Category Archives: Medicine

ECU physicians share expertise at international lung cancer conference

Physicians in East Carolina University’s thoracic oncology program will represent the university on a global stage Sept. 14-16, making four oral presentations at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer in Chicago.

“One of the strengths of our thoracic program is our innovative thinking, our innovative treatment. It resonates with people nationally,” said Dr. Paul Walker, chief of hematology/oncology at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, who will be giving one of those presentations.

ECU doctors will highlight the benefit of combining radiation therapy and immune therapy in the treatment of lung cancer. They also will discuss how genetic markers can determine the likelihood a patient will benefit from immune therapy – an innovation Walker said leads to an individual approach to cancer treatment.

“We just have to find the right therapy for each individual. Then if you can figure out who is going to do well with that specific therapy, treat those patients the same,” Walker said. “But those who have been filtered out, then you’re going to have to find a different treatment for them.”

Lung cancer patient Pam Black undergoes treatment at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Lung cancer patient Pam Black undergoes treatment at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

They will also discuss harmful effects immune therapy can have in patients with lung cancer, including lung tissue inflammation that can cause breathing difficulties, often requiring oxygen therapy and even hospitalization. Walker’s team found that administering a monoclonal antibody typically used to treat arthritis resolved the issue within 36 hours for 79 percent of their patients.

The final ECU study – funded by the American Cancer Society and conducted in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of South Carolina – looked at disparities in lung cancer treatment for African Americans, who elect to have surgery at a 12 to 13 percent lower rate than Caucasians. But Walker and his fellow researchers found that providing an educator to explain individual diagnosis and treatment options to African-American patients removed the racial disparity.

“This study designed something simple, using a separate educator, and proved this approach can remove the racial disparity in early stage lung cancer in both the decision for surgery and/or Cyberknife radiosurgery,” Walker said.

All four presentations will be published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

In October, members of the thoracic oncology team will present two abstracts at the IASLC 18th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Japan.

“The fact that we’re being invited to present our work nationally and internationally validates the program and it recognizes what you are doing, how you are doing it,” Walker said. “We want other people to hear it and hopefully take it to heart.”


-by Rich Klindworth 

Brody associate dean named to national steering committee

The associate dean for diversity and inclusion at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine has been selected to serve on the steering committee for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Diversity and Inclusion. In this role, Dr. Kendall Campbell will act as a liaison between the national committee and all medical schools in the southern region of the United States.

“It [my selection] puts Brody on the map, on the national landscape if you will, for diversity and inclusion issues,” Campbell said. “It allows me to bring issues that may be particular to Brody, to a national light. It really stresses Brody’s commitment to diversity and inclusion because I was nominated by folks here for this position. So it’s not something I just decided to do myself; there were people here that recognized that it would be good for me to serve on this committee.”

Dr. Kendall Campbell. (contributed photo)

Dr. Kendall Campbell. (contributed photo)

Brody is dedicated to increasing access to a medical education for minority and underserved students as part of its legislatively mandated threefold mission. Campbell’s office oversees eight groups within Brody that focus on diversity, such as the Sexual and Gender Diversity committee, the Brody Women Faculty committee and the Interprofessional Diversity Group. The Office of Diversity Affairs has also developed workshops that focus on the various aspects of diversity and inclusion to promote retention of minority faculty and a more inclusive environment at Brody.

According to a recent AAMC report, Brody ranks better than 90 percent of the nation’s medical schools when it comes to the percentage of its graduates who are African American. Nearly one-third of Brody’s newest class is non-Caucasian.

Campbell said that while Brody does better than many medical schools when it comes to maintaining a culture of diversity, there is still work to be done.

“My goal for us is to be at parity with the state,” he said. “Because we only accept North Carolina residents, I look at the state census population as to what should be our representation. So if there’s a certain percentage of racial minorities in the state, then that’s what we want to see reflected in our medical school classes.”

Campbell earned his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine and completed a residency in family medicine at the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Family Practice Residency Program. Before coming to Brody in 2016, he was on faculty at Florida State University College of Medicine, where he was the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine.

In addition to his AAMC appointment, Campbell was recently named a member of the Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities for the National Academy of Medicine. He is also the director of the Research Group for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine at Brody.

“Dr. Campbell is a nationally recognized expert in the field of diversity and inclusion in medical school communities,” said Brody’s interim dean, Dr. Nicholas Benson. “His appointment to this important national leadership body demonstrates that the Association of American Medical Colleges recognizes that Kendall’s participation will bring an important voice to their discussions that have positive impact for medical education and research across the country.”

The AAMC Group on Diversity and Inclusion is a national forum aimed at advancing diversity in the medical academic setting, keeping institutions informed about the benefits of diversity and highlighting the importance of addressing issues pertaining to historically underrepresented populations. Ultimately, the goal of the committee is to provide better care to the underserved through a more diverse medical workforce.

“I think the most encouraging trend is that [diversity] is on people’s minds,” said Campbell. “And not only that it’s on their minds, but people are moving from a place of tolerating diversity to recognizing diversity benefit.”


-by Angela Todd, University Communication 


Geyer recognized by Society for the Study of Reproduction

Dr. Christopher Geyer received this year’s New Investigator Award at the 50th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Christopher Geyer received this year’s New Investigator Award at the 50th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

East Carolina University’s Dr. Christopher Geyer was named the recipient of the 2017 New Investigator Award by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) for his contributions to the field of reproductive sciences.

The award recognizes outstanding research contributions by an SSR member within 12 years of the completion of their Ph.D.

Geyer, an associate professor in the Brody School of Medicine Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, is working to explain the earliest stages of reproduction by investigating the mechanisms through which spermatogenic stem cells become differentiated and begin the process of becoming sperm cells.

His lab was recently awarded a five-year, $1.45 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the response of stem cells to retinoic acid.

“This is a highly competitive award, and the list of past winners is virtually a who’s who of top scientists in the field,” said Dr. Rebecca Krisher, chair of the SSR Awards Committee. “Dr. Geyer was chosen for this honor based upon the originality of his research, his scientific productivity and the significance of his contributions to the field of spermatogonial and testicular biology.”

Geyer said he has been a member of SSR since joining as a new graduate student in 2002. “Receiving the award was overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve never had to get up and speak in front of so many people.”

Geyer’s lab is working to pinpoint the mechanisms that control the earliest stages of reproduction.

Geyer’s lab is working to pinpoint the mechanisms that control the earliest stages of reproduction.

The award was presented during the opening ceremony of SSR’s 50th anniversary meeting in Washington, D.C. As the New Investigator Award recipient, Geyer gave a 30-minute presentation before more than 900 attendees of the conference.

“This was one of the goals I set for myself when I first started here in 2010, because I have several friends who’ve won this award and I’ve always admired their work and wanted to follow in their footsteps, so to speak,” Geyer said. “I have tried to emulate what they’ve done in their careers, but I never actually expected it to happen.”

Nick Serra and Ellen Velte, doctoral students in Geyer’s lab, also attended the conference and presented their work in poster format.

Geyer was nominated by his mentors, Dr. John McCarrey and Dr. Mitch Eddy, and more than a dozen professors from the United States and abroad wrote letters of support. He has been invited to speak at the annual meetings of SSR’s sister societies — the Society for Reproduction and Fertility, which will meet in Liverpool, United Kingdom in January; and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which will meet in San Antonio, Texas in November.


-by Jules Norwood

Military Women’s Health Symposium is August 23

Health care providers across eastern North Carolina will convene in Greenville for the new Military Women’s Health Symposium on August 23. Registration is now open for the event, which is meant to support the well-being of women in the military and women veterans by updating the providers who care for them.

Women comprise about 15 percent of the U.S. armed forces. In 2016, there were more than 2 million female veterans across the nation from all branches of military service, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As more women join the military in ever-expanding roles, it’s important for providers to understand the health risks associated with service for women, according to event organizer Karen Goble, assistant director of continuing medical, dental and pharmacy education at Eastern AHEC.

“We want to recognize the role of women who serve and honor their sacrifice,” Goble said.

At the event, physicians and other advanced practitioners from the community, military bases and veterans’ administration will discuss the latest screening methods and treatments for issues common to women in the military and women veterans. These include orthopedic problems, pelvic pain and infections, depression, headaches and more.

“Women in the military are strong and resilient, but they face certain stressors that providers need to understand for optimal care,” Goble said.

For example, women in the military carrying heavy packs can experience stress fractures that result in chronic pelvic pain. “Women are capable of carrying the same equipment as men, but conditioning can be important in prevention,” Goble said.

The event is hosted by East Carolina University, Greenville VA Health Care Center, Eastern Area Health Education Center and Duke Area Health Education Center.

The conference will be held at The Education Center at Eastern AHEC, located at 2600 W. Arlington Blvd., at the corner of Arlington and W. 5th St. Space is limited so advance registration is required. Registration fees and other details are available online at Those interested in attending this conference can call 252-744-5208 for more information.


-by Jackie Drake, Eastern AHEC

Brody School of Medicine names associate dean for research and graduate studies

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named one of its first PhD graduates as its new associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine.

The appointment of Dr. Russ Price was made following a rigorous national search. Price, who also will serve as professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will begin his role on Aug. 16.

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

As associate dean for research and graduate studies, Price will provide leadership for Brody’s extensive research enterprise. He joins ECU at a time when the university is looking to strengthen its research efforts. Chancellor Cecil Staton has stated that increasing extramural research funding is one of his priority goals for the institution.

Since 2012 Price has served as associate vice chair for research in the department of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He has been professor of medicine and physiology at Emory since 1991.

“I am really delighted to welcome Russ Price back to the Brody community,” said Dr. Nicholas Benson, the school of medicine’s interim dean. “He has had a very successful career as a scientist with continuing extramural funding and as an administrator for research programs at Emory University. He will bring a new level of expertise in bench research to us that will greatly enrich the science our faculty do here at Brody and across ECU.”

Price said that he is thrilled to be selected for the position, which represents a homecoming for him.

“During the interview process, I was drawn back to ECU by the palpable renewed commitment to research and the desire of the faculty and leadership to build on the current strong foundation at BSOM,” he said. “I am excited about the partnership between BSOM and Vidant Health and the combined efforts to provide communities throughout eastern North Carolina with access to the most up-to-date clinical trials and health care.”

Having authored more than 100 publications and book chapters, Price is a recognized leader in his field. His research is directed towards explaining the mechanisms that cause muscle atrophy in chronic conditions such as end-stage kidney disease and diabetes. He serves on editorial boards for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology. He has previously served on the editorial boards of Kidney International and the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In addition, Price is on the Executive Council for the International Society of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism.

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine's extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine’s extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Before earning his PhD in biochemistry at ECU, Price completed a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Cellular Metabolism at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Benson thanked Dr. Jeff Smith for his service as interim associate dean for research and graduate studies since March 2016. Smith is professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology at Brody.

Price’s appointment follows Tuesday’s announcement that the Brody School of Medicine has named Dr. Mark Stacy as its new dean. Stacy begins his role on Sept. 1.



-by Angela Todd, University Communication




ECU physician appointed to state environmental commission

An East Carolina University physician was recently appointed to the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission.

Gov. Roy Cooper named Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, to the only seat designated for a licensed medical doctor on the 15-member commission.

The commission is responsible for overseeing and adopting rules for the protection, preservation and enhancement of the state’s air and water resources. The group’s regulations are administered by several divisions within the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that are aimed at protecting environmental quality and public health. The DEQ also offers technical assistance to businesses, farmers, local governments and the public and encourages responsible behavior with respect to the environment through education programs.

Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

“My goal in serving in this role is to help assure that health needs and public health priorities are considered and prioritized as the commission addresses issues in our state,” Lazorick said. “My experience at ECU will be very important regarding applying principles of community engagement and also incorporating the needs of the rural areas of the state. Since most of North Carolina is rural, it is critical that the EMC recognizes the needs of the many communities that are in rural areas.”

Lazorick’s clinical work takes place at the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center, a tertiary care clinic for obese children. She works with several statewide efforts for obesity prevention and has served on multiple committees for the N.C. Division of Public Health.

She has partnered with a former teacher from rural eastern North Carolina to study a middle school-based obesity intervention and since 2008 has been funded by several foundations and the N.C. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) to study the effectiveness of the intervention, which will be implemented in 51 schools in the fall of 2017.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Lazorick completed her medical degree and a master’s in public health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she remained for residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics. She practiced primary care for several years at a rural health center before returning to UNC for fellowship training in primary care research and preventive medicine.

Lazorick will serve a four-year term on the commission.



-by Amy Ellis, University Communication 



ECU professor of medicine named administrator for federal agency HRSA

A professor of medicine in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has been appointed by President Donald Trump as the new administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On May 1, Dr. George Sigounas assumed oversight of HRSA, the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, or economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA’s $10.5 billion annual budget expands access to quality health care through an array of grants to state and local governments, health care providers and health professions training programs.

Dr. George Sigounas (Contributed photo)

Dr. George Sigounas (Contributed photo)

Sigounas has served for 23 years as a professor of medicine at Brody, where he helped establish the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program. His work with this program gave him extensive experience in designing and conducting clinical trials, preparing patient treatment protocols and performing fiscal management. He also directed the Cellular Therapies Clinical Unit which provided the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program with the cells used to transplant cancer patients.

“One of my primary reasons for coming to the Brody School of Medicine was to have the opportunity to participate in developing and operating a cellular therapies program that would provide service to the patients of eastern North Carolina,” Sigounas said. “The purpose of the program was for patients to remain close to home and not have to travel more than 100 miles to receive necessary treatment.

“Through the bone marrow program and by serving as faculty at a school focused on primary care for 23 years,” Sigounas added, “I developed a unique perspective on treating the undeserved and rural medicine as a whole, as well as on the providers who make this their professional objective… it was an eye-opening experience regarding the commitment and sacrifice which must be made to improve health care for those who need it most.”

In her recent announcement about Sigounas’ appointment, Diana Espinosa, deputy administrator for HRSA, said, “His involvement in the establishment and operation of a bone marrow transplantation program, clinical trials, and patient committees have provided Dr. Sigounas with extensive understanding of the various aspects involved in patient treatment, including treatment processes, and financial issues.”

From 1987 to 1994, Sigounas was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health and the Naval Medical Center. Through the years, his research efforts have resulted in several U.S. and international patents.

Sigounas earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Patras in Greece, a master’s in physiology and biology from Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. in cell biology and physiology from Boston University.

Sigounas is on an approved leave of absence from Brody and expected to return in January 2020.



-by Amy Ellis, University Communication

Gift honors medical providers who put patient first

While supporting her younger sister through a number of severe illnesses over four decades, Dr. Laura Gantt witnessed both the best and the worst in health care.

Her experiences taught her that one thing distinguishes exceptional care: compassion – or as Gantt puts it, “truly caring about patients and their families.”

Gantt’s sister, Madeline, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 14 and developed a series of chronic illnesses as an adult. When her health declined severely in 2010, Madeline moved to Greenville to live with Gantt, associate dean for nursing support services in the College of Nursing at East Carolina University.

Laura Gantt, left, with her sister, Madeline. (contributed photo)

Laura Gantt, left, with her sister, Madeline. (contributed photo)

It was then that Dr. Michael Lang, a clinical associate professor in ECU’s Brody School of Medicine who is board-certified in both psychiatry and internal medicine, took over Madeline’s care and the Gantt family found a level of support they hadn’t known previously.

“He was both her primary care physician and her psychiatrist,” Gantt explained. “I would have been in a much more horrible place without him because he helped me manage things really well.”

Lang oversaw Madeline’s care until she passed away from cancer at age 57 in June 2016.

Shortly after her sister’s passing, Gantt honored the compassion she and her family had experienced by making a planned gift to establish the Madeline S. Gantt Endowed Professorship in Psychiatry. She also created the Madeline Gantt Endowment to support continuing education for the ECU Internal Medicine-Psychiatry Residency Program, which Lang directs.

“This gift is going to provide ongoing education on arguably the most important aspect of care,” said Lang, “which is how the patient and the patient’s family improve with what we’re doing and making sure they partner in the patient’s recovery.”

The endowment also supports the new Department of Internal Medicine Compassion in Medicine Awards Luncheon. The goal of the event is to help new physicians learn to keep the needs of patients and families at the center of their practice. Together the gifts will total more than $430,000.

“Compassion in care and providing patients with a compassionate medical home is a top priority for us at ECU,” said Dr. Paul Bolin, professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. “This gift enables us to emphasize that and keep it central in our training of young physicians.”

From left, Dr. Johnathan Polak, Dr. Laura Gantt, Dr. Michael Lang and Dr. Jim Peden at the first Compassion in Medicine Awards Luncheon. (contributed photo)

From left, Dr. Johnathan Polak, Dr. Laura Gantt, Dr. Michael Lang and Dr. Jim Peden at the first Compassion in Medicine Awards Luncheon. (contributed photo)

Addressing about 100 physicians at the inaugural Compassion in Medicine event on April 28, internist/psychiatrist Dr. Jim Peden, Brody’s associate dean for admissions, spoke about his experiences as a two-time cancer survivor. In 2001, Peden was diagnosed with a myxoid liposarcoma – a rare kind of cancer that grows in connective tissue, most often in the limbs – in his right lower leg. He underwent multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy before experiencing a recurrence that led to an above-the-knee amputation in 2004.

In his address, Peden discussed the anxiety he experienced during periods of uncertainty, how sharing his situation openly with friends and colleagues resulted in added support, and how he used humor to cope with treatment and a new disability. He also recounted the different ways his doctors relayed troubling information.

“Having bad news broken to me a lot informed the way I break bad news,” he said, describing examples of both upsetting and reassuring approaches he experienced.

Also at the event, Johnathan Polak, a second-year internal medicine resident, received the first Madeline S. Gantt Endowed Resident Physician Award. Gantt relayed how Polak, who assisted with Madeline’s care, insisted on giving her sister the best care possible at the end of her life.

The award recognizes a resident who provides exemplary care to patients and provides funds for the recipient to attend a professional development opportunity of their choosing.

“It’s easy to fall into the training impulse ‘if this, then that,’” Polak said. “There’s so much more to medicine, really to being human, if we could all just take a moment and think about the other perspectives, the world would be a better place.”

To learn more about how gifts to the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation can express appreciation for excellent medical care, contact Kathy Brown, senior advancement officer, at



-by Elizabeth Willy, University Communication



Honor society inducts new members

The East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) recently inducted seven new members.

Third-year medical students Amanda Carringer, Drew Crenshaw, Jinal Desai, Drew Gardner, Talia Horwitz, Wooten Jones, and Jaleeka Rudd were chosen by their peers for membership and honored at a dinner and induction ceremony at Ironwood Golf and Country Club on May 1.

Recent inductees into the Brody School of Medicine chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society are, front row from left, Wooten Jones, Drew Crenshaw and Drew Gardner; back row from left, Jaleeka Rudd, Talia Horwitz, Jinal Desai and Amanda Carringer. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

Recent inductees into the Brody School of Medicine chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society are, front row from left, Wooten Jones, Drew Crenshaw and Drew Gardner; back row from left, Jaleeka Rudd, Talia Horwitz, Jinal Desai and Amanda Carringer. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

“The Gold Humanism Honor Society recognizes students, residents and faculty who are exemplars of compassionate patient care and who serve as role models, mentors and leaders in medicine,” said Dr. Hellen Ransom, assistant professor of bioethics at Brody and GHHS faculty advisor. “GHHS members are the individuals whose peers would want them taking care of their own families.”

Drs. Manuel Izquierdo, left, and Hannah Fuhr, 2017 recipients of the Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. Not pictured is Dr. Stephanie Simmons.

Drs. Manuel Izquierdo, left, and Hannah Fuhr, 2017 recipients of the Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. Not pictured is Dr. Stephanie Simmons.

Also recognized at the event were the 2017 recipients of the Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Internal medicine resident Dr. Hannah Fuhr, internal medicine-pediatrics resident Dr. Manuel Izquierdo and obstetrics-gynecology resident Dr. Stephanie Simmons were selected by the third-year medical class for exemplifying humanism in their teaching and patient interactions.

Established in 2002 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) is an international association of individuals and medical school chapters whose members are selected as exemplars of empathy, compassion, altruism, integrity, service, excellence and respect in their relationships with patients and others in the field of medicine.

The Brody chapter of the organization was founded in 2011. Membership is by peer selection in the third year of medical school. During their fourth year, members are responsible for executing a project that exemplifies humanism, sponsoring a fundraising event and participating in National Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care.



-by Amy Ellis, University Communication 


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