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Bill Kirby Jr.: Cape Fear Valley Health says thank you to state legislators

‘I can’t tell you what this means for the kind of health care this region needs,’ Mike Nagowski says about $15 million secured for the Center for Medical Education & Neuroscience Institute.


For state Rep. Marvin Lucas, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center has held a special place in his heart for more than 60 years. His mind wandered back to those days when the hospital was just a red brick building along Owen Drive.

“Cape Fear Valley is very special to me and my family,” Lucas was saying Thursday as Mike Nagowski and Cape Fear Valley Health held a reception for the Cumberland County legislative delegation.

The health system recognized state Sens. Ben Clark and Kirk deViere and state Reps. Billy Richardson, John Szoka, Diane Wheatley and Lucas for securing $15 million as part of the state budget that will help pay off the Center for Medical Education & Neuroscience Institute that is under construction.

“My mother was one of the first patients here at Cape Fear Valley in 1956 when it was just a fledgling hospital,’’ Lucas said. “And I continue to enjoy the health care you get here at Cape Fear Valley, and we’re going to do even better.”

This was a day for saying thank you to the lawmakers, and for hearty handshakes and reflections about what their work in Raleigh will mean not only for health care in this community but throughout the Cape Fear region.

“In so many ways, this is about you, and what these delegates have done for you,” Nagowski, the health system’s chief executive officer, told physicians, nurses and health care leaders who gathered in the conference room of the Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center to welcome the legislators. “This was a very special budget. It was very important to Cape Fear Valley Health and our mission of health care.”

Outside, construction workers on scaffolds continued their work on the $33 million center that is scheduled to open in the fall. The five-story building with 120,000 square feet will house Cape Fear Valley Health medical residents with lecture halls, classrooms, simulation laboratories and high-tech technology. The Neuroscience Institute, according to the health system, will help diagnose, treat and research disorders such as strokes, brain tumors and traumatic brain injuries.

“Because of the people we are honoring today, it’s fully paid for because of the work of this delegation,” Nagowski said. “This will dramatically change the work our residents are doing. I can’t tell you what this means for the kind of health care this region needs. What our delegation did is what we wish all of our government leaders would do – put constituents first. These individuals put their constituents first. These caring, brave and courageous people put their careers on the line. You all have renewed my faith. You did what restores our faith in democracy and the American way.”

We should be thanking you

No, Richardson told Nagowski.

“Not you who should thank us,” the humble and retiring six-term state House representative who led the delegation said. “Our delegation should be thanking you’’ for the health professionals who care and serve the community.

But Richardson had plaudits for his fellow legislators, too.

“For this extraordinary group you elected and to see the job they did was pure magic,” Richardson said. “And to serve with these people has been one of the outstanding experiences of a lifetime. You cannot find better people, good and decent people. We are honored to serve you up in Raleigh.”

DeViere said health care efforts in Medicare and affordable health care are important,

“We know we have to get health care professionals invested,” deViere said. “In this region, we’ve got one of the largest (military) veterans (groups). We are the epicenter of health care. We put our mark on who we are in this community. This investment is the first step, and we’ve got more steps to go.”

Clark praised physicians and health staff in attendance.

“Yes, indeed, you are passionate about health care,” he said. “And the legislators here are passionate about health care. Health care is not just a right, but a moral imperative. Clearly, there is a lot of vision here, and I understand greater things are in the future, and we’re here with you every step of the way.”

For Wheatley, this was a day of familiarity being back at the medical center where the freshman legislator once worked as a nurse in the emergency room and in the intensive care unit.

“I hope to be there to serve and continue (to) be an advocate for you,” she said.

Szoka, who is leaving the House to run for county commissioner, knows something about the need for the best of health care, too, telling the audience his wife is a nurse practitioner who is so dedicated to her profession he seldom sees her at home.

“We did our job,” Szoka said. “We set an example for the rest of delegations in the state to work together – Republicans and Democrats. We did because we believe in our community. It’s not just about us. Mike, you’ve done an outstanding job here, and everybody at the hospital.”


Dr. Maryselle Winters put an exclamation point on this day of gratitude.

“This is an excellent place to train,” said Winters, who in June will be part of the first general surgery residency class. “We get a lot of trauma exposure here. I feel very comfortable here. I’m excited. I love our residency program. This has been an amazing place to train. We thank you for putting this together for us.”

With the Center for Medical Education funded, the health system says it now will turn attention to its capital campaign with funding for the center’s programming needs, such as faculty position endowments, state-of-the-art learning environment equipment for medical residents and medical research equipment for participation in clinical trials.

Outside, you could see the construction crews going about their daily work on the Center for Medical Education. There was a lot of pride on the faces of Richardson, deViere, Clark, Wheatley, Szoka and Lucas. And on the face of Nagowski and every medical center health care employee in the room on a day of gratitude.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., Cape Fear Valley Health, state budget, legislators, Center for Medical Education building