Category Archives: In the news

Eubanks named ECU Physicians’ top nurse

By Amy Adams Ellis
ECU News Services

Susan Eubanks, a clinical trials nurse specialist at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center, has been selected by her peers as this year’s top nurse at ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.



Eubanks has accumulated 11 years of nursing experience along with the respect and admiration of her coworkers. She worked as a chemotherapy nurse specialist and thoracic oncology nurse specialist before assuming her current role two and half years ago.

Jacquelyn Unger, clinical trials manager for the cancer center and Eubanks’ supervisor, said “Susan is an excellent nurse with a broad range of experiences that benefit oncology patients and families, our community and the Brody School of Medicine.”

Unger said she has had numerous opportunities over the past 10 years to witness Eubanks interacting with patients and family members, assisting with procedures and sample acquisition, administering chemotherapy infusions and collaborating with both internal and external staff.

“Susan was always the clinic nurse who volunteered to assist with the most challenging patients and family groups, making the time to provide support and reassurance along with additional education and reinforcement,” Unger said. “She is helpful to all staff…the nurse who always has time to answer a simple question…or make time for an intern.”

A Washington native, Eubanks joined ECU almost immediately after she completed the nursing program at Beaufort Community College. She earned her bachelor’s degree from ECU in 2011 while working full time.

She’s quick to credit her award to the mentors she’s worked alongside the past 11 years. “I’m honored to receive this award, but I feel like I owe it to the veteran nurses I’ve worked with,” she said. “Nurses sometimes have the reputation of eating their young, but these nurses certainly didn’t. They taught me everything they could.”

Dr. Paul Walker, director of thoracic oncology at Brody, said: “Susan’s most impressive strengths are her ability to organize, focus and lead. As a thoracic oncology nurse specialist, she worked directly with me seeing over 20 patients a day. My working with her quickly evolved into a synergy of patient care thinking and responsiveness.”

Walker said he would frequently turn to ask Eubanks to do something, only to find she had already ordered exactly what their patient needed. “When our patients saw Susan’s eyes or heard her words, they knew they were in their oncology home,” he said.

One of Eubanks’ most recent accomplishments is writing a pilot clinical study on the use of a “distress thermometer” that measures how much distress gastroenterology oncology patients are experiencing in relation to their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In addition to performing the daily tasks associated with overseeing multiple cancer research clinical trials – and being a wife and mother – Eubanks finds time to help educate the community about the importance of research and participation in clinical trials.

She’s also a champion fundraiser for cancer research. The past two years she chaired the Coach Rock Cancer Research Golf Classic, which benefits cancer research in eastern North Carolina. This fall she will chair a new research gala event she’s been working to develop.

Eubanks is working on her master’s degree and hopes to hold a nursing leadership role one day so she can be the nurse to others that her mentors have been to her, she said.

In the meantime, she’s happy to be right where she is, helping patients in what she calls the “special specialty” of oncology.

“My patients basically become like my family,” she said. “The best part of my job is feeling like I’ve made a difference in their lives – whether it’s helping them schedule appointments and get their prescriptions filled, or just getting them a drink or a warm blanket.”

First track meet held at sports complex

ECU junior Kathryn Warner of Batava, Ill., an ECU pole vault and hurdles competitor, is pictured above in a pole vault event. The ECU track and field team will host a home track meet this weekend at ECU's Olympic Sports Complex, the first home track event since 2003. (Photos courtesy of Media Relations, ECU Athletics)

ECU junior Kathryn Warner of Batava, Ill., an ECU pole vault and hurdles competitor, is pictured above in a pole vault event. The ECU track and field team will host a home track meet this weekend at ECU’s Olympic Sports Complex, the first home track event since 2003. (Photos courtesy of Media Relations, ECU Athletics)


By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

East Carolina University hosted the first track event held at the new Olympic Sports Complex April 11 and 12 when athletes from ECU and three visiting schools gathered to compete in the Bill Carson Invitational.

Track and field teams from the University of South Carolina, UNC Charlotte and UNC Wilmington with more than 300 athletes competed in 35 events.

The Olympic Complex opened two years ago at a cost of $24 million. In addition to the track facilities, the complex has softball and soccer stadiums and a field house with offices and locker rooms. Those facilities have seen regular use.

ECU’s former track facility, Harrington Track at Bunting Field, was bulldozed three years ago to make way for the Olympic Sports Complex. It was where the soccer stadium is now.

ECU last held a home track meet at Harrington Field in 2003.

“Aesthetically this facility is one of the nicest around and to finally get the chance to show it off, I couldn’t be more excited as a coach,” said track and field coach Curt Kraft.

“We were one of the only programs in the athletics department that couldn’t host a home competition, and I’m glad that now we can showcase this excellent facility,” Kraft said.

Kraft said the track facility had not previously been used because of long-term scheduling issues and budget constraints. He credited new Athletics Director Jeff Compher with making it a priority to finally use the facility.

“I just thought we needed to give it a shot and then we can go back and do an assessment,” Compher said.

“If you go back and look at the original design, it wasn’t built for spectators and it is tight from a viewing perspective,” Compher said. “So it’s a challenge to get lots of people out there and have a safe environment.”

Still, Compher said ensuring a home crowd atmosphere is important.

“It’s always exciting to have a group cheering for you. I’m excited for our athletes and several of them came up to me to say how much it means for them to run at home.”

Pictured above is ECU junior Tyshonda Hawkins from Goose Creek, S.C. Hawkins set a new school record April 5 by finishing the women's 200-meter dash in 23.41 seconds.

Pictured above is ECU junior Tyshonda Hawkins from Goose Creek, S.C. Hawkins set a new school record April 5 by finishing the women’s 200-meter dash in 23.41 seconds.


AMA speaks to future of medical education


ECU physician Dr. Toni Johnson, a member of the Teachers of Quality Academy, asks questions of the AMA representative visiting ECU March 25. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Education for health care professionals in the 21st century must focus on teamwork and interdisciplinary training, individualized learning for students and patient-centered care. That was the message delivered by American Medical Association representatives visiting East Carolina University on March 25.

American Medical Association representative Susan Skochelak speaks to a gathering of ECU professors engaged in the REACH program (Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare).

American Medical Association representative Susan Skochelak speaks to a gathering of ECU professors engaged in the REACH program (Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare).

Susan Skochelak and Rich Hawkins, both of the AMA’s Medical Education Programs, were among those who spoke to ECU health sciences educators this week.

The Brody School of Medicine is one of 11 medical schools nationwide that received grants through the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Initiative, which aims to change the way medical education is taught. Read more about the grant here.

ECU calls its program Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare, or REACH.

Session attendees were the 38 members of the ECU Teachers of Quality Academy, meeting throughout this week. The academy includes Brody doctors as well as professors from the College of Allied Health Sciences, the College of Nursing and medical residents.

“This is too big of a job for one medical school to do,” Skochelak said. “Clearly your aspirations are high here and I congratulate you on what you started.”

Skochelak said the AMA hopes to rapidly prototype and test new or unique educational models enacted at the participating medical schools. The organization’s goals for medical education include the following:

  • To move from competency-based assessment to flexible, individual learning plans;
  • To find methods that achieve patient safety, performance improvement and patient-centered team care;
  • To ensure all health care professionals understand the health care system and health care financing.

Each of these goals will confront increasing health disparities, cost variation and other emerging issues, Skochelak added.

Brody School of Medicine Dean Dr. Paul Cunningham lauded the Teachers of Quality Academy for taking on “the nitty-gritty work that’s required to transform medical education.” He noted that in eastern North Carolina, Brody is serving “some of the sickest people in the nation.”

“It’s an opportunity,” he concluded, “for us to do something revolutionary right here in the East…that is immediately applicable across the United States of America.”

The March 25 morning session also included a panel of health care educators discussing the educational standards and trends in clinical training, residency and nursing. Participants were Dr. Luan Lawson, Dr. Herb Garrison and Dr. Donna Lake, all of ECU, and Dawkins of the AMA.

Dawkins fielded a question from an ECU educator about how individualized learning will change the number of years a student attends the university or a residency program.

“The important change is putting the emphasis on achievement, not just on timing,” he responded.

Skochelak stated that flexibility in learning pathways could mean accelerated coursework for some or, for others, more time spent in school or training.

More information about ECU’s REACH program is available online at

Panel members included, left to right, ECU physician Herb Garrison, ECU nursing professor Donna Lake and AMA representative Richard Hawkins.

Panel members included, left to right, ECU physician Herb Garrison, ECU nursing professor Donna Lake and AMA representative Richard Hawkins.


Studies promote safer surgery

Timothy Darden works in a lab at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, where researchers have discovered a way to predict the likelihood of patients developing atrial fibrillation following heart surgery. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Timothy Darden works in a lab at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, where researchers have discovered a way to predict the likelihood of patients developing atrial fibrillation following heart surgery. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Studies conducted at East Carolina University have shown a way to predict which heart surgery patients may have a common postoperative complication as well as a way to treat those patients ahead of time to prevent it.

Researchers at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU have locked in on an enzyme they think will help tell which patients are likely to suffer atrial fibrillation following mitral valve surgery, cardiac bypass surgery or both. In a related study, they have shown that prescribing concentrated fish oil supplements before the surgery might decrease activity of this enzyme and boost several beneficial properties in the heart, potentially decreasing incidence of postoperative atrial fibrillation.

The discovery could help reduce complications that include stroke, reduce the length of time patients spend in the hospital following surgery and reduce treatment costs.

researchThe enzyme research, “Monoamine Oxidase is a Major Determinant of Redox Balance in Human Atrial Myocardium and is Associated with Postoperative Atrial Fibrillation,” is published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association. It was funded by a $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The study that looked at treating patients with fish oil prior to surgery was published online March 5 in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. It was funded by the NIH and a $160,000 grant from GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Lovaza, a prescription-strength fish oil supplement. The pharmaceutical firm also supplied the fish oil capsules for patients.

In the enzyme study, scientists examined human heart tissue samples obtained from approximately 250 patients during heart surgery from 2010 to 2012.

“What we found is that the enzyme responsible for metabolizing epinephrine and dopamine, monoamine oxidase, is a strong predictor of whether a person will have atrial fibrillation after heart surgery,” said Dr. Ethan Anderson, a scientist and assistant professor of pharmacology at the Brody School of Medicine and primary investigator on the study. “In other words, we believe we have discovered enzymes that will predict, with very high degree of certainty, whether a patient is at risk of developing A-fib.”

Once researchers identified patients likely to develop fibrillation, the companion study investigated the impact of prescribing relatively high doses of fish oil to them for two-to-three weeks before surgery. They found the fish oil triggered increased production of key anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes, which helped protect them from post-surgery complications including atrial fibrillation.

“If we have a way of identifying high-risk patients, we can get in front of it,” Anderson said. “Preventing this in the first place would mean they’d have decreased postoperative stay in the hospital, have less complications and less cost.”

“Post-op atrial fibrillation continues to be one of the biggest if not the biggest post op complication for patients undergoing open heart surgery,” said Dr. Alan Kypson, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU. “It accounts for an average of at least two days extra in the hospital, costing about $6 billion worldwide.”

Anderson added that the research could be a springboard to establishing other enzymes as risk predictors for various cardiovascular diseases.

Kypson was co-primary investigator on the enzyme research. Dr. Jimmy Efird, director of epidemiology research at the heart institute and professor of public health, performed the statistical analysis of the project. Graduate student Timothy Darden performed much of the work in Anderson’s laboratory. Dr. Saame Raza Shaikh, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at ECU, was a member of the research team for the fish oil study, and his laboratory performed the experiments looking at the fish oil in the heart tissue.

Researchers involved in the study included, from left, Jimmy Efird, Ethan Anderson, Timothy Darden, Stephen Davies and Kathleen Thayne.

Researchers involved in the study included, from left, Jimmy Efird, Ethan Anderson, Timothy Darden, Stephen Davies and Kathleen Thayne.


ECU joins in Give Kids a Smile event

ECU dental student Amanda Stroud smiles while getting a hug from five year old Jaden Wilson after she worked on his smile. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU dental student Amanda Stroud smiles while getting a hug from five year old Jaden Wilson after she worked on his smile. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU dental and nursing students and student-athletes were among the volunteers at the Give Kids a Smile event Feb. 7 at Eastern Pediatrics and Orthodontics in Greenville.

Volunteers from ECU, along with 20 local dentists, collaborated to treat approximately 140 patients with free dental care, ranging from simple cleanings to more advanced procedures.

Visitors to the event included North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Sen. Louis Pate. ECU coaches Ruffin McNeil and Jeff Lebo were on hand as well.

Patient Breana Williams talks to Stefanie Fresenius from the ECU Women's Track & Field and Cross Country.

Patient Breana Williams talks to Stefanie Fresenius from the ECU Women’s Track & Field and Cross Country.

Quoted in New York Times



ECU bioethicist Janet Malek was quoted in the Feb. 3 New York Times article, “Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases,” regarding emotionally-charged decisions prospective parents face when they discover embryos carry a gene for a disease that will affect the next generation.

Malek’s research interests include ethical questions surrounding reproduction and new technology. Read the article. 

Featured in Yahoo article



ECU psychology professor Lesley Lutes was featured in a front page article, “15 Small Changes for Faster Weight Loss” published March 7.

The article was based on research Lutes published earlier in Prevention magazine, in which she outlines how focusing on small changes can help individuals develop and maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

Read the article…

Alumna inspires on TV report

Felicia Buckner is pictured during her student teaching. (Image from WLOS)

Felicia Buckner is pictured during her student teaching. (Image from WLOS)

East Carolina University student Felicia Buckner, who graduated from ECU in December with a bachelor’s in education, was featured in Asheville television news station WLOS-13’s ‘Person of the Week” feature.

Buckner completed her degree following a motorcycle accident that left her with brain trauma, a broken back and a collapsed lung. Her husband died in the accident.

Read more and watch the video of Buckner’s story as told by WLOS.

Albright chronicles B-1 Band history

ECU English professor Alex Albright was interviewed in January on the WUNC N.C. Public Radio program, “The State of Things,” about his recent book titled “The Forgotten First: B-1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy.” (Hear the interview at

Alex Albright

Alex Albright

The book details the history of a band of integration pioneers from N.C. A&T University, who were the first African Americans to serve in the modern U.S. Navy at a rank higher than messman’s.

Albright chronicles the history of The B-1 Band, founded in 1942 as the first of more than 100 black WWII Navy bands. Formed from NC A&T students and graduates, the group trained at Norfolk and served at the Navy’s pre-flight school in Chapel Hill and at Pearl Harbor, where they were stationed at the largest posting of African American servicemen in the world.

Previous histories have credited B-1’s historic accomplishment to a different group of sailors who trained at the Great Lakes bases in Chicago. Albright used documents found at the Navy’s national archives at College Park, Md. to support the claim he had heard from the surviving members of B-1 for years.

“Until I found those documents, all we ever had was an oral history,” said Albright. “And the documents I found had never been cataloged.”

“The Forgotten First,” released Oct. 24, has received praise from poet and novelist Fred Chappell, Navy Senior Chief Musician Michael Bayes and retired Navy Masterchief Musician Marshall B. Hawkins. The 196-page book includes 70 photos and illustrations, extensive notes and a bibliography. B-1’s archives, housed in Special Collections at ECU, was the source for many of the book’s images.

Copies are available at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro; UBE in Greenville; Woodside Antiques in Farmville; and at Fountain General Store in Fountain. Copies are also available on Amazon and from R.A. Fountain’s, Kindle, Nook, and Lulu editions are forthcoming.

Design for the book was done by former ECU art professor Eva Roberts, award-winning art director of the North Carolina Literary Review from 1991-96. It was printed in Greenville by Morgan Printing.

A review of the book by O Henry magazine, along with an excerpt, is available at

For additional information, contact Albright at 252-749-7974. For a calendar of events related to the book, visit


State politics study draws interest

Dr. Tom Eamon

Dr. Tom Eamon

A new book on North Carolina politics by East Carolina University political science professor Dr. Thomas Eamon has triggered significant media interest.

Eamon spoke on WUNC’s “The State of Things” in January (recording available at ). He also joined George Olson for segments to run during Public Radio East’s “Morning Edition,” focused on his book about the state’s politics from 1940 to present.

“The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory,” which outlines state political activities from 1940 to the present, was highlighted in articles that appeared in the News and Observer article, the Charlotte Observer and the Durham Herald Sun. Read the N&O article here. Read a second N&O article here. Read the Durham Herald Sun article here.

eamonbookEamon was a guest on WPTF in Raleigh, Jan. 6, on the Tom Kearney Show. He will appear on Charlotte’s NPR station WFAE on Jan. 17.

Eamon will be at the Quail Ridge Bookstore in Raleigh Jan. 16 for the official kickoff and book-signing, and at Park Road Books in Charlotte on Jan. 18.

For additional information about the book, visit UNC press.

Wins lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Still

Dr. William Still

ECU professor emeritus Dr. William N. Still, founder and former director of the ECU Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology program, was honored with a Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award for lifetime achievements in the field of naval history.

Still was one of three recipients recognized at the McMullen Naval History Symposium, held last month at the U.S. Naval Academy. THe presentation included a video highlighting each recipients’ career, and each recipient received a medal commemorating their achievement.

The award recognizes contributions to naval history through scholarship, mentorship and leadership. For additional information, visit

Terrorist attack hits close to home




By Jackie Drake
For ECU News Services

When Lindsay Gardiner Takkunen first heard about the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya, the news hit close to home.

Takkunen, a 2002 graduate of East Carolina University, lives with her husband and two sons in Nairobi, not far from the upscale mall where Somali militants led a four-day siege that resulted in more than 60 deaths. Though she and her family were out of town when the attack began, they had shopped often at that mall, and recognized several spots in the pictures that came out in the aftermath.

“Oddly enough we were out of town, just enjoying a regular weekend,” she said. “We could’ve been there. It’s scary to think that it could have been us, but we’re thankful that it wasn’t.”

Takkunen’s sons ride motorbikes competitively, and the family was getting ready for a race in a town called Nakuru, two or three hours outside Nairobi. They were having a practice run when the terrorists first stormed the mall on Sept. 21, a Saturday, firing guns into crowds and setting off explosives.

“We were sitting and eating lunch and someone asked if we had heard what happened at Westgate,” she said. “I immediately got on Twitter, because I follow a lot of local news outlets. I kept refreshing my feed to get as much information as I could. I was just trying to make sense of it all. It was surreal.”

It really hit home

“It’d be like if you heard the Greenville Mall was attacked. That’s when it really hit home.”

After ascertaining that her friends and relatives were okay, she began to think of the students on her swim team. Takkunen works as the swim director for Braeburn Schools, a system of seven British private schools in Kenya and Tanzania.

Originally from New Jersey, Takkunen came to Greenville to be on the swim team for ECU. Her husband Markus, who is Finnish, grew up in Kenya. Takkunen lived in Kenya for a little while when her parents went there to do missionary work. That’s when she and Markus first met as children, though they were not close at the time due to a difference in their ages.

Takkunen’s parents served as “dorm parents” for Markus’ dormitory. Years later, after Markus and some of his friends came to the US for a visit, the two reconnected and began dating. They were married in 2003, a few months after she graduated.

The family has been living in Nairobi since 2009, and before that they lived in Zambia for a few years. Markus works for a non-profit called Food for the Hungry. Both of their sons, Jet and Jaiden, were born in Nairobi, the city the family has come to call home.

Such an attack was a shock, Takkunen said, as violence of this level does not usually happen.

Disruptions in a normal life

“Living here, I don’t think it’s any different from any city in the U.S.,” she said. “I consider my life pretty boring actually, in a good way; I drive to work, I go to the store, I pay bills with my cell phone. You can get everything you need here in Nairobi. Daily life is similar to anywhere else. It’s really quite normal.”

Despite occasional travel warnings, daily life continued undisrupted.

“You take precautions but you go on with your day,” she said. “Then all of a sudden this happens.”

More than a week after the attack ended Sept. 24, as many as 39 people are still reported missing. Some of the attackers were killed in the standoff with Kenyan security forces, but some may have escaped. There was so much destruction in the fight that a large part of the building eventually collapsed.

Takkunen’s family was able to reach their home unscathed that Sunday. Normally there are many traffic stops and police officers on Kenyan roads, but the roads looked pretty deserted to Takkunen, and she realized most of the officers had been called in to the mall.

Only a few students from Takkunen’s school were in the mall when it was attacked, and they were able to escape.

“But some schools lost many students, quite a number, unfortunately,” she said. “The students have lost some mates, and they’re trying to work through that.”

Takkunen has not been back to see the mall since the attack, partly because of traffic, which she says is “crazy on a good day,” and also due to barricades as the investigation continues.

The mall had three stories, including a grocery store, a movie theater, a kids play area, coffee shops, banks, restaurants and offices.

“It was a beautiful mall,” Takkunen said. “It’s one of the nicer malls I’ve seen, in the U.S. or anywhere else. It was a place where anyone could be on a typical Saturday.”

A community responds

Nairobi is a large international city, “but it’s still a small community,” she said. “After the attack, we’re starting to see how we were all affected.”

Takkunen says the community response was immediate and positive. When the Red Cross asked for blood, so many people showed up that they had to come back another day. A major cell provider set up a number for people to send in donations from their phone, and Takkunen says over half a million has come in.

Most people returned to work or school the Monday of the attack, Takkunen said.

“Everyone is still a bit cautious, but life goes on,” she said. “A lot of students have been out for funerals of family members. It’s still very fresh for everyone.”

Takkunen said she is afraid this attack will hurt Kenyan tourism and the people in the industry who work month-to-month, and their families.

“Kenya is such an amazing country, with so much to offer,” she said. “It would be a shame if people said they’d never come here because of what happened. It’s not common. No one could predict this. Violence can happen anywhere. Kenya is a beautiful place and there are so many amazing sights to see.”

ECU alumna named Woman of the Year



East Carolina University alumna Kolenya Edwards, an officer with the Greenville Police Department, was named Woman of the Year at the North Carolina Law Enforcement Women’s Association annual conference in Edneyville, N.C.

A Roanoke Rapids native, Edwards holds a master’s degree in criminal justice. She is a 9-year veteran of the Greenville Police Department, where she serves as personnel and recruiting officer. She is a member of the department’s Honor Guard and a certified N.C. law enforcement instructor.

The NCLEWA is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the professionalism of women in law enforcement in North Carolina.

ECU offers new treatment for depression

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

People in eastern North Carolina who are living with depression now have a new, non-invasive, non-drug treatment available.

Psychiatrists at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University are working with a new treatment called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS. The treatment is delivered via a device called the NeuroStar TMS Therapy system and is approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of major depressive disorder.


Dr. Sy Saeed

“We are excited to be providing rTMS therapy and to be a part of this major step forward in psychiatry,” said Dr. Sy Saeed, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine.

“Many patients with this debilitating disease do not benefit from and/or are intolerant of antidepressant medications. Now, we have another treatment option for our patients, who continue to have depressive symptoms despite medication treatments.”

The therapy is an outpatient treatment. It is available by prescription only and delivered under the supervision of a psychiatrist. It is a 37-minute outpatient procedure administered daily for 4-6 weeks.

During the therapy session, the patient is awake in a comfortable chair. A small curved device, about the size of a cupped hand, rests on the patient’s head, delivering focused magnetic stimulation directly to the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area thought to be involved with regulating mood. The magnetic field pulses of rTMS therapy are the same strength as those used in magnetic resonance imaging machines.

The rTMS therapy is proven safe and effective for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder in adults. More than 10,000 active TMS treatments have been performed with no reported systemic side effects commonly associated with antidepressant medications, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The most common side effect is scalp pain or discomfort, generally mild to moderate.


While the patient rests in a chair like the one above, a device that emits magnetic waves is positioned on the patient’s head as part of a new treatment for depression. (Contributed image)

“Studies demonstrated that treatment with rTMS therapy is safe and effective in patients who did not respond to prior antidepressant therapy,” said Saeed. “In clinical trials, patients suffering with depression experienced a significant improvement in symptoms without side effects that are common with antidepressant medications.”

Depression affects at least 14 million American adults each year, according to a 2005 article in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Other studies have shown that in 2000, the economic burden of depression was estimated at $83.1 billion in the United States, and researchers estimate that by the year 2020, depression will be the second-leading cause of disability worldwide.

Depression can be lethal. Reports show that more than 30,000 people die of suicide each year in the United States, 60 percent of whom suffer from depression.

Overall, women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. However, some experts feel that depression in men is under-reported. Depression has no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.

In a randomized, controlled trial, patients treated with active rTMS therapy experienced an average reduction in their depression symptoms of 22.1 percent compared to a 9 percent average reduction of depression symptoms in patients receiving inactive treatment.

For more information about treatment with rTMS at the ECU Physicians Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, call 252-744-1406.

ECU top producer of recreational therapists


ECU senior Laura Gremore, far left, provides recreational therapy assistance at Rocking Horse Ranch in Greenville, where she completed an internship.(Photo by Chuck Baldwin)


By Kathy Muse
For ECU News Services

East Carolina University’s recreational therapy program has been ranked the largest producer of certified therapeutic recreation specialists in the University of North Carolina system.

Recreational therapists provide treatment services to individuals with illnesses and disabilities in rehabilitation, mental health, long-term care and other facilities. According to the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure, East Carolina University contributed 41 percent of the newly licensed recreational therapists in 2012.

“This accomplishment reflects both the ability of our faculty to educate quality licensed recreational therapists and the need for those specialists in the state of North Carolina,” said Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance.

ECU graduates have been successful in finding employment and prospects look good for the future. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that employment of recreational therapists will increase by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020 based on the therapy needs of an aging population.


ECU graduate Whitney Sauter works with equipment in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Gym at Vidant Medical Center.

Lacey Burgess graduated from ECU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree from the health fitness specialist program and in 2012 with a master’s degree in recreational therapy administration and a certificate in aquatic therapy. Offered a few jobs before graduation, Burgess accepted a position at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for at-risk youth in Wilmington. Now she’s starting a recreational therapy program for the company’s new location in Charlotte.

“I am proud to be a part of the growing field of recreational therapy,” said Burgess. “When I first learned about it, I was intrigued that it involves all domain areas: physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual.”

Whitney Sauter earned a master’s degree from ECU in recreational therapy in 2011. She accepted a position in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program at Vidant Medical Center.

Sauter was attracted to the program at ECU because of its concentration on evidence-based practice and research. “The curriculum provided me with the education and hands-on experience necessary to provide quality, goal-driven recreational therapy treatment services,” she said.

Jim Barrett, manager of the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Vidant Medical Center, has worked with ECU recreational therapy students for 35 years.  “I have supervised hundreds of students and many interns,” said Barrett.  “The students I’ve hired are well versed in the field of recreational therapy and have a good background of hands-on experiences.”

The recreational therapy curriculum at ECU is “one of only a handful of programs that has earned accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs through the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education,” said Dr. Susan McGhee, professor of recreation and leisure studies. The program offers 16 recreational therapy courses in the undergraduate and graduate degree programs and two post baccalaureate certificates in aquatic therapy and biofeedback.

Eight faculty members in the program “are all nationally credentialed and state licensed,” according to Dr. Deb Jordan, chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

“These are clear demonstrations of faculty talents and program quality,” she said.


ECU recreation and leisure studies professor Dr. Susan McGhee, pictured above, has served as a leader in curriculum development as the university’s recreational therapy program evolved from a bachelor’s concentration with only three specialized courses in the 1970s into an accredited program offering 16 courses with bachelor’s and master’s degrees programs as well as post baccalaureate certificates. (Photo by Chuck Baldwin)

Princeton Review list includes ECU

East Carolina University has been named one of the best colleges in the Southeast region based on its academic programs by The Princeton Review – an educational services company known for its annual college ratings.

ECU is among 138 colleges in 12 states to be deemed “Best in the Southeast” as part of the “2014 Best Colleges: Region by Region” feature. The Princeton Review does not rank the colleges on this list.

“We’re pleased to recommend East Carolina University to users of our site as one of the best schools to earn their undergrad degree,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s senior vice president and publisher, in a news release. “We chose it and the other terrific institutions we name as ‘regional best’ colleges mainly for their excellent academic programs.”

The listing includes demographic data collected from ECU, as well as impressions students reported about their campus experiences – from the accessibility of their professors to quality of campus food – as part of a more than 80-question survey.

“I’m especially pleased to see the Princeton Review’s ranking of ECU. Their two most important factors are academic excellence as related to undergraduate programs and the views of the student body as reflected in an independent survey,” said ECU Provost Dr. Marilyn Sheerer. “Certainly, our undergraduate programs and options are very strong, and the students have shown their support of this fact in their response.”

The Princeton Review also designated colleges in the Northeast, West, and Midwest as best in their regions. Collectively, the 643 colleges named regional bests constitute about 25 percent of the nation’s four-year colleges.

Other UNC-system schools deemed Best in the Southeast include Appalachian State University, N.C. State University, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Pembroke and Wilmington.

The listing is available at

Business professor on NPR



East Carolina University professor Christine Kowalcyzk was interviewed in a story that appeared on NPR’s web site. The interview foucsed on Paula Deen and her attempts to recover her brand following accusations of racial discrimination. Kowalcyzk is an assistant professor in the department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management in ECU’s College of Business.

Read the interview here.


Brody grad on Today Show

ECU Brody School of Medicine graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured on the Today Show as winner of the iVillage hottest dad contest.

ECU Brody School of Medicine graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured on the Today Show as winner of the iVillage hottest dad contest.


ECU medical school graduate Andrew Ungaro was featured June 14 on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb as winner of the iVillage Hottest Dad in America contest.  Ungaro is a Navy doctor who lives in Portsmouth, Va. with his wife, Marley, and children Langley, 14, and Grey, 10. He was selected from among 1,500 entries narrowed down to nine categories that received 150,000 votes online.

Ungaro is a 2006 graduate in biology and a 2010 graduate from the Brody School of Medicine.

He received a week-long vacation for two to Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands, along with a $100 American Express gift card and a $250 spa credit at the resort.

Watch a video of the Today Show announcement at

Read more about the contest at iVillage,

Alumnus performs during Tony Awards

Antwan Bethea, a 2010 Elementary Education grad and former ECU cheerleader, is in the Broadway musical “Bring It On.” Shown above, he performed in the opening number of the Tony Awards on Sunday night. (Contributed photo)

Antwan Bethea, a 2010 ECU elementary education grad and former ECU cheerleader, is in the Broadway musical “Bring It On.” Shown above (circled), he performed in the opening number of the Tony Awards on Sunday night. (Contributed photo)


ECU graduate Antwan Bethea appeared on the nationally televised Tony Awards June 9 as a performing cast member from the Broadway musical “Bring It On.”

About 1,700 auditioned for 27 roles in the stage production; Bethea landed a part in the ensemble cast in 2010, about six months after his graduation from ECU. A month later, “Bring It On: The Musical” had its premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre and was hailed by the Journal-Constitution as “one of the most exciting Atlanta world premieres in many years.”

The production is directed by Tony Award-winner Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights), with libretto by Jeff Whitty, who won a Tony for Avenue Q. (Howell Binkley ’78 provided lighting design for both those shows during their Broadway runs.)

As an ECU cheerleader, Bethea was known for running back flips from one end zone to the other. He once put so much effort into the routine that he flipped right out of his shirt, bringing howls of approval from the stands.

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