UNC Board of Governors okay ECU-Vidant partnership

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 11:17 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2021 at 10:22 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - It’s now official. East Carolina University and Vidant Health can move forward with their partnership.

The UNC Board of Governors gave unanimous approval to the concept Thursday morning.

“This enables us to make our vision of becoming the model for rural academic health care by creating a regional rural academic population health company come to life,” Vidant Health CEO and dean of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine Dr. Michael Waldrum said.

Under the agreement, Vidant Health will become ECU Health and most of the hospital system’s facilities would carry that marketing brand.

Leaders from ECU and Vidant Health on Thursday discussed how the agreement fulfilled their combined mission better.

“To improve the health of eastern North Carolina, which is what bring people here to the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health,” Waldrum said. “And then to educate the future physicians that are North Carolinians for North Carolina, and give access to medical education for students that may not have access in other communities so they represent the communities that we serve, so that’s so important and exciting.”

Executive dean Dr. Jason Higginson echoed Waldrum.

“This is the correct orientation of an academic medical center and a medical school,” Higginson said. “So for me, it’s like a ten-year dream come true. For many people, it’s a 50-year dream come true. I think it is only good for the people of eastern North Carolina. We can get our students out in the space, we can manage health across the continuum and there won’t be these artificial divides.”

The joint operating agreement is a framework Waldrum said will bring them together to solve complex problems more efficiently as a team.

“And so we’re never going to be separate in solving these important issues that our communities face and how we serve them better and educate professionals in that space,” Waldrum said. “We have a lot of experts and we want them to help design the future state to educate in our communities and to provide excellent care across eastern North Carolina.”

Higginson said there are many other efficiencies that they can find through this process.

“It’s really taking the workforce that we have and putting them in the right situations to be effective to manage the huge amount of work that we have,” Higginson said.

Both Vidant Health and Vidant Medical Center’s boards gave their unanimous approval to the agreement on Tuesday.

Pitt County commissioners on Monday night voted unanimously for the plan.

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly expressed his support.

“It’s really big, we’re really excited to be able to have ECU and Vidant be under the same brand,” Connelly said. “ECU Health is gonna be an incredible asset to our community. I think it’s very important that we have good branding, we’ve always talked about having good branding here in eastern North Carolina, and to have those two entities basically combine with the same type of name, it’s gonna be very important.”

It all began this summer when ECU hired Vidant’s CEO to take on additional duties as the dean of the medical school.

University trustees approved the plan on Friday, while the UNC Board of Governors was the last body to give their approval.

The change takes effect on January 1st.

ECU said most Vidant Health locations, Vidant Medical Group and ECU Physicians will rebrand to ECU Health. However, there are no changes to the employment status or benefits of current employees, and no assets are exchanged, as a result of the joint operating agreement approval.

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