As the nation honors the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Vidant Health team members took a moment to reflect on what it means to care for others through the impactful work they do each day to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Advanced Heart Failure & Mechanical Circulatory Support Social Worker Terrani Moore has assisted patients at Vidant Health for nearly 10 years. “I enjoy people—that is one of the biggest things that drove me to this profession and being able to care for people,” Moore said. “I love having the opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives and not only for me to make the changes but to empower them to make changes.”

Vanessa Polk, a chaplain with Pastoral Care at Vidant Medical Center, shares this sentiment. “Each day I have an opportunity to be with individuals at their most vulnerable moments –from the birth a child to a poor prognosis to a family crisis to coping with the impact of the pandemic to the end-of-life of a love one,” Polk said. “What I find most meaningful about what I do is that it allows me to offer others sacred attentiveness that communicates to them that I care and they are safe with me.”

Jannette Nelson, an Experience greeter at James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital, understands the importance of making sure patients, who she refers to as “her angels,” are comfortable during each visit. “My motto is love what you do, treat others as they wish to be treated and always remember your name goes further than you do, and it’s up to you the way you want it to go,” Nelson said. “You have to have compassion and that’s why I say treat others as you wish to be treated. If that were my child—what would I do? If it were me, what would I want someone else to do?”

Rev. Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” It’s a question that resonates among those who have chosen health care as a profession—especially as COVID-19 continues to affect the industry in countless ways.

“I am very blessed to work with a team that all of us have a heart for people for our patients and the community around us,” said Moore. “We are able to help patients but if we see others in need outside our building, we offer a helping hand, a listening ear.”

Gratitude for one another—and the inspiration that comes along with watching fellow team members support others—also provides deep meaning for Chaplain Polk.

“During the early stages of the pandemic when we were trying to figure out innovative means to provide spiritual care for patients who had restricted physical access to their loved ones, [my colleague] Father Gaston never wavered,” Polk said.

“Whenever I became overwhelmed by the impact COVID-19 was having on our patients and team members, Father Gaston’s expressions of faith and words of wisdom strengthened me and drew me back onto the path of my purpose. Without dismissing the reality of human experiences, Gaston has a special way of helping others to find peace and fortitude within the distress of their uncertainties.”

On this day of honor and remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy he leaves behind, we find meaning in the important work Chaplain Polk, Janette Nelson, Terrani Moore and other Vidant Health team members do in support of eastern North Carolina.

Thank you for what you do today and every day in service to eastern North Carolina.

Community | Health News

Vidant Health continually reinvests dollars back into the health system to fulfill our mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. With a focus on team member and patient experience, we reinvest in our care environments, including technology and unit aesthetics throughout the health system every year.

The Renal Dialysis Unit (RDU) at Vidant Medical Center (VMC) moved to a new, reconstructed space on 1 East with upgraded amenities, more space and increased privacy for patients.

The RDU provides numerous treatments for patients including hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and apheresis. Laura Respess, manager of Patient Care Services, said hemodialysis (or the removal of waste from the blood) involves two venipunctures if the patient has a graft or fistula, or by accessing the central line, and then hooking the patient to a dialysis machine. Blood is pulled out a little at a time, goes through the dialyzer to remove toxins and/or fluid and is then returned to the patient. Intensive treatments such as hemodialysis mean that patients spend a lot of time in the hospital, and the new RDU offers a more peaceful and private experience for patients while receiving treatment.

The new space on the first floor offers easier accessibility for patients due to location, and improved patient flow with an increased bay count from 12 to 20. Additional amenities such as TVs in each bay offer patients a welcome distraction from treatment.

This upgraded unit has received glowing reviews from patients, providers and the RDU care team in the short time it has been open. Patients have praised the larger bays with TVs and privacy, while providers have been excited about new machines and the presence of windows that provide brightness in the space.

“The team experience is enhanced because we are all on one floor (previously it was split on two floors). There is plenty of storage space, and everything is new, clean and inviting,” Respess said.

By reinvesting back into the system, we are improving the quality of care for patients, and enhancing experiences for patients and team members. As we look toward our future as ECU Health, the care and services provided, such as renal dialysis treatments, will have even greater impact for those we proudly serve.

Featured | Health News

One year ago, the Vidant Medical Center (VMC) Pharmacy team distributed the first rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals and clinics throughout our region. The VMC Pharmacy team serves as one of 11 vaccine distribution hubs – and the primary hub for eastern North Carolina – designated by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). These 11 hubs provide vital access to the vaccine across regions and serve as one point of distribution during periods of short supply.

Since December 2020, the VMC Pharmacy has distributed over 240,000 doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (J&J) vaccines throughout the region, which includes over 100,000 doses to 65 different providers. Distribution of the vaccine ranges from local area medical offices to health departments in New Hanover to Halifax counties. The team also provides vaccines to communities as far away as Ocracoke Island. Assistant Pharmacy Director Andy Grimone explained, “To get nearly 250,000 doses of vaccine and supplies to where they need to be takes a tremendous amount of teamwork and logistics. This team knew the importance of this project and never looked back.”

Vaccine distribution requires coordination starting in the Pharmacy’s storeroom. The team packs and ships the vaccine under strict temperature monitored conditions and repackages supplies (such as needles, syringes, diluent, vaccine cards, etc.) in specific shipment quantities.

Transferred vaccine quantities range from one to 200 vials at a time to meet the needs of individual providers (i.e. small physician practices to mass vaccine clinics). In addition, each transferred vial has to be logged and approved by the NCDHHS via the COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS) to track vaccine inventory.

The VMC Pharmacy team also helps to coordinate vaccine shipments to VMG clinics, Vidant’s Occupational Health departments, Home Health and third-party partners across the region. Not surprising, the largest clinic supported by the Pharmacy team’s vaccine efforts was the Vidant/Pitt C​ounty Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center – where more than 80,000 does were administered between January and April 2021. This site required daily, diligent management and transportation of the vaccine, which could not have been accomplished without the help of Vidant couriers. The Vidant couriers have been critical in assisting with the successful distribution of vaccines to various locations across the system for the past year.​

Thank you to entire VMC Pharmacy team for helping provide doses of hope to our communities!

Covid-19 | Health News

For nearly two years, Vidant Health and Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University team members have demonstrated their resiliency and dedication to the patients and communities we serve throughout eastern North Carolina.

Vidant is proud to announce Dr. Nupur Sharma, senior resident physician in pathology in the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant, was awarded the David C. Leach Award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The Leach Award recognizes residents and fellows who have fostered innovation and improvement in their programs, advanced humanism in medicine and increased efficiency and emphasis on educational outcomes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sharma has adapted and innovated to help her colleagues continue to learn. While the pandemic limited clinical interactions for medical students and residents, Dr. Sharma began an online reading group with nearly 100 participants for other residents on hematopathology, the study of diseases of the cells that make up the blood.

Based on notes from these group discussions, Dr. Sharma and her colleague Dr. Akanksha Gupta, a hematopathology fellow from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, co-authored a board-review book.

“The most important mission at ECU is to provide high-quality education to its students,” Dr. Sharma said. “We use innovative learning strategies and delivery methods to maximize access. Now, residents can access these modules anywhere, anytime, making learning flexible. My work in the form of this comprehensive curriculum and an easy-to-read, board-review book reflects that mission and provides students with an innovative approach to learning.”

Dr. Sharma will be honored during the virtual 2022 ACGME Annual Education Conference being held March 30 through April 1, 2022.

Dr. Sharma’s efforts to support her colleagues and fellow physicians is an example of the dedication Vidant team members continue to display in the care they provide in the midst of enduring an ongoing pandemic.

“I hope that my journey motivates students to see opportunity in adversity,” she said. “The idea is to find creative solutions to challenges in education. I hope medical students will find my story inspiring and consider it as a career choice.”

The David C. Leach Award was created in 2008 to honor Leach, the former executive director of the ACGME (1997-2007), and his contributions to resident education and physician well-being. This award acknowledges and honors residents, fellows, and resident/fellow teams and their contributions to graduate medical education.

Dr. Sharma’s innovative leadership is an example of how Vidant and ECU work together to meet the combined mission to improve the health of eastern North Carolina. Through high-quality, mission-focused initiatives, Vidant and ECU are building upon the shared vision of creating the national model for rural health care.

Dr. Philip Boyer recommended Sharma for the award alongside Dr. Ann Sutton, clinical associate professor in pathology and Sharma’s mentor.

“Dr. Sharma has made truly exceptional contributions to curriculum development and teaching with an impact both locally in Greenville and nationally and internationally,” Dr. Boyer said. “She is developing skill sets that will serve her well as a fellow and as an academic pathologist.”

Please join us in thanking Dr. Sharma for her innovative work and all health care heroes for their lasting legacy as leaders in our communities.

Awards | Covid-19 | Health News

GREENVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 12, 2021) – Today, East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health took the first step in the final approval process in creating ECU Health with a goal of becoming a national academic model for providing rural health care.

ECU’s Board of Trustees approved a joint operating agreement between the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health that will enable the two organizations to more effectively and efficiently address current issues facing the region ­­­­— such as health disparities and care delivery obstacles ­­­­— while also better anticipating future health care and educational needs.

Dr. Michael Waldrum stands with ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers and Dr. Jason Higginson.

Under the joint operating agreement, the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health will retain their separate legal entities, but will function collaboratively under a new, shared brand launching in 2022, known as ECU Health. Most Vidant entities and ECU Physicians will operate under the new brand while the Brody School of Medicine’s name will not change.

“This agreement represents an important milestone in the long-standing affiliation between two entities bound by the same mission as we work toward the creation of ECU Health,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “It signals the point where we can begin to move forward together on our journey to launch a clinically integrated academic health system and deliver on the commitment to provide quality health care for all eastern North Carolinians.”

The agreement also requires approvals from the Vidant Health Board of Directors, Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners, and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. The UNC Board of Governors is expected to consider the agreement for final approval during its Nov. 17-18 meeting.

The majority of Vidant Health’s locations, Vidant Medical Group and ECU Physicians will rebrand to ECU Health. However, there are no changes to the employment status or benefits of current employees – and no assets are exchanged – as a result of the approval of the joint operating agreement.

ECU and Vidant Health announced their intentions to clinically integrate in June when Dr. Michael Waldrum, chief executive officer of Vidant Health and distinguished professor at the Brody School of Medicine, was appointed dean of the Brody School of Medicine. Waldrum continues to serve as CEO of Vidant Health in a dual role that is further outlined by the joint operating agreement.

“Today’s announcement is about the residents of eastern North Carolina and brings into reality the collective vision our two institutions have shared for nearly 50 years,” Waldrum said. “Rebranding Vidant to ECU Health in 2022 further signals and strengthens our commitment to bring the best research, doctors and care to the East. We have proven in recent years, and particularly during the pandemic, what can be accomplished when we focus our energies on the mission to improve the health of eastern North Carolina.”

The joint operating agreement is a legal framework that will allow the work of clinical integration and rebranding to begin in earnest with the purpose of:

  • Improving the value of and the access to quality care and providing patients with a more streamlined health care experience.
  • More efficiently using clinical staff across the combined operations, regardless of which organization employs them.
  • Helping to facilitate new strategies and interventions for the most prevalent health needs of eastern North Carolina.
  • Creating operational efficiencies and reducing costs.
  • Establishing a shared leadership and governance structure for ECU Health.

Under the terms of the agreement, which will be effective Jan. 1, 2022, the two organizations will work together to:

  • Evaluate and modify existing practices to improve quality and coordination of care.
  • Integrate certain management structures and strategic planning efforts.
  • Develop a plan for shared services to support the integrated entity.
  • Leverage the capabilities of each organization to advance the collective research and education infrastructure.
  • Coordinate philanthropic initiatives.

“Our mission has not and will not change. How we execute the mission is what is at issue,” said Dr. Jason Higginson, executive dean of the Brody School of Medicine. “We are going to be looking at areas where efficiencies can be built into our process and where value can be added to what we’re doing to improve the final outcome. So rest assured, what Brody is here for and what it stands for is not changing.”

Waldrum noted that the Brody School of Medicine has a rich history of training physicians for North Carolina and that mission will continue as ECU Health serves the 1.4 million residents of eastern North Carolina.

“Through harmonizing our operations wherever possible and building on our unique expertise in caring for rural and underserved communities, ECU Health will set the standard and be a national model for rural health care delivery,” Waldrum said.

About Vidant Health

Vidant Health is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed academic health system serving a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. The not-for-profit system is made up of more than 13,000 team members, nine hospitals including an academic medical center, home health, hospice, wellness centers, and Vidant Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician and provider group with more than 500 providers in more than 100 practice sites in eastern North Carolina. Vidant is affiliated with The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. As the largest employer in the East and a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. For more information, visit VidantHealth.com.

About East Carolina University

East Carolina University, or ECU as it’s best known, offers 87 bachelor’s, 68 master’s and 18 doctoral degrees to 28,000 students on its Greenville, North Carolina, campus and through an acclaimed online learning program. ECU also boasts the largest business school enrollment and largest number of new nurses and education professionals produced by a four-year North Carolina university, in addition to the largest studio art program in the state. Located near Atlantic coast harbors where pirates once roamed, ECU adopted the “Pirates” mascot in 1934 for its athletics program and competes in NCAA Division 1. Visit: www.ecu.edu.

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University was founded more than 40 years ago to increase the supply of primary care physicians serving North Carolina, improve the health status of eastern North Carolina and enhance access of minority and disadvantaged students to a medical education. Each year, the school graduates close to 86 medical students and welcomes about 125 residents and fellows. Brody consistently ranks No. 1 in North Carolina – and in the top 10% nationally – for graduating physicians who practice in-state, practice primary care and practice in rural and underserved areas. It also ranks in the top 10% nationally for graduating Black and Native American physicians.

Featured | Health News | Press Releases

Each year on Veterans Day, Vidant Health honors and thanks the nation’s military veterans for their bravery and service for our country.

This year, Vidant Medical Center (VMC) hosted a Veterans Day celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 10, to honor the nearly 500 veterans, in addition to the hundreds of military and veteran family members and those currently serving in a Reserve or Guard capacity, who are Vidant team members. Team members who have served in all branches of the military attended the event at VMC, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Reverend Raynard Griffin of Vidant’s pastoral team led attendees in prayer to reflect on their service. Van Smith, executive vice president at VMC, thanked team members for their service and for their hard work and dedication to caring for the community.

“Military service requires a commitment that is beyond the ability and comprehension of many,” said Smith. “In times of peace, and especially in times of war, it necessitates an allegiance to something greater than oneself. Here at Vidant Medical Center, we’re also called to a common purpose as stated in our mission statement: to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. In our veteran colleagues that we have here and that are serving right now throughout Vidant Medical Center and all across Vidant Health, we are fortunate to have people who know what it means to make a commitment like that. They’ve done it.”

Proud Air Force veteran now CVIU Staff Nurse at VMC

Among the 500 military veterans who now serve as Vidant team members is Audrey “Lee” Webb.

Born and raised in Windsor, North Carolina, Webb comes from a long line of family members who served in the military. Both her father and brother retired from the United States Army, while she was the first in her family to enlist and serve in the United States Air Force.

During her eight years in the Air Force, Lee traveled the world. She was stationed in Virginia, South Korea, Germany and Oklahoma. It was during her time in South Korea, that she picked up the nickname “Lee,” and it stuck with her ever since. Lee also served during Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia, and when her unit first arrived in the country, she was one of two women in a group of 67 men.

While enlisted, Lee worked in Non-Destructive Inspections (NDI). NDI personnel identify possible defects in systems and equipment. Wear, tear and fatigue occur in metals without visible signs. Similar to employing x-rays to visualize internal body parts, NDI personnel use non-invasive methods to inspect the insides of metal objects.

One of her most memorable times was being awarded the “Below the Zone.” Below the Zone is a competitive early promotion program that offers exceptional Air Force members the opportunity to earn their next rank six months early. Members are nominated by their chain of command and undergo a rigorous interview process to go over their major accomplishments and attributes. Lee was one of two Air Force members who earned Below the Zone in her unit.

After being honorably discharged from the Air Force as a Sergeant (E-4) in 1995, Lee came back to eastern North Carolina to use her GI bill to attend nursing school at Pitt Community College. Right out of college, she was hired at Vidant (previously Pitt Memorial Hospital). She has worked as a nurse at VMC for over 20 years now, currently serving as a Staff Nurse III on CVIU.

When asked how her military training has helped with her current career, she replied, “I am used to team building and teamwork. In the Air Force, we were mission-focused, and we are mission-focused in health care, as well.”

Lee said, “Traveling and serving in third-world countries and seeing the conditions there, really makes you appreciate what we have here. I am proud to have served our country. I love America!”

This Veterans Day – and every day – we are grateful to Vidant team members who served our nation and now serve eastern North Carolina. We are Vidant Proud of their commitment and dedication to improving the health and well-being of those around them. Please join us in thanking these heroes for all they do, for all of us. Watch a recap of the celebration at VMC below.

Community | Health News

Greenville, N.C. – Nov. 3, 2021 – Open enrollment is now open for Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance for uninsured community members ages 18-64 and Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) supplemental coverage for Medicare Part A plan members ages 65 and older.

SHIIP helps Medicare beneficiaries compare and enroll in plans that best fit their needs during the open enrollment period and can help identify other Medicare cost savings programs. Changes to Medicare coverage must be made by Dec. 7, 2021, to guarantee coverage will begin without interruption on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Our Access East SHIIP program helps seniors obtain free and unbiased counseling on Medicare health care products,” said Shantell Cheek, director, Access East Uninsured Programs. “It is important that consumers review their options and consult with our experts to avoid hurried and misinformed decisions. Our experts are here to help consumers navigate the complexities associated with insurance.”

Access East’s navigators also help community members seeking health-coverage through North Carolina’s federally funded ACA Healthcare Insurance Marketplace choose the best available plan, complete eligibility and enrollment forms and determine if they qualify for federal assistance to pay for premiums. Access East navigators provide free service through a grant-funded community service and provide impartial free assistance, receiving no commissions regardless of which insurance plan a consumer might choose. About 90 percent of North Carolinians who enrolled last year received financial assistance.

“Our ACA program helps underinsured community members receive access to medical care at competitive rates,” said Cheek. “I would implore all ACA and SHIIP eligible community members to consult with an expert to ensure they are obtaining insurance that meets their individual needs.”

The Annual Open Enrollment period for ACA is from Nov. 1, 2021 to Jan. 15, 2022. To enroll in ACA or speak with a Navigator, visit https://www.accesseast.org/aca-home/. 

The enrollment period for SHIIP is Oct. 15, 2021 to Dec. 7, 2021. To learn more about or enroll in SHIIP, please visit https://www.ncdoi.gov/consumers/medicare-and-seniors-health-insurance-information-program-shiip.

Health News | Press Releases

Over the last seven years, Vidant Medical Center (VMC) has partnered with organizations across eastern North Carolina to host Project SEARCH for exceptional Pitt County students.

Project SEARCH is an international transition program that provides real life work experiences to high school graduates with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The one-year program helps students learn various marketable skills that can help them gain employment after graduation from the program.

Lisa Lassiter, director of workforce development at Vidant Health, said Pitt County Schools approached Vidant about the possibility of partnering in the program. She took the lead on the Vidant side and attended meetings, worked with community partners and, with support and approval from senior leaders at the hospital, had a classroom for these students created at VMC.

Lassiter said she is grateful for the program, the students, community partners and everyone involved.

“I think this program and these kids have taught me more than I have ever been able to expose to each of them,” Lassiter said. “I was very limited in what I knew about exceptional children when the program began and they have opened my eyes and amazed me many times.”

Seven years in, the 2021-22 Project SEARCH class is the largest to date with nine students. These students spend time in the classroom learning employable skills and go out to internship sites throughout different departments at VMC to practice and refine these skills.

A Shining Example

For students that have an internship experience at the VMC cafeteria, they get a chance to work with a program graduate.

David Jenkins is a utility worker and is a direct supervisor for the Project SEARCH interns placed in the main cafeteria. Jenkins graduated from the program in 2019 and said he loves helping those going through their internships.

“I enjoy that a lot. I get to teach them about stuff that I know and I can sit back and watch them grow because of things that they learn from me,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully that will help them be a better citizen in this community.”

Jenkins had opportunities to intern in different areas throughout VMC during his year with Project SEARCH but enjoyed working in the cafeteria most. He said he felt a breakthrough when he asked to join team meetings during his internship and learned a lot about team goals.

He said it was important for him to go through the program and learn the important skills that have set him up for success today.

“My favorite part of going through the program was pretty much experiencing stuff that would be like the real world, such as advocating for myself, learning how to manage money, working with other people and how to interact with other people,” Jenkins said.

Katie Nagler Houmard, Project SEARCH instructor, said she was proud to see Jenkins’ growth from his time as a shy student to the leader he is today. She also said it’s important for current students to see what they can accomplish with Jenkins setting the example.

“We’ve seen that when they hear it from someone who has been where they are, they’re much more likely to really grasp it and take the advice,” Houmard said. “Sometimes when we tell them something, they could think, ‘What do you know? You’ve never been in my shoes.’ I think it’s inspiring for our current students to see him now in his role and working as part of the team at Vidant. It definitely gives them a good goal to work toward.”

Quintequa Weaver, Project SEARCH job coach, agrees. “I think just seeing him be a role model to the kids now is such a great thing to see,” she said.

It Takes a Village

Lassiter said community partnerships are an important part of what makes the program so special. While VMC hosts the classroom and offers the locations for internships, other community organizations contribute so much.

Pitt County Schools provide a teacher and identify students who make great candidates. RHA Health Services offers up a job coach to help students learn skills and work with them to find positions after graduation. On a state level, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities and North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation provide support as well.

Internally to Vidant, team members who support the program are invaluable. Bernard Dixon, assistant manager for Central Services at VMC, is one of many team members who supports Project SEARCH and students going through the program. He said he appreciates the opportunity to work with these exceptional students and help them grow as team members.

When a student is preparing for an internship, they go through the typical steps that any team member would take before joining a department.

“They come down and they interview for the position as a typical employee would and we sit down and talk with them,” Dixon said. “Once we sit down and talk, we find out what exactly they can do and what their skill level is. Once we determine what their skill level is, we treat them just like we would any other employee.”

He has found that as he works with the students in Project SEARCH, once they are comfortable in their role, they often exceed expectations. He said supporting the students—and not putting labels or limitations on them while also helping them learn employable skills—is the most important thing his team can do.

“We don’t want them to be labeled or anything like that,” Dixon said. “It’s not about saying they can’t do this or they can’t do that – no. Let them do what they do. We find out that a lot of them can do more than we think they can.”

Learn more

Community | Featured | Health News

Vidant Health hosted the Run, Walk & Roll to Independence Road Race on Saturday, Oct. 16 to get community members active and raise funds for Vidant’s Therapy and Rehabilitation Services.

Fifty-three runners came out for the event in Greenville and some participated virtually. The road race offered three distances for attendees, including a 100-yard dash for children, a 1-mile fun run and 5K race.

Clint Faulk, medical director for the Vidant Rehabilitation Center, said this is an important event to celebrate the Therapy and Rehabilitation services for the health system.

“Rehabilitation services really helps people get home again and get back into the community,” Faulk said. “Patients come in for different diagnoses and they go through therapies with us, three hours of therapy a day. It really is about getting people back home to their families and getting them into their community.”

The event was making its return after two years away; first a hurricane washed out the event in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic halted last year’s plans. Kasey Shue is a recreational therapist at Vidant and served as the chairperson for the event. She said she was thankful and excited to be back for this special event.

Shue knows firsthand the importance of the rehabilitation services Vidant offers. About five years ago, before becoming a Vidant team member, she was a patient going through rehabilitation for six weeks while recovering from a neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

“That actually inspired me to go back to school to become a recreational therapist,” Shue said. “I’m just one of the many members of the team that Vidant has on hand to help people live the most functional and active lifestyle they can, regardless of any medical condition, circumstance or disability that they may have.”

She said she was proud to serve as the chairperson for the road race and help organize the event along with Therapy and Rehabilitation Services colleagues.

“It’s just a personal passion of mine and this sort of event that supports rehab and encourages people to get out and continue to be active – even if they do live with some type of limitation or disability – I’m all for supporting that,” Shue said.

Proceeds from the road race benefited Vidant’s Therapy and Rehabilitation Services and in turn help community members in the program.

Visit the Vidant Rehabilitation Center Facebook page for more information and updates.

Community | Health News | Therapy & Rehabilitation

Burnout in health care providers is not a new concept but ideas and theories of how to avoid it are developing in unique ways.

Dr. Stephen Trzeciak served as the featured lecturer for the 13th annual José G. Albernaz Golden Apple Distinguished Lecture presented by ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation and Vidant Health. Dr. Trzeciak, chief of medicine at Cooper University Health Care and professor and chair of medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey, discussed compassion and the importance of meaningful connections in health care and everyday life.

A few years ago, Dr. Trzeciak was facing burnout as a health care provider and knew something needed to change.

As a person who loves research, he began to dig into related literature and studies that focused on combating burnout in providers. In medical school, he said, he was taught that caring too much and having too much compassion could cause a provider burnout more quickly. What he found in studies, however, painted a different picture.

“What the literature shows is that there is an association with compassion and burnout – but it’s inverse. If there’s high compassion, there’s low burnout. Why? Well, we don’t know for sure but I have my hypothesis,” Dr. Trzeciak said. “Because when you connect with people through compassion, and have a relationship that flows from that, you get the fulfilling part. If you don’t have that then all you have is a really stressful job.”

Key to Resilience is Relationships

He tested his hypothesis on himself, as a study subject of one and found that when he leaned into caring more rather than detaching, his feelings of burnout began to lift. It wasn’t just about connecting with and showing compassion to patients and families, but to everyone he worked with and interacted with—professionally and personally. He believes this method can work not only within health care but in every walk of life.

He challenged everyone who is feeling the effects of burnout to give his method a chance, not just because it has worked for him and helped change his life, but because it is backed by science.

He highlighted a Harvard University study that tracked students at the university and Boston-area teenagers throughout their lives and found the best predictor of good health and well-being into your 80’s is your midlife quality of relationships. Dr. Trzeciak said this and many other studies show that the key to resilience is relationships.

“That’s why it is vitally important in our health systems, in our medical schools, everywhere – at the shopping mall, at the grocery store – that we take good care of each other,” Dr. Trzeciak said. “You don’t have to be a health care provider to feel burnout, especially in 2021.”

Compassion in Health Care

Compassionate and caring environments not only help team members face less burnout, but also help patients see better outcomes.

During his lecture, Dr. Trzeciak discussed many studies pointing to positive results for patients whose health care providers show compassion in various ways. He said that he does not have any magical thinking about compassion and that the top determinant of clinical outcome is still clinical excellence.

However, he said no patient and no provider should have to choose between clinical excellence and compassionate care. It’s not an either-or choice, but a both-and.

In eastern North Carolina

Dr. Michael Waldrum, chief executive officer of Vidant and dean of the Brody School of Medicine, said it was no mistake that Vidant chose compassion as one of its core values six years ago—a thoughtful selection rooted in understanding what behaviors help patients, the communities Vidant serves and team members.

“As I think about that time and the now the world we live in today, with the most profound social and health care disruptions, with more Americans that died in any event in over 102 years… at no time is compassion more important than right now,” Dr. Waldrum said. “That is a really hard thing to deal with, those realities. The great thing is that we know we have solutions to the challenges we face and compassion is one of those solutions.”

Typically, the José G. Albernaz Golden Apple Distinguished Lecture is set for the first day of class for first-year Brody School of Medicine students. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held for a smaller audience with a few representatives from the first-year Brody class.

Dr. Waldrum said during the event that he recently had dinner with a group of first-year Brody students who discussed the need to bring greater compassion to health care.

“It was so impactful to me because I left that meeting last night and I’m just so proud to be in eastern North Carolina and having that dialogue and making compassion cool,” Dr. Waldrum said. “Because I think that’s what it takes. It takes intention in talking about it, understanding it and knowing we’ll never be perfect, but we’re all on this journey.”

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