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Today, the third Thursday of November, is National Rural Health Day.
As a leader in rural health care and education, I wanted to take this opportunity to shine a light on rural health care and celebrate the team that makes up ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine and thank them for their contributions to our great rural region.
I am a trained critical care doctor and although I do have an English degree, it is at times difficult for me to adequately write about the importance of rural health care.
How do you properly put into words the impact of the country doctor who dedicates their career to caring for generations of neighbors, family members and friends in their hometown? How can you express the relief a child feels when they arrive to the hospital and learn that dad is going to be just fine following emergency open heart surgery? How can you show the pride a family exudes when they welcome a newborn to the world, sharing joy in the same delivery unit they themselves were born in?
These emotions are felt every single day in rural communities across America including eastern North Carolina. It’s difficult to describe, but I’ve witnessed firsthand these moments and it’s a powerful sight. But the future of rural health care in many communities is fraught at best and unsustainable at worst. It is easy and sometimes tempting to only focus on the unfortunate realities facing rural health care.
After all, 183 rural hospitals have shut down nationally since 2005 and many more continue to struggle.
Despite these realities, I am an optimist at heart and while the health care profession
faces unprecedented transformation, the miracles of medicine remain a constant. Rural health care professionals, and especially those who serve at ECU Health, are symbols of all that is good in medicine. They practice in communities where chronic conditions are prevalent, insurance is rare and health care facilities are few and far between. They don’t provide care for the money or the notoriety; they do it because if they didn’t, then who would?
We created ECU Health earlier this year with these realities in mind. A health system is so much more than a collection of hospital buildings and clinics. The team members who work here truly personify the region and we wanted our name and logo to reflect that. We wanted to ensure that our patients know that the care we provide is backed by the educational excellence happening at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. More than anything else, we wanted eastern North Carolina to know that ECU
Health will always represent them. That’s a testament to the 13,000 ECU Health and Brody team members, who embody our mission and serve our communities.
National Rural Health Day is a day to shine a light on the contributions of rural health
professionals across the country. No one knows what the future may hold, but here in eastern North Carolina, I know that we will solve the challenges we face and we will ultimately realize our vision to become a national model for rural health care. It will take continued commitment, but I know our team members will continue to strive for this goal with the perseverance, dedication and compassion that defines the communities and region we serve.
Mike Waldrum, MD, MSc, MBA
Chief Executive Officer, ECU Health
Dean, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University