Carolinians such as Andy Griffith, Michael Jordan, and Charles Kuralt. The N.C. Governor’s Office bestowed the award to Kerns at his retirement reception Oct. 11.

Kerns, the former associate dean for computer services in the College of Business and professor in the Department of Management Information Systems, retired after a career spanning nearly 40 years.

“I am deeply humbled, surprised, and appreciative to receive such a high honor from the state of North Carolina,” Kerns said. “Serving at East Carolina University for four decades has been extremely rewarding on both personal and professional levels. I’m truly honored by this recognition.”

Kerns first joined ECU in 1973, when he was hired to teach and manage information technology in the School of Business. Under his leadership, the computer services department grew from a few hand-picked student assistants with Kerns as leader to a unit that now serves the technology needs of more than 150 faculty and staff and almost 4,000 students.

Throughout his tenure at ECU, Kerns’ unofficial title across campus became “the computer man,” because he helped individuals across campus with computer needs. He played a role in the establishment of ECU’s Information Technology and Computing Services department. At one time, he served on every computer committee ever present on campus, both administrative and academic.

Kerns said he worked for years to see the technology fee established, and that fee has since enabled technological progress such as smart classrooms. Kerns also worked to see that faculty and staff had the technology they needed to be more productive. He created the original management information systems curriculum in the College of Business, teaching all but one of the original courses the first time they were taught.

“Nothing makes me feel better than to have a former colleague or student come by or see me somewhere and talk about how they are doing and tell me something that I did that helped them,” Kerns said. “I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me for so many years, and I hope that others feel I have contributed to their success.”

Genotyping helps identify source of clinic outbreak

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Researchers from East Carolina University used a new technique of genotyping to identify the source of a hematology clinic outbreak of Mycobacterium mucogenicum, a gram-positive, acid-fast bacteria found in tap water.

This outbreak of M. mucogenicum is the first in an ambulatory care setting; five other outbreaks have been reported in hospital settings since 1995. The study was published in the November issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Ashraf, Muhammad1


The outbreak involved four young sickle cell patients, who all recovered following treatment with antibioltics. Since all four had long-term lines implanted to deliver medication into the bloodstream, investigators guessed they were probably exposed to M. mucogenicum during outpatient visits when the lines were accessed. As part of the outbreak investigation, researchers collected water samples from two faucets in the exam rooms and performed an audit of infection control practices, including hand hygiene compliance, use of appropriate techniques for injections and other procedures.

Using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction, the first time this genotyping method was used in an M. mucogenicum outbreak, researchers determined that a water sample from an exam room faucet with an aerator had the same bacteria as the infected patients, and all were genetically similar to control strain of M. mucogenicum. Aerators have been found to be reservoirs for bacteria in previous outbreaks.

The use of new technology to match the genetic material in the bacteria established the source of the outbreak; however, since M. mucogenicum is commonly found in tap water, researchers needed to continue their investigation to determine how the bacteria was being transmitted to the patients.

While reviewing the infection control practices of the unit, preparation of intravenous medications by one nurse, who was involved in the care of all four patients, was found to be the only breach in safe practices. During the period of infection, this health care worker prepared injections at the sink counter. It’s likely that the fluid bag being used to prepare injections became contaminated when the worker washed her hands.

As a result of the investigation, all of the water aerators were removed from the faucets and educational information stressing that sinks were not to be used as work spaces were distributed to staff. Since the changes, no new cases of M. mucogenicum bloodstream infection have been identified.

“This study demonstrates the efficacy of using genotyping technology in identifying the source of the outbreak,” said Dr. Muhammad Salman Ashraf, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “But it also points to the need for proper infection control practice in clinic settings and that faucet aerators should be avoided in all health care facilities, especially those caring for immunosuppressed patients.”

Grant enables research on depression, cardiovascular disease

East Carolina University psychology professor Dr. Matthew Whited received a 5-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study connections between depression and cardiovascular disease.

“People who are depressed are more likely to end up with cardiovascular disease, but we’re not sure why, and we’re not sure what to do about it,” Whited said.


“I’m hoping to find out if treating depression can contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, and if we can identify who would get the most benefit from depression treatment in terms of their long-term mental and physical health.”

The institute chooses promising researchers from a pool of applicants, providing funding for research as well as training from expert mentors. Among Whited’s mentors are Dr. Samuel Sears, director of ECU’s health psychology program and director of the Cardiac Psychology Service at the East Carolina Heart Institute, and Dr. John Cahill, assistant professor of cardiovascular sciences with ECU Physicians. Dr. Sherry Pagoto and other scientists from the University of Massachusetts Medical School will also serve as mentors.

Whited is a new faculty member in the clinical health psychology program, housed in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

For additional information about the grant or Whited, contact him at 252-328-6308 or


Poli sci major serves as DNC delegate

Uriah Ward

ECU junior Uriah Ward attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as the youngest delegate from North Carolina’s 3rd District.

Ward is working toward a bachelor’s in political science at ECU, where he also serves as president of the College Democrats. He expected to be joined by several other ECU College Democrats to hear President Barack Obama accept the Democratic Party nomination.

Pawlak stresses gimmick-free diets

ECU nutrition science professor Roman Pawlak is shown with his new book, “Healthy Diets without Secrets.” The book was printed in Polish and released in Poland this summer. (Contributed photo)

Many weight loss diets are extremely unhealthy and leave dieters poorly nourished, East Carolina University nutrition science professor Dr. Roman Pawlak said in his new book, “Healthy Diets without Secrets.”

The book provides science-based reasoning for eating healthy, identifies diets that should be avoided and outlines the principles of healthy eating.

“I wanted to clarify diet myths and give people evidenced-based guidelines on what they should be eating,” said Pawlak.

Pawlak said that diets which emphasize eating only certain food are not healthy. “Most of these diets are based on little to no factual nutrition information,” he said.

Pawlak said he’s aware that some health professionals recommend eating smaller meals more frequently because it slightly increases metabolic rate. “But people who eat more frequently have much higher risk for colorectal cancer, and thus, such dietary advice violates the ‘do not harm’ principle,”he said.

The book also offers health and diet suggestions for health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis.

Department of Nutrition Science dietetic program director Sylvia Escott-Stump, former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, wrote the book’s introduction.

Unless fluent in Polish, American dieters eager to follow Pawlak’s advice might have to wait until the book is translated, sometime in the near future Pawlak said. It was printed in Polish and released to major books stores throughout Poland in July. He is now working on an English translation of this third book, “In Defense of Vegetarianism.”

Pawlak is associate professor of nutrition science in the College of Human Ecology. He holds a master’s in human nutrition from Andrews University in Michigan and a doctorate in nutrition and food systems from the University of Southern Mississippi. Pawlak is a registered dietitian.

For additional information, contact Pawlak at or call 252-328-2350.


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