DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) today announced an investment of $750,000 to fund a primary care interest and leadership program designed to address the state’s shortage of primary care doctors, and ultimately increase access, lower costs and improve health outcomes. The program is run by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians Foundation (NCAFP). It will offer robust training and educational opportunities to medical students interested in primary care.    
“We know one of the biggest keys to patient-centered care is a primary care doctor, but the problem is that there aren’t enough of them. The money we’re investing today is designed to address this,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “The practice of medicine is first and foremost about people; the better care they receive, the better their overall health outcomes.”
Family medicine is a growing focus area for students in the state, with over 15 percent of graduating medical students choosing family medicine as their specialty in 2018 (compared to a national average of 9.4 percent). However, estimates show North Carolina will require another 1,500 family physicians in the next decade to meet the health needs of its growing population.
“We are pleased to continue this strong partnership with Blue Cross NC to increase the pipeline of family physicians in our state,” said Alisa Nance, MD, FAAFP, President of the NC Academy of Family Physicians. “Our efforts are working, and we know that early exposure to primary care with ongoing mentorship is a key element of a medical student’s ultimate decision to enter a family medicine or other primary care residency.”
Over the next three years, the funds will be used to provide medical students with training and educational opportunities in family medicine. Specifically, NCAFP will use Blue Cross NC’s funding to support opportunities that will include:  
· Shadowing and mentoring experiences: Medical students will have the opportunity to take part in a hands-on clinical summer experience between the first and second year of medical school, which also includes partnering students with practicing physicians in rural clinic environments.
· Health and policy leadership development: Medical students will be able to participate in key leadership development and educational activities, including the American Academy of Family Physicians National Conference for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students and the NCAFP Annual Winter Family Physicians Weekend. 
· Educational sessions and scholarly activities: Medical students will have access to sessions from the Family Medicine Interest Groups regarding the importance of primary care, population health, public health, health policy and other pressing issues for state primary care leaders.
Access to primary care lowers costs and improves health outcomes. Studies show that adults who have a designated primary care physician have 33 percent lower health care costs on average.[1] Increased primary care access is shown to be correlated with reductions in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and surgeries. Where rates of access to primary care are higher, death rates from cancer, heart disease, and strokes are lower.
The program is based on previous findings and successes from the Family Medicine Interest and Scholars Initiative, a collaboration between the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and NCAFP Foundation. The initiative saw a majority of graduates enter family medicine residencies, 63 percent of which were in state. The program also saw a positive correlation of students who participated in other NCAFP initiatives and students who elected to enter family medicine residencies in state.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina 
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.89 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. We have been recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute every year since 2012. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
About North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP)
Founded in 1948, the NCAFP is a non-profit professional association headquartered in Raleigh representing 4,000 family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students across North Carolina.  It is the largest medical specialty-based association in North Carolina and is a constituent chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians.  The NCAFP Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the NCAFP with a goal of fostering student interest in family medicine and primary care.