Faculty: Dr. Pamela Reis | Eastern North Carolina Now

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Ken Buday.

Photos: Rhett Butler

    A car crash changed the future for East Carolina University's Dr. Pamela Reis — and the future of thousands of students, mothers and their babies.

    "I was in a car accident during the last month of my senior year in high school and fractured my femur," said Reis, associate professor and interim Ph.D. in nursing program director in the College of Nursing. "I was supposed to attend Ithaca College as an English major upon graduation. However, my three-month experience as a patient in the hospital after the accident convinced me that nursing was my calling."

    Reis grew up in Westchester County, New York, an area considered a suburb of New York City.

    "My father loved animals, and we always had quite an assortment of them — horses, goats, peacocks, dogs and a variety of birds, including pigeons," she said.

    Reis' path toward a nursing career started at Duke University, where she obtained her bachelor's degree in nursing, and then continued to what was then Pitt County Memorial Hospital (now Vidant Medical Center) and the neonatal nurse practitioner program at ECU's Brody School of Medicine.

    "I loved both pediatrics and women's health when I was a student at Duke," Reis said. "Upon graduation I decided to work in a neonatal intensive care unit and knew that I wanted to expand my career as an advanced practice nurse. I enrolled in school to become a neonatal nurse practitioner and worked as an NNP for 10 years."

    While working as an NNP, she grew alarmed with incidences of preterm birth and set upon a new course as a nurse-midwife, specializing in reproductive health and childbirth.

    "I became very concerned about the poor quality of life experienced by our extremely preterm infants and decided that perhaps as a nurse-midwife I could play a larger role in reducing the incidence of preterm birth," she said.

Dr. Pamela Reis speaks to participants during the Purple and Gold Bus Tour in 2020.
    She worked in full-scope midwifery practices in a large teaching hospital, private practice and health department, and within a busy community hospital obstetrical service before coming to ECU 14 years ago.

    "ECU has the only nurse-midwifery program in the Carolinas," Reis said. "When a position became available to teach in the program, I leaped at the opportunity. I was a preceptor for midwifery students for many years prior to becoming faculty at ECU, and I wanted a greater role in shaping the future of the midwifery workforce in North Carolina."

    With more than 40 years of experience as a nurse-midwife and neonatal nurse practitioner, Reis received the Dorothea M. Lang Pioneer Award from the American College of Nurse-Midwives Foundation, the organization's most prestigious honor. The award honors an exceptional certified nurse-midwife or certified midwife member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives who has exhibited vision, leadership and innovation in midwifery practice, education or policy development. Reis was specifically recognized for her behind-the-scenes contributions to midwifery education and practice.

    As an example, Reis is the project director of Health Resources and Services Administration grant for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Rural and Underserved Roadmap to Advance Leadership (RURAL) Scholars Program. The program provides nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery and clinical nurse specialist students with scholarships of $11,000 to $22,000 per year while emphasizing care for those who need it most.

    "This program provides outstanding learning opportunities that prepare students to provide primary care services, including telehealth, in rural and underserved communities," Reis said.

    The project is a collaboration among Vidant Health, the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, the N.C. Center for Telepsychiatry and Behavioral Health, and the Eastern Area Health Education Center. A big focus of the program is on agromedicine, with students also required to have other experiences in the delivery of health care in rural communities.

    The program fits right into Reis' passion to expand the advanced practice nursing workforce in rural areas and to help underserved communities.

    "As an African American, I have experienced the impact of systemic racism in many realms of my life, including health care," she said. "My passion is teaching health care consumers about simple, everyday practices in preventive health care that can lead to greater health and well-being."


    What do you like to do when not working? High intensity interval training (HIIT), riding my bicycle, reading, watching British TV crime shows

    Last thing I watched on TV: "Good Morning America"

    First job: Library assistant at the Katonah, N.Y., library when I was around 10 years old

    Guilty pleasure: I never lost my love for Barbie dolls and I continue to collect Black Barbie dolls and dress them in clothes and accessories I find on Etsy.

    Favorite meal: My husband's fried rice. He is an excellent cook!

    One thing most people don't know about me: I am a "Twilight Zone" New Year's Eve marathon fanatic!
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