Officials cut ribbon on new ECU Family Medicine Center

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ECU officials gathered Sept. 23 to cut the ribbon on the university’s new Family Medicine Center and Monk Geriatric Center. The center has been open for a few weeks, but the unveiling was scheduled to coincide with Friday’s meeting of the ECU Board of Trustees. The new center will replace an outdated center that opened in the 1970s. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Three years almost to the day after a ground-breaking ceremony, East Carolina University officials cut the ribbon Friday on one of the university’s most awaited new buildings: the new ECU Family Medicine Center.

The center has been open for patients for a few weeks, but Friday’s ECU board of trustees meeting on the health sciences campus presented an opportunity to officially unveil the new building.

Touting its patient-care capacities and advanced features, Dr. Kenneth Steinweg, chair of family medicine at ECU, said, “There is none other for family medicine like this in the country.”

The building replaces a cramped, outdated 32,000-square-foot facility that opened in the 1970s and was attached to Pitt County Memorial Hospital. The new center has educational and office space the former center lacked. It also includes space for sports medicine, physical therapy, geriatrics and more, which used to be housed at different sites.

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Dr. Jim Jones, founding chair of the Department of Family Medicine, said medical students want to know they have the support of the university. The new facility will make a difference, he said.

Dr. Jim Jones, founding chair of family medicine, praised the new building, the university for pursuing it and the General Assembly for funding it.

“You can’t persuade young medical students to go into family medicine if the facility they train in is second-rate,” Jones said. “It’s important students (know) they’re going into a field of medicine that’s respected and has the support of the university and the legislature.”

The Frances J. and Robert T. Monk Sr. Geriatric Center, part of the Family Medicine Center, replaces an off-campus doctor’s office that had four exam rooms. The Monks, who were patients of Steinweg’s in that small office, wanted to support a new, modern facility for the care of elderly patients. They pledged $2.5 million to help build it.

“They wanted to give back to the community that’s given so much to them,” Robert Monk III said of his late grandparents.

The day before the ribbon-cutting, third-year family medicine resident Dr. Daniel Becerra said patients seem to like the new center. “I had 13 patients scheduled and 14 show up,” he said. “That’s always good when you have more patients.”

Becerra said the design of the new building, with large windows, also improves the experience for patients and staff, he said.

“Being able to see outside, see people walking, feel connected to the outside world make it feel less like a doctor’s office,” Becerra said. “I feel a little more connected to the world.”

In addition, patients can park near the building, wait times have decreased, and services such as radiology and laboratory services are on site.

As the center attracts new patients, the diversity of people and their illnesses, injuries and conditions will also grow, adding to educational opportunities for medical students and residents, Becerra said.

“The training is just going to increase with an already highly respected program,” Becerra said.

The new Family Medicine Center has 33 exam rooms in the main section with another 12 exam rooms in the geriatric center. It also has sports medicine, minor surgery, medical procedure and urgent care clinical areas. Administrative staff members also have offices at the center. Many previously worked in the Brody Medical Sciences Building.

Construction on the facility began in 2009. Building and equipping it cost approximately $38.1 million, with more than $36 million appropriated by the General Assembly. The Golden Leaf Foundation awarded $1 million to help build the facility.

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Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the medical school, speaks with Robert Monk III and his sister Piper Monk Booher, grandchildren of Robert Monk. The Frances J. and Robert T. Monk Sr. Geriatric Center was funded in part with a $2.5 million gift from the late Frances Joyner Monk of Farmville.