In this graduation season, we should note with pride that 40 years ago ECU graduated its first class of physicians. This remarkable feat was accomplished just 16 years after Chancellor Leo Jenkins launched parallel efforts to obtain university status for East Carolina College and start a new medical school. Transforming ECU into an institution of national stature with a new school of medicine sparked remarkable advances in our community and region, which provides a very positive story to tell as ECU focuses on an innovative future under our new chancellor.
The advances in Greenville and Pitt County since 1981 have been nothing short of miraculous. We went from being a small town to a modern metropolitan city with recreational and dining options worthy of appreciation by our friends in the piedmont. Our community hospital, which has grown into one of the largest academic medical centers in the country, sits on a health sciences campus that is the envy of the state.
By design, the schools and colleges of ECU Health Sciences are on one campus contiguous with the medical center and other health facilities. This geographic clustering combines essential clinical, educational and research components in one administrative unit, replicating how modern health care teams care, learn and discover together. A marvelous result of Chancellor’s Jenkins vision, ECU Health Sciences annually produces more health care professionals that any university in North Carolina.
This observation is not meant to diminish the esteemed contributions of ECU in the arts and athletics, business and biotechnology, and engineering, education, and entrepreneurship. But medicine and the health sciences led Greenville to national prominence, made even more apparent recently by the contributions of ECU Health Sciences in the battle against the pandemic.
More than an ending, graduations are often the beginning of something great. The graduation of those first ECU physicians in 1981 was the beginning of ECU Health Sciences — a connection of medical and health efforts that has vastly improved life for the people of eastern North Carolina and caused Greenville and the region to prosper and thrive. As ECU looks forward to an innovative future in ways yet imagined, ECU Health Sciences will continue to lead the way.
Herb Garrison is associate dean for graduate medical education and professor of emergency medicine at East Carolina University.