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Allied Health alumnus receives governor’s award

East Carolina University alumnus Joe Finley (third from left), is pictured with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos (second from left) and two of Finley’s DHHS colleagues following the 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence ceremony in Raleigh. (Contributed photo)

East Carolina University alumnus Joe Finley (third from left), is pictured with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos (second from left) and two of Finley’s DHHS colleagues following the 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence ceremony in Raleigh. (Contributed photo)

 

An alumnus of the College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University was among the 38 state employees honored with a 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence.

Joe Finley, a dysphagia specialist who works at the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Goldsboro, was one of three N.C. Department of Health and Human Services workers cited for providing excellent customer service.

“Each of you may have felt you were just doing your job, but it’s the way you do your job that distinguishes you,” Governor Pat McCrory said to the honorees prior to the awards ceremony.

Finley works to find ways for program residents with extreme developmental disabilities to continue enjoying solid foods and to delay their need for liquefied diets. He developed and taught therapeutic exercises to help residents maintain or regain the ability to chew and swallow.

Finley earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication sciences and disorders from ECU in 2004 and 2006.

The Governor’s Award for Excellence is the highest award for service given to state employees. The program was created in 1982 to honor state employees for outstanding achievements.

“Each of these outstanding employees goes beyond simply performing their responsibilities to provide patient-focused care and make a difference in the lives of the people they so selflessly serve,” said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. “We can all be proud of our employees’ commitment to our patients and others and willingness to serve from their hearts.”

Finley’s wife Stacy holds identical degrees from the ECU College of Allied Health Sciences and is employed by Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.

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Alumni Scholarship Applications Due Jan. 30

The East Carolina Alumni Association is accepting applications for Alumni Scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year through Jan. 30.

New this year, applications must be submitted online through the ECU Online Scholarship Management System. No paper applications will be accepted. To receive a scholarship, students must be able to attend the Scholarship Luncheon on April 25.

Approximately 20-25 scholarships of $1,000 or $2,500 are available. Recipients must be registered as a full-time undergraduates with at least 12 credit hours and a 3.0 GPA. Students should demonstrate service and leadership in the university and community.

Applications must be accompanied by a signed letter of recommendation and a creative expression, both of which can be completed and/or uploaded through the online system.

Since 2005, the Alumni Scholarship program has awarded 197 scholarships totaling more than $260,000.

For more information, visit Piratealumni.com/scholarships.

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Medical student banquet set for Jan. 24

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University will hold its 31st annual Andrew A. Best M.D. Senior Recognition Banquet to celebrate graduating minority medical students Jan. 24 at City Hotel and Bistro.

The event speaker will be Dr. Brenda Latham-Sadler, associate dean of medical education at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The event is organized by the ECU chapter of the Student National Medical Association in honor of Best, Greenville’s first black physician and contributor to the advancement of minorities in medical education throughout eastern North Carolina. Best died in 2005.

The deadline to buy tickets is Fri., Jan. 16. For tickets, sponsorship information or event details, contact Vanessa Dorismond at dorismondv13@students.ecu.edu.

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Retired professor reflects on changes in medical education, research

Dr. Phillip Pekala, recently retired chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, said he saw many changes in medical education during his 33-year career with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

Pekala

Pekala

The biggest: “Technology entered the classroom,” he said. “When I began teaching, I wrote lectures on a blackboard. Now students have the PowerPoint presentations two weeks before the lectures begin.”

The world of medical research also changed dramatically during that time, according to Pekala. During the three decades he spent studying the manipulation of fat cell metabolism, he said he witnessed “molecular medicine coming into vogue.

“There have been more advances in the past 30 years than there were in the previous 200 years,” he said. “When students in the current medical class graduate, they will look at patients’ DNA to diagnose them. It’s exciting to have been a part of that.”

Pekala joined Brody’s faculty in 1981 and served as chair of the biochemistry department from 2006 until his retirement in December 2014. During his tenure at ECU, he was the recipient of many teaching recognition awards, including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Pekala employed a Socratic teaching style, favoring small groups and interactive experiences in both the classroom and the laboratory.

“My method was to provide a wealth of background information to my students, then allow them to pull out individual facts by giving them the right set of questions to get the bigger picture,” he said. “I wanted them to think on their feet.”

Pekala said he also learned from his medical and graduate students. “They taught me to appreciate and enjoy the privilege of figuring out how nature works,” he said.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pekala earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, his master’s in chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and his doctorate in biochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biological chemistry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1981 before coming to Brody “for the chance to build something new and exciting.”

His immediate retirement plans include spending time with family and lots of skiing, he said.

“With Dr. Pekala’s retirement, the Brody School of Medicine has reached another milestone in its maturity,” said Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean and senior associate vice chancellor for medical affairs at Brody. “He faithfully served the mission of the Brody School for over thirty years. His contributions have been nothing less than outstanding.”

Dr. Joseph Chalovich, who has been with Brody’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology since 1984, will serve as interim chair.

- Amy Adam Ellis

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