Physician Assistant Program Addresses Health Care Shortage

The University’s new physician assistant program got underway this semester with an entering class of 20 — nine of them military veterans.

The program was started in response to two needs: a persistent shortage of medical professionals in certain parts of North Carolina, and what the program calls an “untapped talent pool” of veterans who have some medical training.

Planning began in 2009 with an agreement signed by UNC and the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, and initial funding came from a $1.2 million commitment from Blue Cross and Blue Shield; the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust added $1 million last year.

Where veterans are concerned, the program is designed to build on the medical experience and training that Special Forces medical sergeants receive during their service and provide opportunities for veterans who want to transfer their skills into the health care system.

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