Someone once told me, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all.”
Well, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University is certainly in the news. The Daily Reflector has published two articles of real significance about our school. Recently, there was an accounting of the history of the development of the school, and Sunday, there was the report that indicates that the school is achieving what it was intended to do – produce primary care physicians who want to stay in North Carolina.
We here down east don’t brag much and are most comfortable being modest. But this is just too much good news for me to stay quiet. We should all be very proud of our school!
Before I sustain a deluge of “bless your hearts,” I want to explain what I meant when I was quoted as saying, “We don’t really deserve that praise – that is what we’re supposed to do. That’s precisely the mission the school was created to serve.” The report was indicating the stellar statistics that our school has achieved in creating primary care doctors.
Technically, my statement is sound. However, it falls short in giving credit to the many mission-driven, dedicated faculty and staff who have given their all to make the remarkable statistics our reality. Our school was created in a time of turmoil and challenge, and today’s results would not have been achieved without the “service-before-self” attitude that has been displayed every single day since the school was created.
We were given a “mission impossible” more than 40 years ago. First, recruit underrepresented students from North Carolina and make them into doctors; second, make them into primary care doctors who want to serve in our communities; and last, cure the disastrous health conditions that even today run rampant throughout the eastern third of our state.
These were the challenges that our leaders took on courageously at the inception of our school. Some may have said they were foolish and reckless. As impossible as this mission seems to us today, the early leaders worked undaunted to accomplish the dream of a transformed health system.
Today, 26 percent of North Carolina doctors who attended medical school in the state are ECU graduates. Those graduates are bringing healing and financial wellness to the communities they serve. As much as $2 million is generated within each of the communities served by these doctors by the downstream economic effects of their practice. This economic benefit is a valuable byproduct of the social good that is being created.
I’ll let you in on a secret: We are still learning how to serve our citizens in even more efficient ways. It is not a coincidence that we are embedded in a health sciences campus with the most prolific and well-respected colleges of nursing and allied health sciences in the state. Add in the new dental school and the other resources across the campus, and, in collaboration with our sister schools, we are poised to revolutionize health care in our region.
Undeniably, the success that is evident today could not have been achieved if we did not have willing and supportive partners. At the inception, there was the Pitt County Memorial Hospital, then University Health Systems and now Vidant Health. Valuable support came from physicians in private practice who quickly learned that the integration of a medical school within eastern North Carolina would add to their abilities to serve their patients. Doctors across the region have been incredibly supportive. There are many others within the local business community and the region in general who have been generous in their support as well.
The miracle of medicine that has occurred in Greenville, by the banks of the mighty Tar River, and in the Pirate Nation will of necessity require that continued dedication and caring that was necessary when the school began. Medicine is undergoing a transformation as we speak, and we believe we can achieve even more as we work together to create an even more positive outcome for the benefit of our citizens. Our school has favored collaboration over competition, and we believe that this approach will be an essential component for our success in the future.
Finally, I must say that I am not really concerned about the “bless your hearts” that may be inevitable. I have always welcomed comment and critique. These comments have allowed me to adjust my thinking and are incredibly valuable. This is one component of strategic planning. We must plan our futures together. I am only perplexed when there is unwarranted criticism of the school. Invariably, this is due to a lack of understanding and, therefore, becomes an opportunity for me to educate and advise.
We are poised to continue the work. Expanding the capacity of the school to continue to serve is clearly on the agenda. My colleagues and I pledge to continue to work to serve our region’s needs while continuing this track record of success.