Change is coming as Vidant Health and the Brody School of Medicine are approved to begin joint operations as ECU Health after the UNC system approved their partnership on Thursday.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors unanimously approved a joint operating agreement during its regular meeting. The agreement will allow Vidant and the medical school to combine clinical and medical practices and operate under the name ECU Health.

Board of Governor’s Chairman Randy Ramsey called the approval “a monumental day for health care in eastern North Carolina.”

ECU’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the agreement on Nov. 12. Vidant Health’s Board of Directors and the Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees gave the agreement their approval on Tuesday.

Pitt County’s Board of Commissioners signed off on the agreement at the end of its meeting on Monday. Commissioners’ approval was needed because the hospital was owned by the county until the late 1990s, when it was over to a private, not-for-profit entity.

The UNC decision was the final approval needed for the agreement to be finalized.

Under the agreement, the Brody School and Vidant will retain their separate legal entities but function collaboratively under the shared brand, which is expected to launch in 2022. ECU Physicians and most entities under the Vidant umbrella will operate as ECU Health, but the Brody School of Medicine’s name will not change.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of Vidant Health and dean of the Brody School of Medicine, said Thursday that Vidant Medical Center and the other nine Vidant hospitals will undergo a name change, but no decision has been made as to what they will be called.

“The new brand will be ECU Health,” Waldrum said. “Exactly what that looks like and the brand is being developed. Vidant as a name will be replaced on all of our facilities.”

“The groups are working to develop that. We want to hear from our members and boards on what they think is the best brand identity, but (ECU Health) will be the brand name. The exact images and those kinds of things are under development.”

The terms of the joint operating agreement will take effect Jan. 1, 2022. Waldrum said that the name reveal can be expected in January or February. After that, the process of changing signage and other materials will begin.

ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers released a statement on the approval on Thursday.


“Today’s approval by the UNC Board of Governors allows ECU and Vidant to begin the detailed work to launch a clinically integrated academic health system,” Rogers said. “We are grateful for their support as we work together to provide quality health care for the residents of eastern North Carolina.

“This agreement represents an important milestone in the long-standing affiliation between two entities bound by the same mission as we become ECU Health.”

Waldrum and Dr. Jason Higginson, executive dean of Brody, said that opportunities for training and students are being multiplied through the agreement. Waldrum said that means students, residents, nurses and others going into the medical field will continue ECU’s history as the UNC System’s top producer of health care workers.

“It is always important for us to remind ourselves ECU trains more health professionals than any of the university system organizations,” Waldrum said. “We are very proud of that part of our heritage here at ECU. For our physicians specifically, we have already started mapping out locations where they can do preceptorships. This allows us to take some of the barriers that have historically prevented that from happening and opening up locations.”

Higginson said that finding a place for students was a top priority, noting that the joint operation bridges a gap.

“That was one of the first calls we got,” Higginson said. “As a physician who has practiced here for 10 years, with my specialty hospital-based, I have felt the divide for the whole time I have been here. I wondered often early in my career, ‘Why are we arranged this way?’

“This is the correct orientation of an academic medical center and a medical school,” he said. “For me it is like a 10-year dream come true. For many people it is a 50-year dream come true.”

Waldrum said that hopes were high for new programs funded in the state budget signed Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper. Funding includes a $215 million building to house the Brody School, as well as $2.95 million for a program that places medical residents in a rural location for more than 50 percent of their training.

“Recently we have started a rural residency training program with the help of our legislators and we are thankful to see that that support is going to continue with the budget,” Waldrum said.

Waldrum said that the new Brody building will provide a total package.

“The impact this new facility will have on patient care, education, research and regional health is immeasurable,” Waldrum said. “The new classrooms, clinical space, labs and technology will allow our faculty to build on the tradition of excellence at the Brody School of Medicine as we educate the next generation of North Carolina’s physicians to provide care in our region and across the state.”

“We appreciate the legislature and the governor recognizing that Brody is a significant contributor to the health care of the state, in particular the health care of people in the East, and a leader in the creation of a diverse health care workforce,” Higginson said.

Contact Pat Gruner at pgruner@reflector.com and (252)-329-9566.