“Most pediatricians are loved by their patients. Earl Trevathan is loved by just about everybody and respected as much as anyone I know,” says Thomas G. Irons, MD, professor of pediatrics and associate vice chancellor for regional health services at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. As a pediatrician in private practice in Greenville for 23 years and then as a member of the Brody School of Medicine faculty, Dr. Trevathan both elevated and expanded the scope of medical care for children in eastern North Carolina and beyond.
Following four years of service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Dr. Trevathan received his undergraduate degree and certificate in medicine from UNC. He received his medical degree from the University of Colorado in 1951. His internship and residency, including one year as chief resident in pediatrics, were at the Medical College of Virginia.
Dr. Trevathan joined a group practice in Greenville in 1954. Twelve years later, having recognized a lack of pediatric neurology care in eastern North Carolina, he took a one-year fellowship in that specialty at the Baylor University College of Medicine.
“He returned with that expertise to Greenville and quickly assumed responsibility for the care of a large population of children with neurological and mental health disorders, especially those from families of limited means,” says Dr. Irons.
Dr. Trevathan served as president of the Pitt County Medical Society in 1960 and as chief of the medical staff at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in the early 1970s. He was elected chairman of the North Carolina Pediatric Society in 1976.
In 1977, Dr. Trevathan joined the Brody School of Medicine faculty as clinical professor of pediatrics and pediatric neurology. Two years later he was named professor of pediatrics. “Earl taught me how to lead,” says Dr. Irons, who in 1984 succeeded Dr. Trevathan as section head of pediatrics at the medical school. “His example of humility has been a beacon for me throughout my career. He is a man of principle and a man of honor.”
Dr. Trevathan served the Pitt County Department of Public Health as medical consultant, vice chairman of the board and, in 1979, acting director. In recognition of his many years of dedication and leadership, the Pitt County Health Center was re-named the Earl Trevathan Jr., MD, Public Health Center in 2011.
Dr. Trevathan brought a neurologist’s knowledge and perspective to the Crippled Children’s Program of the North Carolina Department of Human Resources. He served on the board of the North Carolina Tuberculosis Association and as president of the Pitt County Tuberculosis Association.
“His work in public health through the Crippled Children’s clinics, the TB program and other programs is legendary in eastern North Carolina,” Dr. Irons says.
Joel S. Goodwin, MD, a fellow UNC School of Medicine alumnus, describes Dr. Trevathan as a “humanitarian who is an eastern North Carolina gem.”
Citing Dr. Trevathan’s humility and generosity of spirit, Dr. Goodwin says, “I have not met a more giving-of-self person.”
Dr. Trevathan was vice chairman of the North Carolina State Commission on Health Services, state director of the Mental Health Association of North Carolina, and acting director of the East Carolina University Developmental Evaluation Center.
He has always been active in his community, and not just in the health care realm. He served one term on the Greenville City Council and was president of the Greenville Rotary Club. He also found the time and energy to be a leading advocate for environmental and conservation issues in the state. He was among the founders of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy and an early leader of the northeastern North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. “This man has committed his life to serving others, and what an example he has set!” says Jon B. Tingelstad, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine. Dr. Irons concurs: “Earl has lived a servant’s life, and lived it with both humility and joy.”
In recognition of his exemplary contributions to the health of children and his extraordinary, lifelong commitment to improving the lives of people in his community and throughout the state, we are proud to present the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award to Dr. G. Earl Trevathan Jr.