Category Archives: UNC Health Care

Connect NC: An Investment in the Future

At UNC Health Care and the UNC School of Medicine, we are constantly working to improve our services for patients, our research and the way we train physicians to best meet our mission. However, in one area we are lagging behind.

At the UNC School of Medicine, Berryhill Hall is where our students train. Built more than 50 years ago, it served the needs of its time. But its auditorium-style classroom is antiquated, and it can no longer accommodate our anticipated class size of 230.

In recent years, teaching styles have changed. Our students now learn through collaborative teaching, and advanced technology is integrated into the classroom, mirroring the way that modern doctors should practice. Class size is also increasing. A larger class size is necessary to help meet the growing demand for physicians to serve the needs of our state.

Since 1879, the UNC School of Medicine has had the distinct privilege of training the next generations of physicians, clinicians, scientists and health professionals to serve North Carolinians. In fact, the UNC School of Medicine serves North Carolinians in all 100 counties of the state, reaching rural communities and underserved populations. That is something we are very proud of, but it also is a challenge, given the rapidly growing and aging population.

On March 15, North Carolina voters will decide on a proposed $2 billion bond package that would go to higher education, safety and parks, among other things. If passed, the bond would allocate $68 million toward renovating Berryhill Hall.

An up-to-date facility with advanced technology would help us attract today’s brightest minds, accommodate a larger class size and continue developing groundbreaking research.

To remain a leader in medicine and to continue serving the needs of our growing population, we need to provide an environment where today’s brightest minds can expand what is possible in medicine.

Please vote on March 15.


UNC Health Care on Ebola

Hospitals across the country are preparing for the possible admission of patients with Ebola. While North Carolina has not had a case of Ebola, UNC Health Care is prepared for the safe care of patients with these types of highly communicable diseases.

The safety of our patients and co-workers will remain, as always, our top priority.

A group of experts at UNC hospitals and the UNC School of Medicine is working to ensure that all appropriate individuals are trained and equipped to protect patients, guests, the community and each other if we do admit a patient with Ebola.

An inpatient location for Ebola care has been designated at UNC Hospitals if needed. This area has space for patient care, point-of-care laboratory testing, equipment storage and separate areas for donning and doffing personal protective equipment.

While Ebola is a serious illness, keep in mind that the disease has not spread through casual contact, air, water or food grown or legally purchased in the United States.  The virus can be spread only via direct contact with bodily fluids, objects contaminated with the virus (e.g., needles, medical equipment) and infected animals (by contact with blood, fluids or infected meat). Ebola outbreaks have occurred primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa.  Still, it’s important to take precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases including Ebola. As with any other infectious disease, washing your hands frequently is one of the best methods to protect yourself and others from contracting the infection.

Our Ebola Coordinating Group is chaired by Dr. David Weber, medical director of Hospital Epidemiology, and co-chaired by Dr. Billy Fischer, Assistant Professor of Medicine, who treated Ebola patients in West Africa this summer. We are working in close consultation with the State of North Carolina’s Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is significant and understandable anxiety about this situation. Please rest assured that we have a comprehensive plan in place. We will continue to update our co-workers and the general public with relevant updates as they become available.

To learn more about our Ebola preparedness, click here.


Moving forward with change

It’s no secret that things are changing in health care, with big potential impact on our patients, students, faculty and staff, and for the entire state of North Carolina. State funding to the UNC System, UNC School of Medicine and the University Cancer Research Fund was cut, and our System is working to adjust to the shifting health care environment.

We face downward pressure on our finances from every direction, including private insurers, federal government and state government. UNC Health Care and the School of Medicine will have to focus on doing more with less, and we will.

We know that the legislature faced a difficult task in balancing the budget, and we hope to continue working with our legislators to help them understand the health care needs of our citizens, including: the challenge of providing the highest quality care to our patients, regardless of their ability to pay; the responsibility we have as the state’s largest medical school to train the next generation of physicians and other health professionals; and the need to continue to produce world-class research that provides breakthrough cures and jobs for North Carolina and beyond.

While the health care environment in our state is shifting, UNC Health Care remains committed to its mission. We are up to the challenges the future brings and will continue to be here when North Carolinians need us.

Two passionate surgeons

Today the UNC medical family is learning about and dealing with the loss of two of our most committed colleagues.

Dr. Keith Amos, assistant professor of surgery, and outstanding surgical oncologist, died very unexpectedly while in Edinburgh, Scotland, as a visiting scholar. He was one of our best and brightest young physician leaders, with a special passion for treating breast diseases and for eliminating health disparities.

Dr. George Sheldon, who chaired the UNC Department of Surgery from 1984 to 2001, died after an illness at UNC Hospitals. He was an internationally renowned leader in medicine and surgery, having served as president or chair of practically every surgical society in the country, and as chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will each look for ways to remember and celebrate the work of Keith Amos and George Sheldon.

But today as I remember them both – I am struck by the remarkable gift we have in medicine – to make a difference in the lives of others – and in each of their cases, in the lives of many others.

George and Keith were very different people in many ways, and they were at very different places in their careers – one near the end his, the other in the most productive period of his.

But they both were passionate surgeons, dedicated to serving others.

We will miss them very, very much.

UNC Health Care partners with High Point Regional

I am pleased to announce that UNC Health Care recently entered into a strategic partnership with High Point Regional Health System. Once our contract is finalized, High Point Regional will be fully integrated into the UNC Health Care System.

I believe that patients in Guilford County and surrounding areas will greatly benefit from this partnership. Our institutions will collaborate to provide patients with the health care resources they need, delivered by the local hospitals and doctors they trust.

Employees of High Point Regional Health System will remain in their current positions, but will now have access to UNC’s managerial expertise and services and engage in a collaborative relationship on complicated cases, when necessary. Our arrangement will not result in any layoffs or changes in pay rates or benefits of current employees.

This new relationship with High Point Regional will resemble UNC’s successful 12-year partnership with Rex Healthcare in Raleigh. UNC provides Rex with operational guidance and access to UNC physicians, research, technology and facilities – all while Rex maintains strong local governance and community involvement.

The partnership between UNC and Rex has strengthened both institutions over the years, and I anticipate this will be the same with High Point Regional. I look forward to working closely with all at High Point Regional and to adding our expertise and experience to their strong line of services.

SAS blog about Carolina Advanced Health

Jason Burke, managing director & chief strategist for the SAS Center for Health Analytics & Insights, recently toured Carolina Advanced Health (CAH), a collaborative venture between UNC Health Care and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The practice brings together a comprehensive and coordinated team of primary care physicians and other health care providers, including professionals trained in internal medicine, family medicine, behavioral health, nutrition, medication management, laboratory services and care management. Burke’s blog post focuses on how the combination of the team and technology at CAH make it an innovative model for care. You can read his post here.

State Snapshots from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released its 2011 State Snapshots, which provide state-level performance overviews on treating cancer, diabetes, maternal and child disorders, heart disease and other diagnoses. According to the data, North Carolina performs well in areas like preventative care and acute care. Quality of hospital care also remains on track with national averages. In clinical areas, our state has improved respiratory disease and cancer care since baseline year data was collected. You can view North Carolina’s full state snapshot here.

I am proud of North Carolina’s performance in these categories and I commend the work of our state’s providers. However, there is still much to be done to improve the quality of and access to care across our state. For instance, we lag behind other states in diabetes and heart disease measures. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 30 percent of North Carolinians were considered obese in 2010 – making them more susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. As the needs of our state increase, the care we provide must change to meet the growing demand for services.

At UNC Health Care, we are working with other organizations and providers across the state to meet the growing demand for services and care. By improving access to quality public health services, training the next generation of physicians and conducting research, we hope to mitigate the challenges our state continues to face. The AHRQ snapshots provide a helpful benchmark for improvement as we move forward.