Health and Medicine

University leaders celebrate a Blue Cross NC investment in Physician Assistant program

The $1.2 million gift will be used to accommodate more students, recruit top faculty and develop rural sites for students to participate in clinical rotations.

People talk on stage.
Larry Hall, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, speaks during an event celebrating Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s $1.2 million investment in the UNC School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Studies program. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gathered on Monday to celebrate an investment in the University’s Physician Assistant Studies program.

Blue Cross NC announced the $1.2 million gift in February, building on its 2012 investment that established the PA master’s program. The donation will be used to accommodate more students, recruit top faculty and develop rural sites for students to participate in clinical rotations.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt said the partnership between the University and Blue Cross NC showcases Carolina’s commitment to providing service to the state.

“There is nothing [more important] for the citizens of North Carolina than providing quality, accessible and affordable healthcare, and this kind of partnership is absolutely essential to our determination to do that,” she said. “We are very proud of the Physician Assistant Studies program.”

Housed in the School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences, the PA program aims to address the shortage of medical professionals statewide, with a special focus on helping veterans with prior medical training transition to working in civilian health care.

William Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, said the program has done just that. Its inaugural cohort of 20 students — nearly half of them veterans — graduated in December 2017.

“This is a great day in our institution’s history,” Roper said. “We’ve achieved great success so far with much more to come. We owe much of our success in this program to Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina.”