ECU thoracic surgeon honored for teaching, mentoring

Dr. Mark Iannettoni, professor and chief of general thoracic surgery for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and director of the new thoracic surgery residency program at Vidant Medical Center, has been honored nationally for his work with resident physicians.



The 2015 Socrates Award was presented to Iannettoni by the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association during the annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons conference in January. The award recognizes, “an outstanding cardiothoracic surgery faculty member for his or her commitment to resident education and mentorship.”

Residents are physicians who are receiving additional training in specific areas of medicine; thoracic surgery refers to operations done on organs within the chest, such as the lungs.

Iannettoni joined the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and the East Carolina Heart Institute in 2014. He is professor and chief of general thoracic surgery and organized the thoracic surgery residency program here. His clinical areas of expertise include benign and malignant esophageal disease and new therapies for lung cancer.

“We congratulate Dr. Iannettoni on this very prestigious award. We are extremely pleased to have him here in Greenville to direct our new thoracic surgery residency program,” said Dr. Herb Garrison, associate dean for graduate medical education at VMC and ECU and an ECU professor of emergency medicine. “We are already hearing great things about him from our resident physicians, providers and patients.”

“This was a complete surprise to receive this award,” said Iannettoni. “It is a true honor for me to be recognized by the residents as well as the STS and program directors for something I love to do.

“The key to the success of the new thoracic surgery residency program here at ECU/Vidant Medical Center will be the faculty participation in educating the next generation of thoracic surgeons,” Iannettoni added. “We have a great group of surgeons here ready to participate, and I am fortunate to have the support from Vidant to make this happen here in eastern North Carolina where the need is so great.”


Mills Symposium set for Feb. 6

The 11th Jean Elaine Mills Annual Health Symposium, which focuses on health concerns and health equity issues plaguing minorities in eastern North Carolina, is set for Feb. 6 at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University.

This year’s event will address new models for empowering personal and community health and will feature a presentation by Dr. L. Allen Dobson Jr., president and CEO of Community Care of North Carolina, the comprehensive network that manages health care delivery for the state’s Medicaid recipients and low-income insured residents.

The day-long symposium will also include sessions on creating community partnerships focused on the behavioral causes of obesity, improving outcomes among African- American women with Type 2 diabetes, innovative approaches to mental health issues for minority adolescents, community partnerships as portals to access, improving health through community engaged dental education and new models for empowering community and minority health.

Mills was an ECU alumna who died of breast cancer in 2000. Her brother, Amos T. Mills III, created the annual event to keep her spirit of discovery and community outreach alive.

The symposium is presented by the College of Allied Health Sciences in collaboration with the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, Inc. Health care providers, community leaders and representatives from faith-based organizations, as well as interested students, faculty and community residents are all invited to attend. To register visit



Medical & Health Sciences Foundation welcomes new leadership

East Carolina University recently named a new president for its Medical & Health Sciences Foundation – the organization which seeks and manages charitable giving for the Division of Health Sciences.



Dr. Mark A. Notestine began his tenure as foundation president and associate vice chancellor for health sciences development and alumni affairs in December.

His responsibilities include serving as the foundation’s chief operating officer and leading all fundraising activities for the Division of Health Sciences, including The Brody School of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library and affiliated entities. He works in close collaboration with ECU Advancement leadership to engage, cultivate, solicit and steward alumni and friends for philanthropic support for the university, its programs and strategic priorities.

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to work closely with East Carolina University and foundation leadership to provide essential resources to ensure student and faculty success, and to work with our community partners to transform health care in our region and state,” Notestine said.

Prior to his arrival in Greenville, he served as the associate dean of advancement at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the associate vice president of development at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and his PhD at Ohio University.

The East Carolina University Medical & Health Sciences Foundation Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to seek and acquire charitable gift support from individuals, businesses, organizations, corporations, and foundations to support ECU’s Division of Health Sciences. Funds received and managed by the Medical & Health Sciences Foundation are designed to enhance education, teaching, research and service.



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


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.



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