ECU, UNC-Pembroke officials sign public health partnership agreement

Officials from East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday morning that will improve research and educational opportunities at both schools in the field of public health.

The agreement outlines their commitment to a collaborative relationship that will enable faculty from both institutions to work together on research and educational initiatives and provide an easier path for graduates of UNC-Pembroke to matriculate to degree and certificate programs offered by ECU’s Department of Public Health.

“Like all of our system institutions, ECU and UNC-Pembroke care deeply about the people in the state of North Carolina,” said Dr. Mark Stacy, dean of ECU’S Brody School of Medicine and interim vice chancellor for ECU’s Division of Health Sciences. “Today we are formalizing a partnership that provides educational and research opportunities for our students and faculty, and will align our mutual interests in improving the safety and health for the people in our region.”

During the signing event, which took place at ECU’s William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library, UNC-Pembroke Chancellor Dr. Robin Gary Cummings discussed how the partnership with ECU is another step forward for UNC-Pembroke in elevating its region.

Robeson County, where Pembroke is located, is consistently ranked as the poorest county in the state, and the surrounding counties are not far behind. The vast majority of UNC-Pembroke’s students hail from that region and return to the region to work upon graduation, Cummings said.

“Education really is the American Dream. It’s the pathway to success and the pathway to the middle class. Partnerships like this help make it easier for students in southeastern North Carolina to access those pathways,” Cummings said. “This is about collaboration, coordination and working with our sister institutions to do what’s right for southeastern North Carolina and for our students.”

The agreement will also enable faculty at both institutions to establish collaborative research and educational relationships focused on improving the health of eastern North Carolinians and training the region’s next generation of public health and health care professionals.

The proposed initiatives for this collaborative relationship include:

  • Research projects funded through jointly submitted research grant proposals.
  • Co-authored publications.
  • Co-sponsored conferences or distinguished speakers focusing on a public health topic of relevance to the region.
  • Guest lectures and/or jointly taught courses in degree programs at each institution.
  • Co-sponsored service activities, such as relief efforts and community educational programs.

This is the second public health partnership with a fellow UNC System school for ECU, which plans to open a new School of Rural Public Health in August 2020. The university’s other public health partnership is a student-centric partnership with UNC-Wilmington.

“Robeson County… has the lowest health outcomes out of any of the 100 counties in the state, so there’s a need to have strategies to address those issues – not only from a health care perspective, but from a public health perspective,” said Dr. Ronny Bell, chair of ECU’s Department of Public Health. “This relationship gives us another opportunity to try to address those issues.”

ECU grad students Alexis Parale, left, Megan Rhyne and Heidi Knecht set a mosquito trap in the backyard of a home in a subdivision in Winterville. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

ECU grad students Alexis Parale, left, Megan Rhyne and Heidi Knecht set a mosquito trap in the backyard of a home in a subdivision in Winterville. (Photo by Rhett Butler)