Congressman discusses health care legislation at ECHI event

Members of the ECU health care community gathered for a health care forum entitled "Federal Issues Facing the Medical Community" hosted by Congressman Walter Jones (NC). Congressman Tom Price, MD (GA), pictured here, was the keynote speaker for the event. (Photos by Jay Clark)

Members of the ECU health care community gathered for a health care forum entitled “Federal Issues Facing the Medical Community” hosted by Congressman Walter Jones (NC). Congressman Tom Price, MD (GA), pictured here, was the keynote speaker for the event. (Photos by Jay Clark)

ECU News Services

A Georgia congressman was the featured speaker during a discussion of “Federal Issues Facing the Medical Community,” organized by U.S. Rep Walter Jones’ office and held Aug. 12 at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

Chancellor Steve Ballard welcomed Jones, who then turned the floor over to Rep. Tom Price – a Republican who worked as an orthopedic surgeon and taught medicine at Emory University before taking office.

“To physicians, nurses and others in the health care arena – thank you for what you do,” Price began. “I know sometimes we (politicians) make what you do more difficult with what we do.”

He expressed what he described as principles of a good health care system held by all Americans – accessibility, affordability and high quality. He added that any system should also be responsive to patient needs, innovative and offer choices in care.

Price expressed his opinion on the federal Affordable Care Act and endorsed an alternate bill (HR 2300) to address health care and insurance challenges nationwide. He also issued challenges to those in attendance: Keep patients at the center, don’t give up and engage in the political process.

“Our system only works if you’re involved,” he said. “Don’t assume that we know (what you’re thinking).”

Vidant Medical Center CEO Steve Lawler closed the event. He applauded local physicians for always being engaged and putting patients first.



Mark Your Calendars: TEDMED is coming to ECU on Sept. 13


TEDMED is an annual, three-day gathering that unites extraordinary people and ideas from all disciplines inside and outside of medicine. The unusual and provocative program features short talks and artistic performances to reframe our mental models and inspire new possibilities.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, TEDMED is coming to the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

Attendees to the ECU Live event will be able to view the best of this year’s TEDMED sessions free of charge, and can also attend live sessions presented by a crop of homegrown, inspiring speakers from ECU.

The ECU event will also feature another traditional component of TEDMED: “The Hive.” There, attendees can informally converse with individuals and groups who have invigorating ideas or projects that are changing health and medicine. It’s not a poster session, but a way to creatively connect.

Register to attend TEDMED Live at ECU at


Brody names new chair of Family Medicine

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has announced that Dr. Chelley Kaye Alexander has been hired to chair the Department of Family Medicine, effective August 11.



Alexander brings with her a wealth of teaching, clinical, administrative and research experience. She comes to Brody from the Department of Family Medicine in the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama, where she has served as department chair since 2006 and as assistant dean for Graduate Medical Education since 2005.

She earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Davidson College in 1990 and completed her medical degree in 1996 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Her residency training was with Tuscaloosa Family Practice Residency in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Additional faculty development pursuits include a Rural Health Research Junior Investigator Program (2003-2004) and a National Institute Program Director Development Fellowship (2004-2005).

Alexander’s numerous academic and administrative appointments include serving as the Designated Institution Official, serving on the Board of Visitors Resident Education Committee and as the director of the Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Alabama. Included among her teaching innovations and clinical work is the development of seven separate hands-on procedure workshops for residents to improve procedural training, and a medical home designed to reduce cost and improve quality of care for 30,000 Medicaid patients.

Her research efforts include several peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, national presentations and completed clinical trials.  In addition, she has a special interest in asthma, patient-centered medical homes, quality improvement and clinical teaching methodology.

Alexander will replace Dr. Kenneth Steinweg as leader of ECU’s Department of Family Medicine. Appointed chair in June 2009, Steinweg played a critical role in the department’s smooth transition into the new Family Medicine Center in 2011. Fully accredited programs in geriatrics and sports medicine were developed under his leadership and the Family Medicine residency program grew from 30 to 36 residents.

Steinweg will return full-time this fall to the department’s Division of Geriatrics. He called Alexander “a great fit for Brody.”



East Carolina Heart Institute earns top rating

The East Carolina Heart Institute has received the highest quality rating awarded by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr.

The society database is the national report card that compares the quality of cardiac surgery programs across the country. Historically, only 12-15 percent of hospitals receive the three-star rating, which is the highest quality category.

In the current analysis of national data – from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2013 – the cardiac surgery performance at the institute rose to the highest quality tier, earning the three-star rating.

“When a surgeon or a doctor starts to discuss an operation, the three-star rating will give the patient some repose, satisfaction and solace that they are going to an institution that has high quality, great outcomes, and combined with our patient satisfaction rate at the heart institute, that they will have a good family and patient experience,” said Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., director of the East Carolina Heart Institute and professor of cardiovascular sciences at the Brody School of Medicine.

“We are all about quality. We are all about the highest level of outcomes. We are about patient satisfaction. We are about technology. We have it all here at this heart institute.”

In 2013, the heart institute ranked among the top 14 percent of Society of Thoracic Surgeions programs earning the three-star rating for coronary artery bypass procedures.

The overall bypass quality rating of three-stars measures top performance in four categories:  risk-adjusted mortality, risk-adjusted morbidity, use of the internal mammary arterial conduit and appropriate use of all medications that have been shown to improve long term survival. The risk adjusted mortality rate takes into account patient severity, because of underlying health conditions such as stroke, kidney failure, infection and prolonged time on a ventilator.

Additionally, the heart institute achieved a three-star rating for aortic value replacement, ranking them among only 3.2 percent of STS participating programs.

The East Carolina Heart Institute is the first in North Carolina devoted exclusively to improving the state’s health status through cardiovascular health service delivery, research and education. The institute is a partnership between Vidant Medical Center and East Carolina University, with facilities housed on both medical campuses.

Private practice physicians throughout the region are also an integral part of the heart institute.


ECU cardiologist elected to Royal College of Physicians

By Amy Adams Ellis
ECU News Services

East Carolina Heart Institute physician Ashesh Buch has been elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Buch was formally recognized for this achievement June 10 at a ceremony in London.

Dr. Ashesh Buch, interventional cardiologist at the East Carolina Heart Institute and assistant professor of cardiovascular sciences, Brody School of Medicine at ECU

Dr. Ashesh Buch, interventional cardiologist at the East Carolina Heart Institute and assistant professor of cardiovascular sciences, Brody School of Medicine at ECU

Fellowship is the highest level of membership in the college, which represents more than 29,000 physicians across the U.K. and the world. According to the organization’s website, it was founded nearly 500 years ago to ensure medicine is practiced to the highest standards.

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of improvements in health care and the health of the population,” their mission states. “We will achieve this by enhancing and harnessing the skills, knowledge and leadership of physicians in setting challenging standards and encouraging positive change based on sound evidence.”

Buch is an interventional cardiologist with ECHI, where he specializes in catheter-based treatments of structural heart diseases. ECHI is devoted to education, research, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases in the region. The center is associated with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Medical Center.

Buch joined the Brody School of Medicine and its group practice, ECU Physicians, in the fall of 2012 upon leaving his post at University Hospital of Wales, U.K.

He completed his medical degree at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., followed by a residency, and general cardiology and interventional fellowships, in the U.K. He completed further fellowship training in interventional cardiology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, District of Columbia.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood, director of ECHI and professor of surgery at Brody, said, “It is a real honor that Dr. Buch has been elected as a fellow to the Royal College of Physicians in London. He is an outstanding cardiologist, as well as academician. This designation indicates that he has not only had the finest training in cardiology, but he excels well above most of his peers.

“It is a great accomplishment for Dr. Buch,” Chitwood added, “but it also gives East Carolina Heart Institute an advantage, as we want the finest doctors for our patients.