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ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers address the Board of Trustees on Friday in Greenville.

Vidant Health and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine are one step closer to becoming ECU Health.

East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees on Friday unanimously approved a joint operating agreement to integrate the medical practices of the Brody School of Medicine and with those of Vidant Health to create ECU Health. The vote is the first step in the final approval of the process.

Members of the board applauded following their decision. Prior to the vote, Scott Shook, chairman of the board, thanked all entities involved.

Under the agreement Brody and Vidant will retain their separate legal status but function collaboratively under a shared brand. The brand 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.

ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers said is a release issued by the university on Friday that the first step is a big one for the goal of establishing the joint entity.

“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,” 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 received approvals from the Vidant Health Board of Directors, Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees. It must get an OK yet from 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.

Vidant CEO Michael Waldrum will continue to serve as CEO of Vidant Health and was announced as dean of the Brody School of Medicine in June. Before leading Vidant, Waldrum served as president and CEO of the University of Arizona Health Network, where he had oversight of the academic health care organization. He also served as CEO of the University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham (UAB) and vice president of UAB Health.

“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.”

Dr. Jason Higginson has been appointed as executive dean of the Brody School of Medicine.

Higginson will be responsible for the operational aspects of all medical school activities. He will provide senior executive management of personnel and operations within ECU Physicians, the clinical practice of the Brody School of Medicine, and serve as a liaison between department chairs and the dean. He will also serve as the chief administrative officer of ECU Physicians for clinical areas and various transactions.

The vote capped off an hourlong meeting of the trustees, who heard from students, faculty and staff prior to taking action on items discussed in committee on Thursday.

The trustees voted in favor of fee increases for parking, dining, housing and ECU’s Dental School. There was no public discussion prior to the vote.

Two of the five fee increases recommended by the Finance and Facilities Committee for the dental school will need to be voted the Board of Governor’s approval next week.

The trustees approved the increase in dental students fees for liability insurance from $50 to $54, an electronic textbook fee from $888 to $1,005 and the American Student Dental Association fee from $110 to $120.

The Board of Governors will have a final say on special fee increases pertaining to housing fourth-year students, raising the fee from $1,200 to $1,395, and for preclinical materials to an across the board fee of $450.

Currently, dental students pay a fee determined by their time in the program, with first-year students paying $225, second-year students paying $200 and third-year students paying $360.

Dining fees were increased, with university officials on Thursday citing inflation and supply chain issues. Food service prices increase between 3 percent and 11 percent depending on a student’s meal plan. For instance, a student with a Pirate 40 meal plan with $350 in Pirate Bucks would see their meal plan increase from $3,950 to $4,060. A student with a 40 commuter meal plan would see an annualized meal plan increase from $1,330 to $1,440.

Housing fees will increase between $170 for standard residence halls to $190 for the College Hill Suites. The price of replacing a 1Card has also risen from $15 to $20.

Parking permits will increase by 2 percent, except reserved spaces for deans and chancellors, which will increase from $560 to $720. That additional revenue will be used to cover legislative salary and benefit increases, account for inflationary expense increases, technology and expansion. The increase also will not effect garage fees.

The board also voted in favor of entering the public phase of the university’s comprehensive campaign. Rogers said the campaign has already raised $300 million of its $500 million goal to advance and transform the institution. The campaign was initially discussed at a Board of Trustees retreat in Raleigh that was not streamed for the public.

The board approved also a recommendation from the University Affairs Committee to allow out-of-state students trying to become East Carolina scholars to pay in-state rates.

Margaret Turner, director of admissions and recruiting for the Honors College, said the move makes EC Scholars a more competitive program.

“We currently have out of state students who are EC Scholars, despite the fact that they have to pay out of state tuition rates,” Turner said. “However, this statute would allow us the opportunity to be on the same playing field as our sister or peer programs such as Morehead Cain, Park, and Levine merit scholarship programs.”

The following items were approved by the board as part of its consent agenda.

  • Non-salary compensation car allowances for athletics staff who travel as part of their jobs.

A ground lease of 13.7 acres to Pacesetter Land Company, LLC, as part of the East Carolina Millennial Campus Warehouse District project. The rate of lease will be based on a board approved developer agreement that was decided on in 2020.

  • The demolition of eight buildings on the same site, none of which Coleman said were historical buildings. The board clarified on Friday that not all eight buildings will necessarily be demolished.
  • A naming catalog for the university’s new Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building, which had a ribbon cutting Thursday. Putting a name on the whole building would require a gift of $10 million.
  • A nonsalary compensation plan for coaches to receive academic or competitive bonuses for team performance.

New building, bad roof

The university’s $90 million bio-technology building that opened Thursday on 10th Street needs roof repairs due to contractor error, officials said Friday.

Bill Bagnell, associate vice chancellor for campus operations, told the Finance and Facilities Committee on Thursday that water damage to insulation on the roof would need to be addressed. ECU News Services on Friday responded to a request for more details.

“During construction of the building, undetected gaps in the roof flashing and metal coping allowed water intrusion under the roof membrane and wet the insulation below,” the university said in an email. “The water intrusion was mitigated and repaired, but the wet insulation needs to be removed and replaced to assure the longevity of the roof system. There was no damage to the building below the roof, due to a waterproof membrane that is installed under the insulation and adhered to the roof deck.

Replacement roof materials are expected to arrive in February and selective sections of the roof membrane and insulation will be removed and replaced.

Completion is expected by April 2022. The repairs will come at no cost to the university.

“This is a contractor installation error, and they are taking care of the costs,” a spokeswoman said. “It is considered a partial roof replacement and mainly involves insulation.”

The building was funded through the $2 billion Connect NC Bond Referendum approved by voters in 2016.

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