• $1.2 Million Blue Cross NC investment will help program to grow from 40 to 100 students, support veterans with medical training transition into civilian health care, and improve access to primary care
  • Physician Assistant Studies program created through Blue Cross NC, UNC School of Medicine partnership in 2012

DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) today announced a significant $1.2 million investment in the School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program to support statewide health needs. The PA program is designed, in part, to help returning veterans with medical training work in civilian health care, and to address the shortage of primary health care professionals in rural North Carolina. This investment builds on Blue Cross NC’s 2012 investment of $1.2 million. The 2012 investment established the physician assistant master’s degree program at the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences.


The UNC PA program will use the Blue Cross NC investment to grow from a total of 40 students to 100 students over the next five years. Additionally, the funding will help lay the foundation for developing the rural sites needed to accommodate the increased number of students on clinical rotations in their second year of study. It will also allow the program to recruit and retain top faculty.


“Our men and women in the Armed Forces have some of the best real-world medical training. Helping them move into civilian health care is a win for our state. North Carolina gains great medical professionals, and we improve access to care,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC.


70 of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties are classified as medical deserts due to their lack of primary care. Nationwide, by 2025, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of between 124,400 and 312,000 physicians, and 37 percent of that shortfall is expected to be in primary care medicine.[1]


This investment will further the UNC PA program’s goal of addressing the shortage of medical professionals statewide by supporting scholarships for both veterans seeking physician assistant certification, and physician assistant students pursuing careers in rural parts of the state.


“We are grateful for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s continuing partnership and support of the UNC Physician Assistant Studies program,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “This program, which graduated its first class in December 2017, embodies Carolina’s commitment to service in communities across our state. With Blue Cross NC’s support, this program can continue to provide training for non-traditional students, and particularly veterans with medical experience, as they confront challenges to the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”


“This continued support from Blue Cross NC has bolstered our Physician Assistant Studies program at the UNC School of Medicine,” said Dr. William L. Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care.Our ongoing partnership means more North Carolinians will have access to health care, which is a critical need in our state. We are grateful to Blue Cross NC for their vision and commitment to this endeavor.”


The UNC PA program works to recruit military veterans, non-traditional students and students from rural and medically underserved areas. Eight of the 20 students in the inaugural class were veterans, and one (a ninth student) was the spouse of a veteran.


Currently, 35 percent of all physician assistant students at the UNC School of Medicine are military-affiliated or veterans, with 63 percent from North Carolina and 21 percent from medically underserved populations.


The investment is part of Blue Cross NC’s larger commitment to contribute $50 million toward community health initiatives in 2018. The investment is partially funded through $40 million in tax savings generated through the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.