ECU medical students honor patients who taught them lasting lessons

When Carolyn Moore found herself in the hospital late last year for the third time in a month, frustration was setting in.

A group of medical students trooped into her room at Vidant Medical Center, talked with Moore about her life, health history and current problems and left to go to the next patient.

“When they left and closed the door, it wasn’t but a minute before my door popped open,” Moore said. “He popped his head in and said, ‘I sing in my church choir too.’ When he said that, it was like a ray of sunshine to me. That was not a coincidence; that was a really good sign from him to me that he cared. And that’s how I came to know Brady.”

Moore was referring to Brady Buchanan, a student in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

The mother, grandmother, retired banker and Sunday school teacher was sick, and doctors were still exploring the origin of her ailment. Moore wanted to get back to singing in her church choir as soon as possible.


The two were reunited April 8 at ECU’s Murphy Center during the Legacy Teachers Celebration, a new tradition presented by Brody and Vidant Health that gives students a chance to honor a patient they met during third-year rotations who taught them lessons they will take with them into their careers as physicians.

Bright smiles lit up the room as patients and students were reunited in a non-clinical setting. As students met their patients at the door, they affixed special pins to the patients’ clothing to denote them as honored guests.

Moore and Buchanan chatted nonstop, smiling and laughing at a table as they prepared to eat lunch together.

“That experience taught me a lot about where I want to be in five or 10 years in my career,” Buchanan said. “It also reminded me that when medical school seems to be about grades, really what I’m doing it for is how well I know the patient.”

Medical student Jared Barkes’ Legacy Teacher, a pediatric patient, couldn’t attend the event, but Barkes honored his patient with a poem.

Medical student Kylie Nowicki affixes a special pin onto her Legacy Teacher Hilary Patty.

Medical student Kylie Nowicki affixes a special pin onto her Legacy Teacher Hilary Patty.

“We spend so much time training using books, but it’s not until you really start to talk to patients that you begin to learn what medicine is all about,” Barkes said. “This is our chance to give back to the patients who have taught us so much.”

Before lunch, Barkes got a chance to talk about the impact the young patient had on his decision to pursue pediatric neurology as a specialty.

“It’s exciting to know what you want to do,” he said, “and equally scary.”

This year’s Legacy Teachers Celebration continued a tradition that began in 2018 but was paused in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The luncheon also stood for hope and good health even as the pandemic continues. During the event, the patients and students — as well as faculty, administrators from ECU and Vidant Health and rising third-year medical students — enjoyed lunch before the program to honor the patients began.

“We have enjoyed the journey of making today’s celebration a reality,” said Dr. Julie Oehlert, chief experience officer for Vidant Health.

Dr. Amanda Higginson, associate dean for student affairs at Brody, said the event marked “the relationship and partnership between a health system and a school of medicine.”

Brian Floyd, Vidant Medical Center president and chief operating officer at Vidant Health, said the event signifies the trust that patients put in physicians and medical students when they need them most. That, in turn, he added, enhances the students’ learning processes.

Dr. Jason Higginson, executive dean of Brody, reminisced on caring for a patient with pancreatic cancer during the last week of his life who made a difference during Higginson’s medical school journey.

“I didn’t get to process it,” Higginson said of the experience. “Then I got a note from his wife.”

The note made Higginson realize the importance of the bond between patient and provider — and what being a physician really means.

Brody student Kari Beasley addressed the audience, explaining the roles of teaching and learning in the medical field. She praised the invaluable experiences the Legacy Teachers had given the students.

“We call them Legacy Teachers,” she said, “because they will remain a legacy in our hearts.”