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Meet our APP of the month, Natalie Lappas is a Nurse Practitioner for the Advanced Endoscopy/Biliary Team at UNC Gastroenterology. She received the Anthea Darling Award for Excellence in Clinical Nursing in 2019 and 2021 from the GI Fellows. Natalie  is also an avid reader and traveler, having visited 20 countries!

What is your role in the Department and what patients do you serve?

I am the Nurse Practitioner for the Advanced Endoscopy/Biliary Team (a subspecialty group of UNC Gastroenterology). I joined the group in 2018. I perform inpatient consultation for patients with disorders of the bile ducts, pancreas, and gallbladder. Our most common consults include benign or malignant biliary obstruction, acute or chronic pancreatitis, and benign or malignant pancreatic lesions. I assist with pre-and post-procedure consultation for patients undergoing advanced endoscopic procedures such as ERCP, EUS-guided biopsy, EUS-guided drainage procedures, and esophageal stenting.

Where are you from?

Charlotte, NC, but I have been in and out of the triangle since 2006. I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergraduate and nursing school (Go Heels!), followed by NP school at Duke. I moved to Nashville, TN for 3 years, but we’ve been back in Chapel Hill since 2018.

 Did you always envision yourself as an APP?

No. I started as a bedside nurse in the MPCU and I loved it, but after 5 years I wanted a change.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

I love seeing a patient the day after a procedure, such as stone removal or abscess drainage, and hearing how much better they feel. It’s very gratifying.

 How has your job evolved in the time you’ve been here?

A big part of my practice has become coordinating day-trip procedures. Since ERCP and EUS are not widely performed in the community, appropriate patients can take a “daytrip” to UNC for their procedure, then return to the outside hospital for the remainder of their care.  The patients get the services they need in a timely fashion, and it keeps UNC hospital beds available for other patients who need them.

What is one thing that you wish people knew about your job?

Our service treats children too! Gallbladder and pancreas disease are rare in children, but due to the rise in childhood obesity, there is an increased incidence of choledocholithiasis in the pediatric population. Because there are very few pediatric endoscopists trained in ERCP, we support this population too.

Personally, or professionally, what are you most proud of?

Professionally: being awarded the Anthea Darling Award for Excellence in Clinical Nursing in 2019 and 2021 by our GI Fellows. I adore our GI fellows. They are so fun and passionate about GI. It means a lot to be recognized by them.

Personally: my family.  I met my husband during his first week of medical school in 2010. I am proud of his evolution from med student to an incredible (GI!) doctor. We have two sweet and hilarious little girls.  They make me laugh every day. I’m proud to be their mom!

If you didn’t have a career in medicine, what would you be doing?

A travel agent or travel blogger. I’ve been to 20 countries, and I hope to visit 20 more! I think half the fun of traveling is planning the adventure. I love researching a city or country and creating an epic itinerary.

What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

Running. Exploring new cities. Trying out new local restaurants. Burn Boot Camp. Live music. Cooking (and recently, learning to grill!).  Reading. Podcasts (a random mix of True Crime, Self-Improvement, and Celebrity Gossip).

 If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A French baguette with good butter and Maldon flaky sea salt.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Here’s what’s cool: Writing thank-you notes. Learning and using people’s names. Showing up on time. Learning a new skill. Learning the art of listening. Admitting you were wrong. Random acts of kindness. Being a mentor. Investing in your future. Holding doors open.” – Jay Shetty

What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

Read 30 books. Last year my goal was 20 books. I think I can do it!

 What’s the last song you listened to?

I listened to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” while cooking breakfast this morning. It’s a great song to start the day 😊