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Health Care

Health Care Heroes: Innovation

By Staff Reports, posted Oct 20, 2017
Here are the finalists in the 2017 Health Care Heroes Innovation category.

Honors an individual or team behind a new scientific discovery, procedure, treatment or device that can save lives or improve the quality of life for a large number of people.


Kevin McNabb

TITLE: Director of microbiology, immunology and molecular testing

ORGANIZATION: New Hanover Regional Medical Center

WHAT THE NOMINATOR SAID: “With a Ph.D. in microbiology, Kevin understands the importance of accuracy and efficiency in laboratory testing and its relationship to patients’ recovery. Prior to working at NHRMC, Kevin was a career U.S. Army officer who worked in laboratories at military facilities throughout the world.

These experiences allowed him to rapidly integrate into the NHRMC team, and his passion to offer outstanding care allowed him to work with lab leadership to implement award-winning changes to help patients receive the care they need to enhance recovery.

Notable contributions include NHRMC’s Microbiology Laboratory became the second fully automated microbiology lab in the country and the first in North Carolina. The automation reduced the time of testing, allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated two to three days quicker.

One of Kevin’s biggest accomplishments is bringing in rapid molecular identification for blood cultures, which provided positive ID and resistance markers, reducing the time to identification and treatment from 50 to three hours for patients with bloodstream infections. This reduced length of stay for these patients but most importantly reduced mortality from simple sepsis, equating to 31 lives saved.”

Iris Baker, NHRMC outreach coordinator


Sarah Towne

TITLE: Chief medical officer

ORGANIZATION: MedNorth Health Center

WHAT THE NOMINATOR SAID: “Ten years ago there was no treatment/cure for patients with hepatitis C; now it’s possible and may help save lives that would otherwise be lost to hepatitis C or liver cancer.

Diagnosis and treatment were not possible for the uninsured/underinsured in New Hanover County; they were only accessible through specialty physicians locally (for those with insurance) or referral to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Towne worked with UNC, Duke University and gastroenterology specialists to develop a protocol for providing the workup and treatment in a primary care setting. More than 300 patients are now able to access care without having to leave Wilmington for treatment.”

Althea Johnson, MedNorth Health Center CEO

MORE ABOUT THE NOMIMEE: Towne went to medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine after working as a nurse for 15 years.
She has worked in a variety of medical settings but feels at home in community health.

The North Fourth Street clinic, formerly known as New Hanover Community Health Center, has been in place for decades to treat residents from underserved areas. But as the practice, along with the health care industry overall, expands its mission, Towne is helping lead those changes.


Austin Yeargan

TITLE: Doctor

ORGANIZATION: Regenerative Medicine Clinic of Wilmington

WHAT THE NOMINATOR SAID: “People affected by joint pain hurt – plain and simple. Often, the only option for relief has been traditional joint replacement, a painful surgical procedure.

Today, Dr. Yeargan offers a non-operative alternative to traditional joint replacement surgery that has patients walking out of the office on their way to a pain-free lifestyle.

Regenerative Medicine uses a patient’s own stem, or signaling, cells – retrieved virtually painlessly through a short, minimally-invasive procedure – to treat chronic tendonitis, joint pain and arthritis. This can often delay or completely eliminate the need for joint replacement surgery.

A pioneer in regenerative medicine, Dr. Yeargan was first nationally to use stem, or signaling, cells in the treatment of shoulder disorders and first to introduce stem cell science and technology in southeastern North Carolina. He has worked alongside some of the world’s foremost regenerative medicine experts.

‘Miraculous’ and ‘The best thing ever …’ are just a few things joint pain patients are saying about the effects of regenerative medicine as performed by Dr. Yeargan.”

David Frederiksen, Personify Health director of business development
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