PA Studies professor advances urgent care research

By Alyssa Gutierrez
For ECU News Services

An East Carolina University faculty member in Physician Assistant Studies is prompting emergency department clinicians to thoroughly analyze urinalysis results for the possible diagnosis of serious illnesses.

Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith, a clinical assistant professor and practicing physician assistant in emergency medicine, was published in the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine after she determined that routine urinalysis results can show an underlying presence of potentially life-threatening diseases. In her article, “Hyperbilirubinemia – An Urgent Care Approach,” Smith describes how she was able to link the presence of bilirubin in urine to a serious diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Bilirubin is a waste product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells and is responsible for the typical brown appearance of feces and yellow appearance of urine. It is most known for causing medical issues when it gets into the blood stream, usually resulting in jaundice, or yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.

It was while working in the emergency department that Smith came across a case that demonstrated the importance of thoroughly reviewing urinalysis results. The patient, a 65-year-old woman, reported symptoms of dark urine as well as discomfort and a burning sensation while urinating. The patient, along with her family, viewed those symptoms as the result of a urinary tract infection and requested antibiotics that would address what she considered to be a UTI.

Smith ordered a urinalysis and all of the results were consistent with a UTI, with the exception of the presence of bilirubin. Bilirubin led Smith to believe there was a hepatobiliary system issue, which can affect the liver, pancreas, bile ducts, and gall bladder. Additional tests and procedures determined the patient did indeed have a serious health concern and she was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Smith, who is the first professor in the PA Studies department to be published, believes this case and discovery serves as a reminder to her students that they should consider the worst possible outcome, even when the patient’s presentation of symptoms seems to be routine.

“As the instructor, it is my responsibility to enable our students to think critically to understand the clinical significance of the diagnostic tests they will be ordering and interpreting,” said Smith. “On the surface, [this case] seems routine and uncomplicated, but upon more meticulous investigation actually revealed a diagnostic wolf (pancreatic cancer) disguised in seemingly benign UTI clothing.”


ECU art professor displays work at NYC’s ‘LOOT’

From left to right: Glenn Adamson, Director of Museum of Arts and Design, wearing Mi-Sook’s enamel brooch, Moonlight; Bryna Pomp, LOOT curator; and ECU art professor Mi-Sook Hur at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. (Contributed photos)

From left to right: Glenn Adamson, Director of Museum of Arts and Design, wearing Mi-Sook’s enamel brooch, Moonlight; Bryna Pomp, LOOT curator; and ECU art professor Mi-Sook Hur at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. (Contributed photos)

East Carolina University School of Art metal design professor Mi-Sook Hur showed 60 of her new artworks at LOOT: MAD About Jewelry at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, from Monday September 28 until Saturday, October 3. More than 50 emerging and acclaimed artists from 21 countries were invited to participate.

“With over 50 designers on-site throughout the exhibition and sale, LOOT offers one of New York’s most unique shopping experiences,” wrote the New York Social Diary. “Proceeds from the sale benefit the Museum’s exhibition and education programs.”

Now in its 15th edition, LOOT has become known as the ultimate pop-up shop for contemporary artist-made jewelry, where collectors and jewelry enthusiasts have the opportunity to meet and acquire pieces from some of the most innovative creators in the field.

Work by ECU professor Mi-Sook Hur is shown at LOOT.

Work by ECU professor Mi-Sook Hur is shown at LOOT.


ECU hosts Peace.Love.Pirates.Cure event Oct. 7

East Carolina University’s Campus Recreation & Wellness will host the eighth annual Peace.Love.Pirates.Cure Cancer Awareness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 7 in the Student Recreation Center. The event is free and open to ECU students, faculty and staff.

This annual Wellness Passport event promotes cancer awareness and knowledge by providing information tailored to help participants live healthy, cancer-free lives. Included are educational tables and interactive activities designed to help participants avoid skin, breast, cervical, testicular, lung and prostate cancers.

“Peace.Love.Pirates.Cure has reached over 3,500 people since it was introduced in 2007 and we expect another large turnout this year,” said Georgia Childs, associate director for Wellness Programs. “Cancer has impacted every person on our campus in one way or another. It could be the loss of a loved one or someone personally battling cancer, this event brings people together for education, friendship and support.”

Healthy snacks will be available throughout the event, and participants may win T-shirts and other giveaways.

Peace.Love.Pirates.Cure is sponsored by Campus Recreation & Wellness, Student Health Services, Student Government Association, the ECU Department of Health Education and Promotion, ECU Physicians, Leo Jenkins Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, Colleges Against Cancer, Vidant Health and the Healthy PIRATES student organization.

For more information, contact Georgia Childs at 252-328-5172 or visit


ECU Pirates urged to step outside in nationwide challenge

East Carolina University is asking all Pirates to step outside and get active through the 2015 Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge competition under way through Oct. 17. The university is competing against 58 other institutions representing 30 states.

Grants up to $1,500 will be applied toward outdoor activities on campus, and individual participant prizes are available. Grants are tied to the number of active participants who log their activities and identify ECU as their institution. For 500 participants, ECU will receive $500. If 1,000 Pirates join in, the grant increases to $1,000. For 1,500 active participants, the grant goes up to $1,500.

Participants may sign up and log in at (select East Carolina University).

Points may be earned for a wide variety of outdoor activities including walking, Frisbee golf, fishing and biking, enjoying a hammock, fishing, gardening, hunting, hiking, backpacking, running or jogging, water activities, outdoor yoga, horseshoes, bird watching and stargazing.

Organized team sports like basketball, soccer and football don’t count in the challenge. Activities must be for a minimum of 30 minutes and take place between Sept. 6 and Oct. 17.

For additional information, contact Mark Parker, assistant director for Intramural Sports and Youth & Family at (252) 328-1575 or


In Memoriam – Dr. Charles E. Stevens

Dr. Charles E. Stevens of Greenville, who taught piano at East Carolina University for 30 years before accepting emeritus status in 1990, died Sept. 4. He was 89. Stevens, who received his master’s degree in music at ECU in 1954 and his doctorate in music from UNC Chapel Hill in 1957, was dean of the School of Music for the last six years of his tenure.



He recently was honored for more than 50 years of service to the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia national music fraternity.

Survivors include daughters Margaret Mauney of Winston-Salem, a 1976 ECU graduate, and Mary Charles Jenkins, a 1979 graduate, and son-in-law Jack Jenkins, a 1978 graduate, both of Morehead City.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Charles E. and Margaret S. Stevens Endowment, ECU Foundation, 2200 S. Charles Blvd., Greenville, NC 27858.

— Steve Tuttle


Fenich Inducted into DMAI’s Inaugural Hall of Fame

Dr. George Fenich (center) receives the Hall of Fame Award from Michael Gehrisch, President and CEO of DMAI (right), and Jason Fulvi, VP of Sales for the Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau (left). (Contributed photo)

Dr. George Fenich (center) receives the Hall of Fame Award from Michael Gehrisch, President and CEO of DMAI (right), and Jason Fulvi, VP of Sales for the Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau (left). (Contributed photo)

East Carolina University professor Dr. George Fenich was inducted into the first Hall of Fame class by Destination Marketing Association International, the world’s largest resource for convention and visitors bureaus.

Fenich is a professor in ECU’s School of Hospitality Leadership, which is housed in the College of Business.

The Hall of Fame Award recognizes individuals who have changed the future of destination marketing for the better, made significant contributions to the advancement of the industry and have shaped travel marketing. It is the highest honor that DMAI can bestow.

“DMAI as an organization recognized the importance of leadership in our industry to sustain our 100 year history and grow destination marketing into the multibillion dollar industry that it is today,” Michael Gehrisch, president and CEO of DMAI, said. “Our goal is to shine a spotlight on these pioneers, champions and influencers, and allow our members around the globe an opportunity to get to know them and their works.”

Fenich has helped shape the destination marketing industry for almost three decades and has dedicated his academic career to the advancement of research, scholarship and teaching. He was an industry practitioner before moving into academe.

Today, in addition to his role as a leading academic in the meetings and conventions field, Fenich provides cutting-edge research and analysis to destination marketing organizations across the country through his consulting firm, Fenich & Associates. He has published three industry textbooks, more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, and has made more than 150 presentations in the U.S. and abroad to benefit the industry. He has served as a member of DMAI for more than 20 years, including work on the organization’s Student Educator Advisory Council and chairing the DMAI Case Study Competition. He has delivered education programs around the world, from China and Japan to Turkey, France, Mauritius, and South Africa.


Ballard announces phased retirement program availability

Chancellor Ballard has announced the availability of the Phased Retirement Program to eligible faculty members. Eligible members receive an invitation to participate through campus mail. Individuals who did not receive a letter but believe they are eligible should contact their vice chancellor.

Additional details about the Phased Retirement Program are available at

Questions about the program should be directed to Linda Ingalls at 252-943-8584 or (Office of the Provost) or Lisa Sutton at 744-1910 or (Division of Health Sciences).


Sharing a special moment from the World Special Olympics


Donna Mooneyham (left) with Abigail Reznek, a swimmer from Maryland who competed on the U.S. aquatics team that Mooneyham coached at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles. (Contributed photos)


Donna Mooneyham, an adjunct faculty member at East Carolina University’s College of Health and Human Performance, said she experienced many heartwarming moments as a coach of the U.S. aquatics team at the World Special Olympics. Held in Los Angeles July 25 through Aug. 2, the games attracted 6,500 athletes representing 165 countries.

But the one experience she will always treasure, she said, happened after she reached out to another East Carolina University graduate for help motivating an athlete on her team.

“I had an athlete from Kentucky and (at first) he was grumpy and lowly motivated. He wasn’t really gung ho for the competition. As I tried to connect with this individual, I found out he was a big NASCAR fan, and so am I. So we started talking about racing.”

Mooneyham reached out to one of her former ECU students, Greg Morin, who is a pit crew coach at Hendrick Motor Sports in Charlotte. Morin sent the athlete several items donated by NASCAR drivers.

After that, “he started getting very excited about swimming, he smiled more and he seemed to really take off with this encouragement. (At the next competition) he had his personal best time in swimming.”

On the last day of competition, Mooneyham said Morin called to let her know that he had sent something special to the athlete – a video of NASCAR great Jeff Gordon congratulating him for achieving his personal best time in the pool.

“That was such an inspiration that he went out and medaled,” Mooneyham said.

This was Mooneyham’s second time volunteering as a coach at the World Special Olympics. She also was an aquatics coach at the 2011 games held in Greece.

“This time it seemed more special because we were competing here in the U.S., which meant the families of a lot of the athletes could attend. And it was broadcast on ESPN, so there was so much more public awareness about the event. I think it was just really something special that (the parents) could have that experience” of watching their children compete against athletes from around the world, Mooneyham said.

She said a final tally showed that members of the U.S. Aquatics team won 86 medals.

– Steve Tuttle




Patriarca named among most influential deans

Former ECU College of Education Dean Dr. Linda A. Patriarca was named one of the 30 most influential deans of education in the United States by Mometrix Test Preparation.



According to the Mometrix web site ( the list was developed as a way to honor individuals dedicated to educating the future workforce.

The list was compiled through analysis of state and national awards and honors, education program rankings, degree program rankings and level of pay received by graduates of the teaching programs.
Patriarca stepped down from the dean position this summer. Dr. B. Grant Hayes assumed the role of dean on July 31.