Advice from patient helps doctor, family stay close

WINTERVILLE, N.C.   (Mar. 17, 2011)   —   Dr. Tommy Ellis sees a lot of patients in his family medicine practice at East Carolina University. Almost always, he is able to help them.

One day, however, the tables turned.

Marilyn Love, 70, a longtime patient of Ellis’, was at his office for a routine appointment. As the visit concluded, Love asked the doctor if there were anything she could do for him.

The question caught Ellis by surprise. He’s supposed to be the one making suggestions and coming up with answers, he thought. But since Love had grown children of her own, Ellis, 44, decided to ask for advice on raising teenagers.

Love’s response was swift: Buy a pingpong table.

Read more…


Valentine Gift

June Long, an executive assistant at the Brody School of Medicine, recalls her Valentine's Day kidney transplant. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A Valentine’s Day gift of a different sort

ECU staff member recalls the Feb. 14 kidney transplant that gave her a new life

By Doug Boyd

GREENVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 11, 2011) — June Long was with her daughter browsing Valentine’s Day cards when she received the call.

A match to replace Long’s failing kidneys had been found and was on its way to North Carolina. If the new kidney and Long passed the final matching criteria, she would undergo a transplant the following day, Feb. 14, 1997.

“It was very emotional,” said Long, 62. “It’s just overwhelming when you know something that means so much to you has cost a family so much.”

The transplant surgeon on call that day at East Carolina University was Dr. Paul Cunningham, now dean of the Brody School of Medicine at ECU.

“He said, ‘It’s about a perfect match. We’re going to the O.R.,'” Long said.

Feb. 14 isn’t just Valentine’s Day at the Cunningham household. It’s also the Cunninghams’ wedding anniversary, and that year was their 10th. “Our plans usually involve not doing a whole lot other than spend time with each other,” Cunningham said. “Typically, I cook a meal.”

When Cunningham told his wife, Sydney, their anniversary and Valentine’s Day dinner would have to wait, her response was warm.

“She felt this was the best Valentine’s Day gift we could give one another – to help somebody,” Cunningham said.

Long was prepped for surgery, and the operation proceeded. After Cunningham made all the connections, the new kidney began working before his eyes.

“From a surgeon’s viewpoint, it’s so exciting to be able to do that and see the thing run,” Cunningham said. “It’s like a kid at Christmas; you put the battery in the toy and see it work.”

Long, who worked at the ECU medical school in 1997 and still does, as an executive assistant, has enjoyed 14 years of normal life. She said anti-rejection medication is far better than 10 hours of dialysis each night. “I was pretty much tied to the dialysis machine,” she said. “All you do is take a handful of pills, and that’s so much better than being on dialysis.

“This has been a real good match,” she added. “I’ve never had any rejection episodes. It’s been a great kidney.”

In addition, new anti-rejection medications have fewer side-effects and are less damaging to the kidneys and body, Cunningham said.

While the job of dean leaves no time for surgery, that’s OK with Cunningham. “There’s a time for everything,” he said. “My job now is to support those who are doing transplants now.”

More than 280 eastern North Carolinians are awaiting a kidney transplant, according to ECU experts. ECU surgeons performed 73 kidney transplants in 2010.

For more information about kidney transplants at ECU, call 252-744-2620.


Appointments and Elections

December 2010/January 2011

Will Banks (English) was invited to join the advisory board for, which works to provide high-quality education materials that align to national standards. Banks also joined the board for the North Carolina English Teacher Association.

Kirk St. Amant (English) was elected member at large on the executive committee of the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication.

Lorraine Hale Robinson (English) was appointed to the advisory board for Martin Community College, to the board of directors of the Friends of Hope Plantation, and to the board of directors for the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

November 2010

James Kleckley (Business) was appointed to the board of directors for the Association for University Business and Economic Research for 2010-11.

Jennifer Hodgson (Child Development and Family Relations) was named president of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, a national organization that promotes collaboration between psychosocial, biomedical, nursing and other healthcare providers.

Tejas Desai (Internal Medicine) was named to the national board of directors of the American Association of Kidney Patients.

Steven Schmidt (Education) was elected secretary and member of the executive board of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education at the organization’s annual conference in Clearwater Beach, Fla.

October 2010

Bobby Lowery, Pam Reis and Susan Williams (Nursing) were appointed by the N.C. Board of Nursing to the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Advisory Committee, which will study licensure, accreditation, certification and education models.

Stephen W. Thomas (Allied Health Sciences) was named to a state committee examining the impact of federal health reform legislation on North Carolina, an effort led by Lanier Cansler, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Wayne Goodwin, commissioner of the N.C. Department of Insurance and state fire marshal.

Gregg D. Givens (Communication Sciences and Disorders) was elected to a three-year term on the board of directors of the National Council of State Boards of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

September 2010

Mark Scholl (Education) was appointed to a three-year term as member of the editorial board of the Journal of College Counseling.

Ron Mitchelson (Geography) was appointed senior research fellow in residence for ECU’s Research and Graduate Studies.

July/August 2010

Doug Smith (East Carolina Alumni Association) was elected to the Council of Alumni Membership and Marketing Professionals Board of Directors at the organization’s annual conference on July 15. He will serve a two-year term as treasurer.

Paul R. G. Cunningham (Medicine) accepted an honorary chairmanship of the Inner Banks’ Project of the outer Banks Relief Foundation/The Surf Club.

Gary Vanderpool (Health Sciences Administration and Finance) has been named president of the board of directors for Carolina Donor Services, a regional organ-procurement organization.

George G. Fenich (Hospitality Management) was appointed associate editor of the Journal of Convention and Event Tourism. He has served on the editorial board since the inception of the journal in the early 1990s.

Nursing faculty Bobby Lowery, Pam Reis and Susan Williams were appointed to the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse advisory committee.

May/June 2010

Steven R. Sligar (Rehabilitation Studies) was named co-editor of the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals Journal. Min Kim, PhD student in rehabilitation counseling and administration, was selected as managing editor.

Kathleen T. Cox (Communication Sciences and Disorders) is president-elect of the North Carolina Speech, Hearing & Language Association. Her term as president will begin in July 2011.

Lorraine Hale Robinson (English) was elected to the Friends of Hope Plantation (Windsor, N.C.). The Friends assist in the continued maintenance and preservation of the Historic Hope restoration.

April 2010

William Meggs (Medicine) was re-elected as a toxicology representative to the American College of Emergency Physicians Council and will continue to serve on the ACEP Council steering committee.

Tami Tomasello (Communication) was invited to serve as associate editor for the International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies. The inaugural issue was scheduled to print in January.

February 2010

Stephen W. Thomas (Allied Health Sciences) was elected as chair for a two-year term of the Council for Allied Health in North Carolina. The CAHNC represents allied health educators, employers of allied health providers, and allied health professionals. The Council keeps pace with trends and needs in allied health and manages statewide workforce studies used in projecting future educational needs.

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina appointed as regional council members, Philip Rogers, executive assistant to the chancellor, and Ann Harrison, retired gifted and special education professor. Steve Jones, ECU Board of Trustees, joined the council as chairman in September.

January 2010

Kim Dixon (Psychiatric Medicine) was elected to a two-year term as treasurer of the Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers.

Peggy Goodman (Emergency Medicine) was re-appointed to the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission by Gov. Beverly E. Perdue. This is Goodman’s 6th two-year appointment to the commission. Goodman was invited by the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence to serve on the North Carolina State Steering Committee for the CDC’s DELTA (Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances) Project, which studies and develops programs for the primary prevention of intimate partner violence and other forms of family violence. In addition, Goodman was named chair of the American Public Health Association Family Violence Prevention Forum, a group of over 600 APHA members and 200 affiliate members from 44 states and nine countries. She is also its newsletter editor.

Mack McCarthy (Athletics) was named honorary chairman for Live Healthy Greenville for the second year.

Jane Miles (Nursing) began her term this summer as president of the board of directors of the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina.

November 2009

Larry Donley (Career Center) was elected president-elect of the Southern Association of Student Employment Administrators for 2010.

Alan R. White (Arts and Sciences) was elected to the board of directors of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

October 2009

Lisa Campbell (Health Disparities, Psychology) was appointed to a National Institutes of Health study section on behavioral medicine interventions and outcomes. Campbell was also named guest editor for the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity, for a special issue on black male health.


Marathon Honeymoon

A dream trip ends with a race to the finish line

By Jeannine Hutson

Jim and Amy Kearns had their dream wedding two years and decided to save up for their dream wedding trip. Their plans were delayed slightly by a move down to North Carolina for his new job at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University.

They finally made it to Hawaii in September and it was worth the wait, they said. The islands lived up to the reputation in travel articles and their friends’ raves.

While touring the islands, Amy said they did what many honeymooners do – they ran a marathon. “What other people don’t do this?” she said laughing.

Jim Kearns is a physician assistant in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU. His undergraduate degree from Rutgers University is in English and comparative literature. He went back to school to become a physician assistant and during his last rotations at St. Francis University in Loretto, Penn., he fell in love with cardiology and cardiac surgery. He joined the ECU program two years ago.

Amy Kearns is a registered dietitian with Fresenius Medical Care-Greenville working with dialysis patients.

They were married Oct. 25, 2008, at the historic Stony Hill Inn in New Jersey. “We went all out for our wedding, so we delayed our honeymoon,” she said.

“We decided on Hawaii because it was exotic. We went to three islands – Kauai, which is called the greenest island and least developed with chickens running around,” Jim said. “We also went to the Oahu where Waikiki Beach is and it’s very commercialized. It was nice, but sitting by the pool it’s like being in Miami or Las Vegas. It had night life, nice restaurants and shops.”

This island is also where Jim lived out his “Man vs. Food” dream, trying to eat four pounds of pancakes with one pound of topping with no time limit. “I failed miserably,” he said.

And their final island was Maui, where the 40th annual Maui Marathon was held Sept. 19. “It was our favorite. You have the mountains on one side and the beach on the other. You have the black sand beach, the white sand beach, the red sand beach. It’s unbelievably beautiful,” Jim said.

“Maui wasn’t supposed to be our last destination, but we had just finished booking our trip when Amy, who is an avid runner, said, I wonder if there’s a marathon in Maui,” Jim said.

Amy laughed and said, “Because that’s what honeymooners do, right?”

At first Jim told Amy not to search for races online. “I said, not this time because you always want to incorporate running into our vacations,” he said.

Amy couldn’t resist looking, and the Maui Marathon was set for their time in Hawaii. The travel agent was able to rework their reservations so they could be in Maui on the marathon date.

As Amy was signing up to run the marathon, she asked Jim if he wanted to run, knowing it’s been on his “bucket list” for a while.

Jim said, “We were watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ while we were planning the trip, and they had the contestants run a marathon. There was a particular contestant and I said, ‘There’s no way he’s going to finish. If he finishes, then I’ll run.’ And sure enough, he finished.

“And then she said, ‘If you run the marathon, then we can start a family.’ I said, OK, sign me up,” he said.

It’s important to note, when Jim decided to sign up, it was four weeks before their trip and he hadn’t been training seriously for running a marathon. The farthest Jim ran during his weeks of training leading up to their trip was 13 miles; a marathon is 26.2 miles.

Amy is an avid runner; this was her 13th marathon. Jim said, “She’s always running.”

Amy, 34, finished 17th overall and was the third female across the finish line with a time of 3 hours, 18 minutes. She won a $150 prize, which covered her entry fee. Jim, then 39, finished 548th with a time of 5 hours, 45 minutes. He admitted that he stopped once to walk and again to aid a man who was having a heat stroke.

Jim laughed about this time compared to his wife’s. “Amy had finished and probably could have gone back to the hotel to take a shower and come back,” he said. She jumped in, “No, no, I went and got the camera.”

Jim said, “When I came around the corner, she was cheering me on, saying ‘You’re almost there.’ And I just wanted to know how much farther? Where’s the finish line?”

Amy ran the last few yards with him as he crossed the finish line.

“It is nice because people are cheering for you, but at that point, you feel like your legs are falling off. And the next day at the hotel, you could tell who had run the marathon, because they all have that marathon walk,” he said.

Jim admitted that the next day, he told Amy that he might want to run another marathon.

Amy said, “Once you run a marathon, you want to try to beat your time.”

Dr. Blaise Williams, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences, said he was surprised and impressed that Jim was able to finish the race with the limited time he was able to train.

“People train for six months at time or more for their first marathon. The training schedules for people who are running their first marathons are usually at least 16 weeks. It’s getting your body ready to endure that distance,” said Williams, whose clinical and research interest includes the biomechanics of the legs, feet and ankles during running.

“The other part of a marathon is that you’re dealing with the elements – the heat, the cold, the rain,” he said. “I would not recommend this for the average person to pick up and run a marathon in a month’s time. Chances are you’ll end up getting hurt.”

As for future marathons for the Kearnses? “Definitely,” said Amy.

Jim wasn’t as sure. “We’ll see.”

Rumor has it there’s a marathon in Alaska in 18 months calling their names. Vacation included.