Blue Cross and UNC create medical training program for veterans

jprice@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2012 

— UNC-Chapel Hill and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina are teaming up to fight the state’s shortage of health care professionals by turning veteran military medics into civilian physician assistants.

University and BCBS of North Carolina officials on Monday announced a new master’s degree program at the university’s School of Medicine designed for veteran medics who have left the military.

The two-year program is being developed with input from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, and will focus on bringing more primary care services to under-served parts of the state. It’s expected to include training rotations at UNC hospitals and at free clinics around North Carolina.

The curriculum will be designed to build on the extensive medical training that military medics have already received.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has pledged $1.2 million over the next four years to help jump-start the program. The money will help pay for creating the curriculum and hiring staff, and also will provide scholarships for Special Forces medics who have left the military.

“It’s a simple equation: We need more physician assistants in North Carolina, and our veterans want the job,” Brad Wilson, president and CEO of BCBSNC, said in a statement. “When these medics return home, they’ll have the opportunity to take their experience in the field and use it to advance their careers and continue to care for patients.”

Nearly 1 million North Carolina residents live in areas that have shortages of health care professionals, and the problem has been growing worse, mirroring a national trend..

Medics, apparently, are keen on the idea of staying in health care after their military careers are done.

A national survey of Special Forces medics found that 9 out of 10 wanted to pursue a health care career outside the military, and half were interested in becoming physician assistants.

The university plans to enroll the first students in the UNC Master’s of Physicians Assistant Studies program in 2015.

Price: 919-829-4526

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