New scholarship to benefit public health students

A new public health scholarship will help East Carolina University students interested in working in long-term care, an increasingly important area of study as the state and nation’s population ages rapidly.

The J. Craig Souza Scholarship Endowment will support students within the master of public health program who demonstrate financial need and an interest in health administration with a focus on long-term care.  It is the first endowed scholarship in public health.

Department chairman Dr. Ronny Bell said he hopes the scholarship will attract more students to public health. “Health administration is really our strongest concentration, and this will make it even stronger,” he said.

The scholarship’s namesake, Craig Souza, is an ECU alumnus, former chair of the ECU Board of Trustees and former member of the UNC Board of Governors. However, it was his career in health care that led to the latest scholarship.

Souza spent the last 40 years in long-term health care, many as the president of the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association. As a retirement gift, his colleagues started a campaign to endow a scholarship at ECU that he would be passionate about. Souza himself has since donated to the fund, which now totals $75,000. His goal is to get it to $100,000, he said.

“The population is aging and there are many needs unique to people who are older nationwide but particularly in eastern North Carolina,” Souza said. “I’m passionate about making sure North Carolina’s public education system is accessible to everyone at the lowest possible cost. That’s true in the health care field as well. We have to make sure services are in the rural areas.”

The number of individuals using long-term care services will likely double from the 13 million using services in 2000, to 27 million people in 2050, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina is 20th in the nation in the projected growth rate of the population over 85, which is at greater risk for chronic illnesses and in need of long-term care, according to AARP.

“ECU is at the forefront of being able to help the population understand the importance of long term care and its relevance to public health administration,” said Ruth Little, vice chair and assistant professor of public health.

Little teaches classes on long-term care and has worked with Souza on various health care initiatives over the years.

“He’s always been a staunch ECU believer and education supporter,” she said.

Souza said he always strives to give back, “whether it’s at ECU as a student or on the Board of Trustees or in my career. Whether its education or health care services, everyone needs to have the same access, and it needs to be of high quality.”

Craig Souza is helping fund ECU’s first endowed scholarship in public health.

Craig Souza is helping fund ECU’s first endowed scholarship in public health.