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invest in the next generation of our state's health care workforce.


James Sorrells served his country in the military. Now, he wants to serve his home state of North Carolina.

Sorrells, a former Special Forces operator, is a student in the UNC School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Studies Program, or UNC PA. The program is designed in part to help returning veterans with medical training transition into civilian health care, and to address the shortage of primary health care professionals in rural North Carolina. Blue Cross NC is investing $1.2 into the program, building on a founding $1.2 million investment in 2012.

I fell in love with medicine in the military. I immediately knew it was my passion. Being a veteran and a native North Carolinian, I was greatly attracted to this program. North Carolina is where I was born; it’s where my heart is and where my home is.

UNC PA student, James Sorrells

Once he graduates, Sorrells plans to practice medicine in his hometown in Western North Carolina.

Blue Cross NC’s investment will help UNC PA attract more students like Sorrells and more than double the program’s student body over the next five years, from 40 to 100 students. Additionally, the funding will help lay the foundation for developing the rural sites needed to accommodate the increased number of students on clinical rotations. This is important, because 70 of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties are classified as medical deserts due to their lack of primary care.1 The investment will also allow the program to recruit and retain top faculty.

Blue Cross NC CEO Dr. Patrick Conway says helping veterans move into civilian health care is a win for our state.

Our Armed Forces veterans have some of the best real-world medical training. With this program, our state gains great medical professionals, and we improve access to care.

CEO and practicing physician, Dr. Patrick Conway
  1. “Rural Economic Development and Healthcare Access.” PowerPoint presentation. North Carolina Rural Center, John Coggin.(2018). Accessed June 2018