Blue Cross NC announces $1 million investment in WSSU's Division of Nursing

A $1 million investment in WSSU's Division of Nursing. From left: Peggy Valentine, dean of the School of Health Science at WSSU; William Harris, chair of WSSU Board of Trustees; WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson; N.C. Rep. Evelyn Terry; Cherly Parquet, director of community relations, Blue Cross NC; John Smith, lead medical director, Blue Cross NC; N.C. Sen. Joyce Krawiec; and Cecil Holland, associate dean for the Division of Nursing at WSSU.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) will invest $1 million in Winston-Salem State University’s (WSSU) Division of Nursing. The investment is part of Blue Cross NC’s commitment to contribute $50 million toward community health initiatives in 2018, which is partially funded through $40 million in tax savings generated through the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

WSSU will use the investment for scholarships to address access to care and nursing shortages, and to enhance the division’s technology infrastructure.

“As a practicing physician, I’ve seen firsthand the central role that nurses play in creating a higher-quality, more affordable health care system,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “We are excited to be able to help Winston-Salem State University admit and train new nurses, especially from underserved and rural populations. To bring costs down and increase quality, we have to think more broadly about what it means to invest in health – this is a great example of that principle in action.”

According to a recent study by Georgetown University, North Carolina is projected to have the second-largest shortage of nurses in the nation – a deficit of 12,900 nurses. The shortage is especially challenging in rural North Carolina. The state’s metropolitan areas have 32 more nurses for every 10,000 people than rural counties. Seventy of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties are classified as “medical deserts” due to their lack of primary care. Additionally, nurses play a central role in increasing the value of health care, both in terms of improved outcomes and lower costs. 

“Winston-Salem State University appreciates this significant investment in our Division of Nursing,” said Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson. “WSSU has been a trailblazer in training nurses, providing critically needed nursing professionals for more than 65 years. Through this gift, we will be able to take financial worries out of the learning equation, positioning our nursing students for success.”

The WSSU Division of Nursing, part of the School of Health Sciences (SOHS), is one of the nation’s premier nursing schools, offering programs at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. In 2017, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked WSSU no. 1 in North Carolina for graduating African Americans into the fields of nursing and health professions. WSSU also ranked as a top 10 nursing school in the eastern United States and is ranked in the top 10 percent for value. The WSSU Division of Nursing is the third-largest producer of baccalaureate nurses in North Carolina. 

Dr. John Smith, lead medical director for Blue Cross NC, observes while WSSU nursing students take the vital signs of a patient simulator during a tour of WSSU's virtual hospital.

WSSU’s goal for the Blue Cross NC investment is to increase the number of under-represented students graduating from the school’s nursing programs, thereby increasing the number of nurses practicing in primary care and rural areas.

The $1 million will be invested into the following areas:

Scholarships and Access to Care

Data suggests that financial hardships often cause students, especially those who are underserved, to drop out or not complete their program of study. WSSU will use funding to provide scholarships and grants in its pre-major, BSN and graduate programs to help eliminate those hardships, positioning students for success.

Educational Technology
WSSU will also use the funding to enhance learning technology, including the interdisciplinary virtual hospital, which features state-of-the-art simulators used to train all nursing students.

Dr. John Smith, lead medical director for Blue Cross NC, announced the $1 million investment on Monday, April 17, during a presentation at the S.G. Atkins Enterprise Center, where WSSU’s virtual hospital is located. 

"As a leader in nursing education, we seek meaningful partnerships with the corporate community to help us provide our students with transformative educational experiences," said Dr. Cecil Holland, associate dean and chief operating officer of the Division of Nursing. "The Division of Nursing has a long and rich history, or should I say legacy, of educating African American nurses for the workforce. This gift will help us sustain that legacy, and infuse more African American nurses into the workforce that continues to experience shortages."  

N.C. Rep. Evelyn Terry addressed the attendees on behalf of the General Assembly. 

About 100 people attended the event, including N.C. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, members of WSSU’s Board of Trustees, WSSU Foundation Board of Directors, and a number of WSSU's faculty, staff and nursing students. The event concluded with tours of WSSU’s virtual hospital.

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 through innovative health care products, insurance, services and information to more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield 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. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at bcbsnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

About Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

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