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Blue Cross Blue Shield invests $775,000 to establish Community and Wellness Institute at UNC Pembroke

Blue Cross CEO and President Dr. Patrick Conway (second from left), and UNCP Chancellor Dr. Robin Gary Cummings (third from left), join Blue Cross representatives to celebrate the establishment of the Community and Wellness Institute at UNC Pembroke

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and its Healthy Blue plan, which will serve Medicaid beneficiaries beginning November 1, announced a $775,000 investment to establish the Community and Wellness Institute of Southeastern NC at UNC Pembroke.

The Institute will launch new university programs and expand on existing community initiatives intended to diversify the regional workforce and improve health outcomes in Robeson County. The Community and Wellness Institute will connect UNCP, its students and its resources to the surrounding community.

Of the total investment, $225,000 will be provided by Blue Cross’ Healthy Blue plan to support Medicaid beneficiaries in Robeson County through the work of the College of Health Sciences at UNCP.

Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings joined Blue Cross CEO and President Patrick Conway on campus Friday to announce the collaborative partnership, which promises to transform the health landscape in the region. 

“UNCP holds a unique position to provide the innovation, outreach and well-trained workforce necessary to dramatically improve the health outcomes of their community,” Conway said.

“Investment in community matters. It improves the health and well-being of communities. I know you are going to make dramatic, positive impacts on the people in the communities you serve. Health care is a calling and together we can improve the health of the people in the communities of North Carolina.

The Institute will be housed in the newly-formed College of Health Sciences. Several initiatives planned include collaborations to address mental health in Robeson County by allowing faculty and staff to provide outreach to rural communities. It also calls for UNCP students to engage local high school students to participate in health and wellness programs as well as establishing a speaker series.

Funding will also be used to expand the university’s CARE Resource Center and increase academic service-learning opportunities.

“This generous gift will impact an entire community and a region for generations to come,” Chancellor Cummings said. “I cannot thank Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Healthy Blue enough for your support. Thank you for believing in our vision and for your commitment to improve the health of southeastern North Carolina.”

The university is poised to become a regional champion for transformation, using partnerships and innovation to improve the future of our citizens, Cummings added.

“This partnership will allow us to launch new programs creating solutions to longstanding problems and to train students who can meet regional health care need.

“As a physician and a native of Robeson County, I have a deep and personal appreciation for what this institute and what UNCP will mean for my community’s future.”

Cummings said health challenges in Robeson County are generational and it will take a sustained partnership like this to change that generational impact.

Provost David Ward said Friday will be remembered as a “seminal day” in the life of the university.

“When our future history is written, this will be a turning point,” he said. “A turning point that instills and cements the relationship this university has with Blue Cross Blue Shield, our community and our citizens in Robeson County.”