Category Archives: Health Sciences

ECU researchers participate in Camp Lejeune symposium

Faculty members from East Carolina University participated in the eighth Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium on May 25.

ECU investigators were among the only civilian university participants to receive awards, according to James R. Menke, director of military research partnerships at ECU.

The following faculty members were recognized:

  • Stacey Meardon, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences, took first place in the Clinical Investigation Poster Competition.
  • Caitlin O’Connell, post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance, took second place with her podium presentation titled “Detecting Sandbagging on Baseline Balance Tests.”
  • John Willson, associate professor of physical therapy, took third place for his podium presentation titled “Training Modifications to Reduce Knee Joint Load Following ACL Reconstruction.”

The symposium, hosted by the Family Medicine Residency Program at Camp Lejeune, showcases scholarly activity happening behind the scenes at the medical center. Staff and medical residents are involved in more than two dozen research projects, clinical studies and collaborative efforts.

From left, Drs. Stacey Meardon, Caitlin O'Connell and John Wilson are recognized during the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium. (Contributed photos)

From left, Drs. Stacey Meardon, Caitlin O’Connell and John Wilson are recognized during the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium. (Contributed photos)


-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

Country Doctor Museum celebrates 50 years on April 21

A daylong celebration at the oldest museum in the nation dedicated to the history of rural health care will be held Saturday, April 21.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the Country Doctor Museum will host “History Alive! A 50thAnniversary Celebration” – a family-friendly event that aims to offer visitors a glimpse into the past. Free activities will include museum tours, a petting zoo and horse-drawn carriage rides from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Acoustic and old-time music will be provided by DryBread Road, and a variety of food vendors will be present.

The Joel Lane House, Imagination Station Science and History Museum, Aycock Birthplace and the Tobacco Farm Life Museum will offer free activities and demonstrations.

The Country Doctor Museum will also showcase a new exhibit, “The Sick Room: Home Comfort and Bedside Necessities,” which illustrates how an extended illness of a family member or loved one was a common part of life at the turn of the 20th century.

The museum, located at 7089 Peele Road in Bailey, is managed as part of the History Collections of Laupus Library at East Carolina University through an agreement with the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation.

For more information, call 252-235-4165, visit or visit the Country Doctor Museum Facebook page.


-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, University Communications

Graduate student earns ECU’s first Schweitzer Fellowship in public health

ECU graduate student Gabriel Beattie-Sergio has received a 2018 Schweitzer Fellowship, the university’s first such award in the area of public health. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU graduate student Gabriel Beattie-Sergio has received a 2018 Schweitzer Fellowship, the university’s first such award in the area of public health. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Graduate student Gabriel Beattie-Sergio has earned ECU’s first-ever Schweitzer Fellowship in public health, to create and sustain a project aimed at determining and eliminating different factors that contribute to childhood asthma. His designation through the program is as a BCBSNC Foundation Schweitzer Fellow.

Beattie-Sergio’s work will focus on victims who were impacted by the 2016 Hurricane Matthew, live in substandard housing and have children with asthma. A large part of Beattie-Sergio’s time will be dedicated to conducting in-home (field) visits, interviewing families and conducting environmental health and housing assessments.

“I’ll be gaining experience with underserved populations and minorities, and seeing firsthand what environmental factors can contribute to illnesses,” said Beattie-Sergio, who is working under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Kearney, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health.

Beattie-Sergio said earning the fellowship is a chance for him to get a first-hand look at some of the topics he has learned about in the classroom. Kearney said it represents a unique opportunity to work in the trenches.

“Gabe demonstrates an eagerness to learn and help people, so I think this will be a great experience for him,” said Kearney, program director of environmental and occupational health. “As his mentor, I hope to provide him with guidance that will allow him to apply his public health education and develop skills along the way.”

Beattie-Sergio’s work will leverage current research projects and partnerships through ECU’s Department of Public Health, including the Medical-Legal Partnership, a collaborative project between the Brody School of Medicine, Department of Public Health, Vidant Medical Center and Legal Aid of N.C. The project was funded last year by Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina.

“The skills he will develop will focus on identifying and reducing children’s exposure to environmental triggers in rental housing and interviewing and assisting patients in overcoming the social determinants of health by integrating free legal services,” Kearney said.

The research hits particularly close to home for Beattie-Sergio, who is pursuing both a master’s of public health in epidemiology and a master’s of science in environmental health. He suffered from childhood asthma and hopes his work will help address the illness in North Carolina’s eastern region, which has the state’s highest rates of childhood asthma.

“The fellowship allows me to meet with families that I normally wouldn’t and talk with the children about how you can still live an active life with asthma,” Beattie-Sergiosaid. “I tell them that if I had a program like this one in my area growing up it would have made living with asthma as a kid much more enjoyable.”

Through the project, families get referred to the Eastern Carolina Asthma Prevention Program (ECAPP) from Vidant Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

“From there, if the family decides to have an environmental assessment conducted, Dr. Kearney and I go to the home and look at factors in the house that can be contributing to the child’s asthma — mold, roaches etc.,” Beattie-Sergiosaid.

Based on their findings, the case can be referred to Legal Aid to pursue action to get the living conditions improved by landlords and property owners.

Beattie-Sergio will conduct childhood asthma research through a 2018 Schweitzer Fellowship, under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Kearney, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health.

Beattie-Sergio, right, will conduct childhood asthma research through a 2018 Schweitzer Fellowship, under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Kearney, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health.

Beattie-Sergio’s idea for the Schweitzer project will coincide with the public health department’s ongoing research.

“It seemed like it dovetailed perfectly with our work,” Kearney said. “Gabe will be experiencing how health care, environmental health and public health come together in a real-world setting.”

Beattie-Sergio’s project also meets the criteria for sustainability, which is a main characteristic used to choose the winning Schweitzer Fellow applications.

Since 1994, the North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program has supported 425 fellows from many academic disciplines through funding from various foundations, academic institutions and individual donors. Last year’s 23 North Carolina fellows join approximately 240 others nationwide.

Fellows all work with mentors at one of 14 program sites across the U.S. and in Lambaréné, Africa, where physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer founded a hospital in 1913.

“In general, I believe public health is naturally embodied in the work that Dr. Schweitzer accomplished while he was in Africa,” Kearney said, “so it’s a good opportunity for public health students to apply for the fellowship.”


-by Spaine Stephens, University Communications

College of Allied Health Sciences celebrates scholarship recipients, donors

A relatively small donation nearly 40 years ago created a domino effect of generosity that continues to help students in the ECU College of Allied Health Sciences.

On March 26, the college celebrated its scholarship recipients and their donors during a scholarship celebration at Rock Springs Center banquet hall in Greenville. During the event, the college awarded 69 scholarships to 66 students for the upcoming academic year. The awards totaled $106,650 and ranged in value from $500 to $5,000 each.

Scholarship recipient Aliaha Austin, an undergraduate in communication sciences and disorders, speaks with donors during the ECU College of Allied Health Sciences’ annual scholarship celebration at Rock Springs Center on March 26. (Photos by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

Scholarship recipient Aliaha Austin, an undergraduate in communication sciences and disorders, speaks with donors during the ECU College of Allied Health Sciences’ annual scholarship celebration at Rock Springs Center on March 26. (Photos by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

Donors choose to give for a variety of reasons. For Stas and Brenda Humienny, who graduated from the college with degrees in clinical lab sciences in 1979, it was about having a personal understanding of the financial hardship that often comes with being a full-time student, and how much it can make a difference when someone provides assistance.

“The event from the past that made this an easy decision occurred during our senior year in the CLS program,” the Humiennys said via email. “Brenda had exhausted all sources of money and saw no choice but to drop out of school for a year, work to raise funds, and then graduate a year later. A pathologist learned of her situation, gave her a check for $500, and the rest is history. We cannot even imagine how our lives would have changed had it not been for that kind and generous gesture.”

As a way of paying it forward, the couple established the Stas & Brenda Humienny Endowed Scholarship in 2006, and have continued to contribute to that fund since. They said they hope that their generosity will be passed along in the same way in the future.

“We are so hopeful that today’s scholarship recipients will be tomorrow’s benefactors to all disciplines covered by allied health,” the couple said.

Dr. David Edwards of Kinetic Physical Therapy and Wellness speaks to the crowd at the ceremony.

Dr. David Edwards of Kinetic Physical Therapy and Wellness speaks to the crowd at the ceremony.

Jenyqua Young, a junior health services management student and scholarship recipient, hopes to become a health care administrator at a hospital with the hopes of helping to serve communities in need.

“Receiving the Loiuse O. Burevitch Memorial Scholarship is truly a life changing moment,” she said. “It will aid me in my educational and professional journey to serve underprivileged and underserved communities that are at a disadvantage when it comes to the quality of health care services.”

Scholarship recipient Katlyn Fry, a graduate of ECU’s Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders program and the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree, is now working on a master’s in speech-language pathology at ECU.

While working at a camp for underprivileged children, Fry met a child on the spectrum for autism and was unable to form words on his own, igniting a passion in Fry for helping others communicate.

“This is how I learned about the career of speech-language pathology and it became my passion,” she said. “Both the Meta Downes and James and Carol White scholarships are helping me achieve my goal of helping those who cannot help themselves. For this, I am eternally grateful.”


-by Natalie Sayewich, University Communications

Social determinants of obesity, diabetes addressed at ECU symposium

Does where you live or your level of education make you more prone to obesity and diabetes?

These and other social determinants of obesity and diabetes, which are disproportionally affecting eastern North Carolina, were addressed during the 14th annual Jean Mills Health Symposium at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Friday.

ECU student discusses her project

ECU senior kinesiology student Mackenzie Brown discusses her project during the 14th annual Jean Mills Health Symposium at ECU on Feb. 2. (Photos by Rob Spahr)

During the event, local, regional and national experts in obesity and diabetes, as well as community leaders and ECU faculty, staff and students, were challenged to address the social causes of the diseases.

The social factors discussed included cultural beliefs, gender roles, access to health care and patient-provider communications, economic stability, community infrastructure, educational attainment and role models.

Dr. Leandris Liburd speaks

Dr. Leandris Liburd, associate director for the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during the symposium.

This year’s featured speaker was Dr. Leandris Liburd, associate director for the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Liburd is an expert on the social determinants of health and has been successful in identifying intervention strategies to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

“Our health is our greatest resource, it affects everything. … (But) it’s something that I think we typically take for granted until we don’t have it anymore. And then we get up and say ‘OK, now I need to pay attention,’” Liburd said. “In public health, we try to get to people in the front end of that. And while we can’t prevent everything, there are things that we can delay and that we can minimize.”

Liburd said physicians come with high levels of authority and respect, which they can lend to help sway public policies and make significant positive impacts in leveling out some of the social health discrepancies.

“We don’t expect that doctors will go out and take on all of these issues. But we do think that it’s reasonable, as a beginning, that they will lend their influence to the efforts that others are trying to put forth to help make them successful,” Liburd said. “We have to find our place in this and where we can contribute the most.”

The symposia are presented by the ECU College of Allied Health Sciences in collaboration with ECU’s Department of Public Health, the Brody School of Medicine and the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation.

“Over the past decade and a half, the Mills symposium has invited distinguished national and international experts to address the health and health care issues that affect minority populations, especially our communities right here in eastern North Carolina,” said Robert Orlikoff, dean of ECU’s College of Allied Health Sciences.

“This is not an academic seminar and this is not a town meeting,” Orlikoff added. “It’s a rare opportunity for us to come together, educate ourselves and work together to reach real and long-standing solutions.”

Jean Mills, who died from breast cancer in October 2000, was an ECU alumna with a passion for community health and health equity. Her brother, Amos T. Mills III, established the symposium in her honor.


-by Rob Spahr, University Communications

ECU Health Sciences Vice Chancellor honored by alma mater

East Carolina University’s vice chancellor for health sciences was recently honored by her alma mater for her leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship that has advanced nursing on both state and national levels.

Dr. Phyllis Horns was presented the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award, the most prestigious alumni award the school bestows.

“It is an honor to count Dr. Horns as an alumna of the UAB School of Nursing and celebrate her contributions to nursing and health care,” said Dr. Doreen Harper, dean. “She has had a long and distinguished career in nursing and health care leadership, and is an exemplar among our alumnae nursing leaders across the globe… [her] collaborative leadership transcends discipline-specific boundaries, a hallmark of the UAB School of Nursing’s mission and vision.”

Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor, ECU health sciences. (contributed photo)

Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor, ECU health sciences. (contributed photo)

Horns earned a bachelor’s in nursing at ECU, a master’s in public health at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and a pediatric nurse practitioner certificate at the University of Rochester.

In 1980 she completed her Ph.D. in nursing at UAB – Birmingham, where she joined the graduate faculty and was later named assistant dean for undergraduate programs.

Horns came to ECU in 1988 as professor and chair of the Department of Parent-Child Nursing and was named dean of the School of Nursing two years later. Under her leadership the school experienced tremendous growth, with overall enrollment increasing by 50 percent and graduate class sizes expanding from 93 to 377 students.

With Horns at the helm, the school’s doctoral program was established in 2002, and the school officially became the College of Nursing in 2007.

Appointed ECU’s vice chancellor for health sciences in 2009, Horns now oversees the education and patient care programs of the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the College of Nursing, the William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library, the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU and the School of Dental Medicine – the latter of which was launched under her leadership.

She played a key role in planning for the clinical integration of ECU Physicians and Vidant Medical Group, slated for completion in 2018. And she’s spearheading efforts to expand ECU’s Department of Public Health into a School of Public Health.

Over her career Horns has been president of the Council on Collegiate Education for Nursing and the Southeastern Regional Education Board, a member of the National League for Nursing board of directors, and chair of the NLN Accrediting Commission.

Her many accolades include the 2010 UAB School of Nursing Visionary Leader award, the 2011 ECU College of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award and the North Carolina Hospital Association 2016 Meritorious Service Award. In 2001 she was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing.

“Attending UAB was a privilege and I treasure the impact it has had on my career,” Horns said. “This award means so much to me, and I see it as a highlight of my life’s work. I look forward to continuing that work and to the bright future of ECU’s health sciences.”


-by Angela Todd, University Communications

ECU faculty members inducted as FAANS

College of Nursing faculty members Dr. Sonya Hardin, left, and Dr. Donna Lake, right, were inducted as Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing. They are pictured at the induction ceremony with Dr. Susan Kennerly, a professor in the College of Nursing who was inducted as a Fellow in 2016. (Contributed photos)

College of Nursing faculty members Dr. Sonya Hardin, left, and Dr. Donna Lake, right, were inducted as Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing. They are pictured at the induction ceremony with Dr. Susan Kennerly, a professor in the College of Nursing who was inducted as a Fellow in 2016. (Contributed photos)

Two East Carolina University (ECU) faculty members were recently inducted as fellows in the American Academy of Nursing. The College of Nursing’s Dr. Sonya Hardin and Dr. Donna Lake were honored during a ceremony at the academy’s annual conference Oct. 5-7, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

“I am proud to welcome this talented cohort of nurses as they join the ranks of the nation’s foremost health care thought leaders,” said Academy President Bobbie Berkowitz. “They bring a rich variety of expertise to the table, and we look forward to recognizing their accomplishments at our policy conference, and then working with them to transform health policy, practice, and research by applying our collective nursing knowledge.”

Selection criteria include evidence of significant contributions to nursing and health care, and sponsorship by two current Academy fellows. Applicants are reviewed by a panel comprised of elected and appointed fellows, and selection is based, in part, on the extent the nominee’s nursing career has influenced health policies and the health and wellbeing of all.

Dr. Sonya Hardin

Dr. Sonya Hardin

Hardin is a professor and the associate dean of Graduate Nursing Programs in the College of Nursing. She leads an interdisciplinary team as the program director for a $2.5 million Health Resources & Services Administration-funded Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program grant.

With extensive national service with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses setting national standards and developing the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care, Hardin has impacted more than 80,000 acute and critical care nurses currently certified worldwide in adult, pediatric and neonatal critical care. She has disseminated the model through consulting at hospitals across the United States. She is certified in critical care and as an Adult Nurse Practitioner. She received her nurse practitioner training from ECU, a PhD from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and post-doctoral fellowships at UNC-Chapel Hill and Stanford University.

“It is an honor to be selected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing,” Hardin said. “My goal has been to make a difference in the outcomes of patient care and to strengthen the profession through patient advocacy. I am excited to have an opportunity to work with leaders within the US and from around the world to advance health policy and clinical practice.”

Lake is a clinical associate professor of advanced nursing practice and education. She has extensive international experience leading healthcare and academic teams within the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Africa. Prior to ECU, she spent 25 years in various executive and clinical nursing roles culminating as Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. She has also played an instrumental role in the improvement of corporate quality policies, health promotion and primary care for 68 medical facilities worldwide.

Dr. Donna Lake

Dr. Donna Lake

Lake is the only nurse representative on the $11 million American Medical Association grant-funded initiative Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare (REACH), creating the first of its kind “Teachers in Quality Academy.” She received her BSN from Stony Brook University of New York, a Master’s of Education from the University of Oklahoma and a PhD from Touro University.

“Being inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing is a very exciting and a prestigious honor,” Lake said. “Having met many of the Fellows during the induction and conference, it was incredible to learn of their expansive clinical, research, and global and national leadership impacts to the profession of nursing and healthcare delivery systems.

“I am more energized and look forward to my Fellow responsibilities and ECU faculty role to continue my work in engaging with other health leaders in transforming American’s health system, strengthening nursing and health delivery systems, nationally and internationally.”

Hardin and Lake are among 11 inductees from the state of North Carolina this year. They join five other current ECU College of Nursing faculty members as FAANs.

The academy is comprised of more than 2,500 nurse leaders in education, management, practice, policy and research. Fellows include hospital and government administrators, college deans and renowned scientific researchers.


-by Natalie Sayewich, University Communications

Webinar series helps nurses grow

Nurses in eastern North Carolina will have an innovative way to develop as leaders, thanks in part to a new webinar program starting this month.

The Emerging Leaders Institute Webinar Series, developed by the East Carolina Consortium for Nursing Leadership (ECCNL) and Eastern Area Health Education Center, offers six monthly webinars for nurses currently serving or aspiring to serve in leadership roles. These live one-hour webinars will cover various topics such as leadership competencies, communication and collaboration, mentoring and coaching, multigenerational workforce, patient safety and quality improvements, and emotional intelligence. The first webinar is Oct. 18; the deadline to register is Oct. 11.

Dr. Gina Woody, College of Nursing faculty member. (contributed photo)

Dr. Gina Woody, College of Nursing faculty member. (contributed photo)

“Participants will develop leadership skills that will enable them to grow personally and professionally and serve as leaders and change agents in promoting and shaping the future of health care,” said ECCNL Director Dr. Gina Woody, clinical professor in the College of Nursing at East Carolina University.

This program is open to nurses across the region in any practice setting. Nurses can register individually for any combination of webinars up to a week before each event. A discount is available on all six webinars through Oct. 11.

An agency subscription rate, which was available for employers who wished to make the webinars available to all their staff, allows teams to gather together and hear from content experts, according to Donna Moses, director of nursing and allied health education at Eastern AHEC. “It is our hope that the conversation continues after the webinar, where participants share their leadership insights and mentor new leaders and access further resources within their own organization,” Moses said.

“This innovative project is but one example of the consortium’s ongoing commitment to mobilize nurses to be influential leaders in promoting healthier communities,” Woody said. “The consortium promotes the personal and professional development of nurse executives, managers, clinicians, educators and other related health care professionals employed in all types of settings. At the end of this series the participant will be able to synthesize concepts of leadership, management, change, teamwork and communication as they relate to the role of the nurse leader.”

The Consortium for Nursing Leadership was established by the ECU College of Nursing in 2006 to promote leadership development for both students and practicing nurses through education, research and scholarship.

“We look forward to working with Eastern AHEC to help the people of eastern North Carolina by increasing educational opportunities for all nurses,” Woody said.

Moses added, “Leadership is the most desired and difficult skill set to develop. It has been said that it is lonely at the top. It doesn’t have to be when teams realize that leadership is a shared responsibility.”

Nurses who wish to register should first check with their chief nursing officer or chief administrator to see if a series subscription was purchased by their agency.

For more information on this program, contact the Eastern AHEC Department of Nursing and Allied Health Education at 252-744-5220 or visit

All webinars will be held 12-1 p.m.

Webinar schedule

October 18: Identify and Develop Your Leadership Competencies

November 15: Communication and Collaboration: The Importance of Nurses and Physician Relationship in Leading Patient Care

December 13: Modeling the Way: Mentoring and Coaching

January 17: Cultivating Leaders Across Generations

February 21: Improving Patient Safety and Quality Improvements within Health Systems

March 21: Building Emotional Intelligence


-by Jackie Drake, Eastern AHEC

1 2 3 11