UNC Health Care on the Zika Virus

Across the state, researchers are ramping up efforts to combat the spread of the Zika virus, which was declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization on Monday. UNC Health Care’s top priority is the safety of our patients across the state. While no cases of this mosquito-borne disease have been reported in North Carolina, we are learning everything we can about the virus as quickly as possible so that we can help develop a solution.

Our hospitals across the state are following the CDC’s guidelines and recommending that pregnant women, and women planning to get pregnant, avoid traveling to affected areas, as the Zika virus is thought to cause microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains. UNC Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists are offering consultations to pregnant women who have recently traveled to affected areas.

It is important to remember that the mosquitos carrying the virus are not active year-round in North Carolina. This may help reduce the rate of transmission in our state. However, if you plan to travel to affected areas, please take precautionary measures, such as using insect repellent (DEET is most effective), wearing long pants and sleeves, sleeping under mosquito netting in endemic areas and avoiding the outdoors during periods of peak mosquito activity.

The transmission of the Zika virus is extremely serious. We want North Carolinians to know that UNC Health Care is prepared for the safe care of patients with highly communicable diseases. We will continue to update our co-workers and the general public with relevant updates as they become available.

To learn more about the Zika virus, please click here.

An Investment in Funding and an Investment in Our Future

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on President Obama’s final State of the Union address. While there are certainly points of contention with any presidential address, this year I believe he emphasized one point we can all agree on. President Obama commended Congress for passing $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest increase in more than a decade. As we embark on 2016, I urge my colleagues to use this investment to tackle our greatest challenges in health and health care.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, we receive more NIH funding than any other entity in the state. This helps us produce treatments and discoveries that will improve health care for tomorrow. With this additional funding, we can seek new and better ways of doing things and challenging conventional wisdom is how we make progress. Take Aziz Sancar, professor at the UNC School of Medicine and Nobel Prize laureate. Along with his colleagues, Dr. Sancar unraveled how our cells fight back against DNA damage, a tremendous step toward helping us understand hereditary disorders and cancer.

President Obama also made a vow to use these resources to help America find a cure for cancer. This is a lofty, yet very important, goal. Along with my colleagues at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the School of Medicine, I am confident that we are well on our way. Thanks to a greater emphasis on medical research, we can further those efforts.

Today, I would like to celebrate the president’s emphasis on embracing change, innovation and research. We at UNC Health Care will continue our efforts to answer the president’s – and thousands of patients’ – call.

I have no doubt that we will. As the president so aptly put it, “…spirit of discovery is in our DNA.”

UNC Health Care’s New Year’s Resolution to North Carolina

Like many North Carolinians, we at UNC Health Care find it helpful to set resolutions, as they allow us to define, and then meet, our overarching goals. This year, we’ve resolved to cultivate existing partnerships, forge new ones with other organizations, and expand the physician base of UNC Health Alliance – all to provide North Carolinians with greater access to exceptional health care.

Last year, we worked with Cisco to open a state-of-the-art health center for employees and their families on the information technology company’s main campus in Research Triangle Park. Through this on-site clinic, UNC Physicians Network doctors coordinate care for Cisco employees and their dependents to improve overall health and keep costs down. Though this center has been open for only a few months, it is already exceeding expectations: On average, the clinic sees more than 35 patients daily.

Along with 10 other health systems, UNC Health Care is participating in Provider-Led and Patient-Centered Care LLC, which will allow the 1.9 million North Carolina residents on Medicaid to enroll in prepaid health plans, giving them access to high-quality care and more health choices than ever before.

Smart collaboration is a must for delivering outstanding care. We will continue to grow our existing partnerships and look for new partnerships that enable exceptional care across the state. Click here to learn more about our on-site health center at Cisco and here to learn more about Provider-Led and Patient-Centered Care LLC.

UNC Health Alliance: Delivering High-Quality, Cost-Effective Care Statewide

As the one of the state’s largest health systems, we see it as our responsibility to continue looking for ways to improve the health of the population. Many patients are paying larger portions of their medical payments than ever before. We are committed to ensuring that the people of North Carolina have greater access to affordable, high-quality care. One way we are achieving that is through the recently announced UNC Health Alliance.

The UNC Health Alliance is a clinically integrated network (CIN), or an organization of hospitals and physicians who collaborate to improve quality and control health care costs and are able to contract together to achieve their goals. In this case, there are four primary goals of the UNC Health Alliance:

  • Transform care delivery by creating a physician-led CIN with UNC Health Care that is accountable for the full continuum of care.
  • Lead the market in high-quality, cost-efficient care through population health management that includes engaging patients in the ownership of their care.
  • Become the preferred partner for physicians in our communities through a culture of collaboration.
  • Become the preferred partner for employers and payers who are aligned with the goal of transforming care and creating more value for patients.

Through collaboration and an intense focus on patient care, we will set measurable benchmarks to determine quality of care and hold ourselves and our physicians accountable, ultimately delivering high-quality, cost-effective care to our patients.

To learn more about the UNC Health Alliance, click here.

UNC Physician Assistant Program: Expanding the Reach of UNC Health Care

North Carolina is projected to gain about 1 million residents each decade through 2040, reaching a population of 12.5 million. This growth could bring many economic and societal benefits to our state, but it also brings challenges. One of those is ensuring that we are preparing more health practitioners to meet the needs of our growing population.

At UNC Health Care, we are committed to improving the health of all North Carolinians. That’s why we recently launched the UNC Physician Assistant Program. The UNC PA program recruits and trains non-traditional students to provide health services in underserved areas across the state. This program allows students, particularly veterans with medical experience, to leverage skills gained through their military service to serve patients in primary care work.

The first class of UNC PA students will enroll in January 2016. This class of 20 includes nine veterans. In addition to supporting our troops, this program is helping to fulfill a critical health care need across our state, now and into the future.

To learn more about the UNC Physician Assistant Program, click here.

Town by Town, Complete Care

Health care has changed dramatically in recent years, and UNC Health Care has changed to meet the evolving landscape. We are now a statewide system with eight hospitals serving patients across North Carolina.

We have grown and changed, but what remains the same is our system-wide commitment to complete care, which for us is a combination of expertise and empathy. We know patients want the best, most cutting-edge care, and they want it delivered with empathy, by doctors and nurses they trust.

Our system branding campaign celebrates the unique differences and strengths among each entity within our system and the School of Medicine. Through this campaign, we want patients to know that we hear their high expectations. We are committed to providing care that is two attributes in balance – breakthrough and attentive, advanced and local – because we believe that this is what gets people well.

The hospitals and physicians UNC has partnered with all share that commitment. Our statewide presence allows for greater collaboration and helps us serve patients more effectively, empathetically and efficiently.

To learn more about how UNC Health Care is providing complete care to patients across North Carolina, visit UNCHealthCare.org/Complete-Care.

UNC Scientist Wins Nobel Prize

At UNC Health Care and the UNC School of Medicine, our employees, faculty and staff are innovators. As a team, we are able to provide patients with access to cutting-edge treatments and expert, empathetic care. The unique individuals who make up our teams truly help us meet our mission and consistently help us rank highly for research and care.

I would like to take a moment to offer my sincere congratulations to one member of our team, Dr. Aziz Sancar, a biochemist and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC. Dr. Sancar was recently honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on mapping the cellular mechanisms that underlie DNA repair. Earlier this year, Dr. Sancar and his team created a DNA repair map of the entire human genome.

With his mapping mechanism, Dr. Sancar makes it possible for scientists to pick one of six billion base pairs in the human genome and know how it is repaired.

He shares the Nobel Prize with two other esteemed scientists – Tomas Lindahl of the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in Great Britain, and Paul Modrich of Duke University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Join me in congratulating Dr. Sancar on this tremendous honor.