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Cabarrus Health Alliance launches institute at N.C. Research Campus

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó Using a gift from David Murdock, the public health agency in Cabarrus County has created a new division devoted to the N.C. Research Campus, the agency announced Monday.
Interest in public health in Kannapolis has become so great that Dr. William F. Pilkington, director of the Cabarrus Health Alliance, said he couldn’t keep up.”It had become pretty burdensome,” said Pilkington, who said he was on the phone daily with university researchers interested in joint projects with the Health Alliance.
It’s a good problem to have, he said.
“Public health has been considered a key partner there on the Research Campus, which is unusual,” Pilkington said.
When he described his quandary to campus founder Murdock in September, the billionaire founder of Dole Food Co. made a donation the following month that launched the new Cabarrus Public Health Research Institute.
“This doesn’t usually happen in public health,” Pilkington said. “It’s further demonstration of Mr. Murdock’s commitment.”
The gift does not alter the Health Alliance’s plan to condemn Murdock’s property on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard to make way for a new health department, Pilkington said.
The Health Alliance will use its power of eminent domain later this year to condemn the property, currently occupied by Sherwin-Williams Paints and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and pay Murdock tax value for the property, Pilkington said.
He declined to disclose the amount of Murdock’s donation to the Health Alliance but said it paid for one full-time employee.
Paige Waldrop, who previously worked for the Health Alliance’s cardiovascular disease program, will serve as executive director of the new institute.
Waldrop will handle day-to-day contact between the Health Alliance, the Research Campus and the universities. She will conduct “due diligence” to determine whether the Health Alliance should join various studies under way or proposed, Pilkington said.
The Health Alliance already has formed two major partnerships on the campus.
The agency will serve as a recruitment and testing site for Duke University’s long-term medical research study to determine the genetic cause of disease. Murdock gave Duke $35 million to launch the study, which is named for him.
The Health Alliance also will develop a state-of-the-art child-care center on the campus by partnering with the UNC Nutrition Research Institute.
Called the KIWEE Institute, the center will provide high-quality child care while focusing on programs, policies and research to help prevent childhood obesity.
Architectural plans for the center are complete, Pilkington said.
Waldrop will develop a board of directors for the Public Health Research Institute made up of university and corporate partners from the Research Campus. The board will discuss needs and new ideas for collaborative public health research.

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