This article was contributed by Mark J. King, Vice President, Research and Innovation, Novant Health.
Since Novant Health purchased New Hanover Regional Medical Center in 2021, the Coastal region has benefited from increased access to research. The deal included a partnership with UNC Health and the UNC School of Medicine, further expanding Novant Health’s research across the Coastal region. Through that partnership, we are able to offer more patients access to leading-edge research and give more physicians an opportunity to pursue their own studies.
Advancing care through clinical trials
In the clinical trials, our physicians will offer patients with specific heart conditions or cancers an opportunity to participate. If patients opt in to a trial sponsored by a pharmaceutical company and meet eligibility criteria, they have an opportunity to receive advanced treatments before they are available to other patients. These studies are designed to see if a new medication or therapy improves the outcomes for our patients, either by improving the chances of a cure, reducing the chances of recurrences, shortening recovery time or reducing side effects of current therapies.
In other trials, sponsored by organizations like the National Institutes of Health, our physicians are performing both treatment and observational studies where they monitor patients, gathering data to help the medical community learn what treatment or combination of treatments is working best.
Altogether, our oncologists, heart doctors, surgeons and others are participating in more than 45 clinical trials. More clinical trials are being opened to our patients every quarter, and soon we will include expanded opportunities for our pediatric and neurosciences patients.
Research to help define the future of healthcare
In addition to these sponsored trials, local physicians are taking the initiative to design their own research in partnership with peers from the UNC School of Medicine, utilizing grant funding to explore urgent health needs in the coastal communities we serve.
This research includes both clinical and health equity studies. Clinical research is led by physicians who are primarily studying treatment plans, carefully reviewing the data and determining the most effective way to treat patients. For instance, Patrick Maguire, MD, radiation oncologist, will be evaluating biometric data for patients with head and neck cancer, and our pediatric team plans to study the safety of pharmaceutical caffeine in babies with a specific brain diagnosis.
In the health equity studies, our investigators from both the Coastal region and UNC School of Medicine study how socioeconomic factors impact the health of our communities and their ability to receive the care they need. For example, Kiran McCloskey, PhD, is studying pediatric epilepsy disparities, and Amber Woodard, clinical excellence programs manager, is studying the effectiveness of early intervention in treating pregnant mothers with high blood pressure.
As chair of the Research Advisory Council, I play a part in driving research initiatives across the region with our strategic partners. On the council, I work closely with Joseph Pino, MD, executive director of SEAHEC and vice president of graduate medical education; and Lynette McFayden, director of research for the Coastal region.
All this research helps us fulfill our promise of expanding access to care for everyone in our communities so that each person in our region can live the healthiest possible life. We do this best when we offer research opportunities for patients close to home, delivered with a keen focus on ethics, safety, quality and compliance.
I am beyond proud to be part of an organization that is dedicated to creating these opportunities for our community, and I’m honored to work with these medical professionals, who are driven to advance healthcare not just for the patients of today, but for the generations to come.
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