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WCU and Mission Receive $1 Million Grant for Nursing Care in Rural WNC

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – A federal workforce diversity grant of more than $1 million will enable the School of Nursing at Western Carolina University to partner with Mission Health in an effort to increase the quality of nursing care provided to patients in rural Western North Carolina.

The funding marks the second $1 million grant awarded to WCU in the past year that is intended to improve the diversity and quality of nursing professionals in the region.

The latest grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide approximately $350,000 annually over a three-year period to create a program designed to increase the number of nurses with four-year degrees working in mountain hospitals and health care settings. The total amount of the grant, one of only 15 awarded nationally by the HRSA, is $1,049,000 over the three years.

The project will support development of nurses qualified as “advanced rural generalists” competent in meeting a variety of health care needs across diverse specialties and in different health care settings. The program will include courses addressing the unique health care needs found in the rural environment.

Research has found that the results of medical services are more successful when health care providers reflect the communities and the patients that they serve. Although the majority of nurses who work in rural health care facilities typically have grown up in rural communities, many of them lack the advanced levels of education and training necessary today, said Judy Neubrander, director of the WCU School of Nursing.

“In discussions with Mission Health, we recognized a need to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in rural areas of Western North Carolina,” Neubrander said. “We are delighted to be working with Mission Health and see this partnership as a win-win for the region by improving the quality of health care for patients in the region and increasing access to educational opportunities to those in the nursing profession.”

The project will focus on registered nurses with two-year degrees who are ethnic minorities and/or from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who work at the Mission Hospital campus in Asheville or at its rural affiliate hospitals – Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. It will provide scholarships, stipends and mentorship opportunities to allow them to receive the additional education and training offered by obtaining their bachelor’s degrees.

Participants in the project are expected to include people of African-American, Native American, Hispanic and Appalachian descent – segments of the population that typically seek advanced education at lower numbers than the rest of the population.

Titled the Western North Carolina RN to BSN Rural Education and Support (RN-BRES) Program, it is designed to benefit students and patients from across the region, said Vallire Hooper, manager for nursing research at Mission Health.

“This program will support the continued educational advancement of nurses across Western North Carolina,” Hooper said. “A more highly educated nursing workforce will ultimately lead to improved health care outcomes for our residents.”

Kathy Guyette, senior vice president for patient care, said that Mission Health is excited to partner with WCU to provide increased educational opportunities for the regional health care system’s nurses.

“This partnership will better enable us to provide community-based care that supports the goals of our BIG(GER) Aim initiative – to get each patient to the desired outcome, first without harm, also without waste and with an exceptional experience for the patient and family,” Guyette said.

A previous $1 million grant to WCU from HRSA is designed to increase the number of students from underserved rural populations, including members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who enter the nursing profession. That project, now in its second year, assists ethnically diverse and disadvantaged students from Andrews, Cherokee, Murphy, Robbinsville, Smoky Mountain and Swain high schools who are interested in nursing as a career.

WCU has been at the forefront of efforts to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina. The Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses Program – or RIBN – started as a partnership between WCU, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the Foundation for Nursing Excellence six years ago. The program allows students to be dually accepted and enrolled in both the university and a community college. Since its inception, the program has expanded across the state, with seven universities and 30 community colleges now involved.

For more information about nursing education at WCU, visit the website nursing.wcu.edu. For more information about Mission Health, visit mission-health.org.                           

About Mission Health

Mission Health, based in Asheville, North Carolina, is the state’s sixth-largest health system and the region’s only not-for-profit, independent community hospital system governed and managed exclusively in Western North Carolina. Mission Health has been recognized as one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems 2012-2014 by Truven Health Analytics, formerly Thomson Reuters. Mission Health is the only medium-sized health system to receive this recognition three years in a row, and the only health system in North Carolina to achieve that distinction.

Mission Health, which traces its roots in the region back to 1885, operates six hospitals, numerous outpatient and surgery centers, post-acute care provider CarePartners, and the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center. Its medical staff consists of more than 1,000 physicians and is certified in more than 50 medical specialties and sub-specialties. Mission Health has seven Centers of Excellence: Cancer, Heart, Mission Children’s Hospital, Neurosciences, Orthopedics, Trauma and Women’s Health. Mission Hospital, located in Asheville, is the system’s flagship hospital and is licensed for 795 beds. It is the regional referral center for tertiary and quaternary care. It also includes Mission Children’s Hospital – the region’s only children’s hospital. Other Mission Health member hospitals include Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. With approximately 10,600 employees and 2,000 volunteers, Mission Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina. For more information, visit mission-health.org or @MissionHealthNC.

About Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University is one of the 16 senior institutions of the University of North Carolina system. WCU enrolls more than 10,100 students in undergraduate and graduate programs of study and is located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, about 50 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2014, WCU was founded in 1889 to bring higher education and career opportunities to Western North Carolina.

The university’s mission is focused on quality education and preparation for responsible citizenship in a changing world. Since its founding, WCU has grown in size to become a major cultural, scientific, and educational force in the region and the state. The university’s academic programs, which span more than 120 specialties, are housed in five colleges – Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Allied Professions, Fine and Performing Arts, and Health and Human Sciences – and the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology. Graduate programs are offered directly through each college and the Kimmel School, and the Graduate School coordinates the admission process, funding support, and awarding of degrees to graduate students. In addition, the Honors College coordinates courses and events in every area of study, and Hunter Library provides academic support for all academic units.

Mission Hospital Offers Free Cancer Screening

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – Free skin cancer and oral screenings will be offered by Mission Hospital Cancer Services Saturday, April 30th at the Asheville Mall. People from all of Western North Carolina are invited. No advance appointments are needed; just come.

Registration for both screenings will be open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Both screenings will take place in the large open area inside the mall between Victoria’s Secret and Belk.

The skin cancer screening is an opportunity to have your body visually examined by a dermatologist for suspicious moles and possible skin cancers. The screening is only to check for skin cancer, not other types of skin problems such as acne and psoriasis. Dermatologists will advise participants to make a follow-up appointment if they see anything suspicious. Anyone who has a suspicious mole is encouraged to come, especially if the mole has changed in size or shape. People will be screened on a first come, first serve basis.

The oral screening will check for suspicious areas that might indicate cancerous growths in the mouth. It is not a dental exam.

Dermatologists volunteering for the skin cancer screening are Mark Cobb, MD; David Cogburn, MD; Dorris Duncan, MD; Peter Jaber, MD; Mark Hutchin MD; Lisa Nurre, MD; Daniel Smith, MD; Elizabeth Westly, MD; and Todd Wilkinson, MD.

The dentists providing the screenings are Stephanie Sabatini, DDS, Barry Hinderstein, DDS, Callan White, DDS, and Koffi Kouadio, DDS.

In 2010, 341 people were screened for skin cancer. Of these, 38 were referred for follow-up for abnormal moles, including 4 with possible melanomas. Since Mission’s first screening in 1991, more than 25 confirmed cases of melanoma, the skin cancer that can be life-threatening, have been initially identified at the screenings.

Radio Host Delilah Helps Together for Kids and Mission Children’s Hospital

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – National radio host Delilah , whose popular program airs locally on 102.5 WMYI, announced Jan. 25 that she will be a spokesperson for Together for Kids, a national alliance of children’s hospitals that includes Mission Children’s Hospital. In her role, Delilah Rene Luke will work to raise money and awareness for children’s hospitals like Mission.

“As the mother of 11 children, I know that when your child is sick, nothing else matters,” said Delilah. “That’s why I am so passionate about the work being done by Together for Kids to connect its member hospitals with the funding they need to care for sick and injured children, regardless of their ability to pay. Every child deserves every chance to live a healthy life.”

According to the American radio personality, author and songwriter, Together for Kids stood out from other children’s charities because one hundred percent of all funds raised directly support the health care needs of children served by its member hospitals.

In her program Delilah will introduce listeners to courageous young patients facing serious health challenges. She’ll also introduce listeners to the people who work tirelessly to treat them.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to strengthen the work of Mission Children’s Hospital with the advanced technology, treatment, education and medical research we need to tackle today’s toughest pediatric issues,” said Susan Mims, MD, MPH, medical director. “We are delighted to have Delilah join our alliance of children’s hospitals in creating a single voice advocating for children’s health.”

Founded in 2007, Together for Kids’ primary focus is on raising unrestricted funds for its member hospitals. The organization’s 43 member hospitals, including all Shriners Hospitals for Children, also benefit from being part of a collaborative network of peers sharing best practices to improve care for all of America’s sick and injured children.

Delilah is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks on more than 200 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. On WMYI it airs Sunday through Friday from 7 pm to midnight. She has more than eight million listeners weekly, making her the most-listened-to woman on radio in the U.S. The show combines Delilah’s distinctive blend of story-telling, sympathetic listening and encouragement – all scored with adult contemporary soft rock. Often referred to as the “Oprah of Radio,” Delilah is also the author of “Love Matters.” Published by Harlequin Books, the book features Delilah’s perspective on love, as well as stories from her listeners.

In addition, Delilah established a foundation called Point Hope as a voice for forgotten children everywhere. The immediate focus of the Foundation is on refugee children in Ghana and on special needs children in the foster care system nationwide and in her neighborhood of White Center in Seattle. Visit www.Delilah.com.

Mission Children’s Hospital is the only pediatric hospital serving Western North Carolina.  Based in Asheville, NC the Children’s Hospital provides subspecialty care for babies, children and teens with serious medical conditions and traumatic injuries on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Together for Kids is a national alliance of children’s hospitals dedicated to building a healthier future for America’s kids. The organization provides an urgently needed national fundraising mechanism for its member hospitals, helping them care for seriously ill children and tackle the toughest health issues facing all kids. Visit www.togetherforkids.org.

UNC School of Medicine Announces Expansion of Asheville Campus

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

ASHEVILLE, NC – Leaders from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine announced an expansion of the school’s Asheville Regional Campus, which operates in collaboration with Mission Health System and the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC).

“In these tough economic times, I am pleased that we maintained our commitment to caring for the people of our state by making this expansion a reality,” said William L. Roper, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “We are seeing an increase in patient volume and a decrease in the number of health care providers. By expanding the School’s presence in Asheville, we will improve our capacity to train more physicians, especially rural and primary care physicians, for which the need is most urgent.”

The Asheville campus class size will increase from the current six students to up to 10 next year, with a long-term goal of expanding to 20 students per class.

Mission Health System President and CEO Ronald A. Paulus, MD, MBA, also announced that Mission will commit $7 million to purchase the MAHEC Bridge Building on Biltmore Avenue and transform it into a dedicated center for all medical education activities on the hospital campus. The building will become home to the UNC School of Medicine, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, future hospital-based residencies and other potential collaborations with UNC in research, patient care and teaching.

“Mission is proud to continue our long-standing partnership with UNC, MAHEC and our dedicated physician faculty to help train the next generation of physicians and other health professionals here in Western North Carolina,” said Paulus. “We see this as critical to Mission’s responsibility to advance the long-term health and well-being of this region. In addition to contributing to the health of our people, this expansion will also contribute to the health of our economy by continuing to cultivate a vibrant healthcare sector that spurs jobs and business growth.”

Teck Penland, Ph.D., president and CEO of MAHEC, commented that the expansion of the Asheville Regional Campus “is a significant move forward for the entire Western North Carolina region, as it will help to ensure that we have an adequate supply of physicians to meet the increasing healthcare needs of our growing, aging population.”

The Asheville Regional Campus, launched in 2008, provides clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students at Mission Hospital. Currently 10 medical students are enrolled at the Asheville campus, working closely with practicing Mission physicians as their primary teachers and mentors. The campus utilizes an innovative patient-centered curriculum which is now being replicated across the state.

Help Paint the Town Pink on Oct. 7

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

ASHEVILLE, NC – On October 7, come on out to Pack Square Park and help the community “Paint the Town Pink.” Hosted by Mission Health System and the Asheville Citizen-Times, the “Paint the Town Pink” event will be held 4:30 – 7 p.m. on Roger McGuire Green as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Pack Square Park will be awash with pink on October 7 as the community kicks off a month of breast cancer awareness with speakers, music and Western North Carolina’s largest “Human Pink Ribbon.” All participants will receive a free Pink October poster to display. Pink attire is encouraged but not required.

Mission Heart Receives Award for Heart Attack Treatment

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

ASHEVILLE, NC – Heart Services at Mission Hospital has received the Gold Performance Achievement Award given by the American College of Cardiology Foundation for treatment of heart attack. It is based on a hospital’s consistent use of treatment guidelines established by combining criteria from two rigorous programs. One is the ACTION Registry developed by the National Cardiovascular Data Registry. The other is the “Get With the Guidelines” program for heart attack developed by the American Heart Association.

The guidelines include aggressive use of medications like cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin, and anticoagulants in the hospital. The new guidelines combine the best of both programs into a single, unified national registry. It empowers health care provider teams to consistently treat heart attack patients according to current, science-based guidelines, and establishes a national standard for understanding and improving the quality, safety, and outcomes of care provided for patients with coronary artery disease, specifically heart attack patients.

Hospitals achieve the Gold Performance Award for meeting these criteria at least 85% of the time for 24 consecutive months. Only 135 hospitals in the nation received the Gold Performance Award for 2010.

Mission won the Silver Performance Award in 2009 for having met the criteria for 12 months in a row

Mission’s New Regional Outpatient Cancer Facility Named in Honor of SECU Members

Monday, September 13th, 2010

ASHEVILLE, NC – A landmark gift from State Employees’ Credit Union members was announced today during the topping off ceremony for a $59 million, 5-story complex that will be home to the Mission Cancer Program’s outpatient services. The facility will bear the name SECU in honor of the 1.6-million member credit union whose foundation is making the project’s lead contribution of $5 million for the building’s construction.

SECU, founded in 1937, is a large financial cooperative serving North Carolina’s state and public school employees and their families according to Shirley Bell, SECU Foundation Chair. She said this is the largest gift the foundation has made since its creation in 2004.

“Our members have always seen their Credit Union as a place where people help each other, and we see this project as one that will do just that,” she said. “It will be a place where individual health professionals reach out and touch families who are coping with this dreaded disease-comforting them, healing them, and uplifting them.”

The ceremony featured North Carolina Lt. Governor Walter Dalton; Bell and Mark Twisdale, SECU senior vice president of Human Resources; Thomas Shea, MD, Associate Director for Clinical Outreach at UNC Lineberger; Mary Beck, Senior Vice President for System Affiliations, UNC Hospitals; Ronald Paulus, MD, MBA, incoming President and CEO of Mission Health System and Mission Hospital, medical oncologist Shantea Lucas, MD, and leaders from several Mission Health System boards.

Peter Fontaine, chair of the Mission Foundation’s $15 million campaign to fund 25% of the Outpatient Cancer building, announced that with the SECU gift the campaign has already raised nearly $10 million.

“This is now a public campaign,” he said. “We are urging anyone and everyone who wants to be part of creating this critical new place for cancer care to join us in going over the top of our $15 million goal!”

As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee during the North Carolina General  Assembly in 2007, Lt. Governor Walter Dalton worked to ensure the appropriation of ongoing funds to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University Cancer Research Fund. The University was mandated to work with other organizations to extend its expertise throughout the state. The Mission Cancer Program was one of the first in the state to become affiliated with UNC Lineberger.

“This wonderful new facility is another example of Mission’s commitment to improving cancer care for people in this part of North Carolina,” Dalton said. “The investments by Mission, SECU and other generous donors in this facility builds on an established partnership between the Mission Cancer Program and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, created through the University Cancer Research Fund.  When the General Assembly appropriated ongoing funds for this purpose in 2007, the University of North Carolina was challenged to reach beyond its walls to partner with key organizations like Mission, to bring the latest in cancer care and research to every citizen of North Carolina.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony the final steel beams completing the building’s structural frame were hoisted into place. These beams carried the signatures and messages of hundreds of Mission employees as well as the donors and dignitaries present at this event.

The building is expected to open in early 2012 according to hospital officials. The total project, including a 300-place parking deck, carries a $59 million cost. It is being paid for with philanthropic gifts, tax exempt bonds, and capital reserves, according to Mission Board chair George Renfro.

About the SECU Cancer Center Building

The 5-level SECU Cancer Center Building will house all of Mission outpatient cancer services in one location, so that patients do not have to navigate various medical offices and treatment centers. The parking deck connects directly to the building, making treatments like radiation therapy just a few steps from car to care. The décor will feature natural materials and native landscaping.

At 120,000 square feet, Mission’s new Cancer Center will be larger than many hospitals and most hotels. All levels include flexible space and shell space for future expansion. Facilities include:

– 1st level: Front foyer and radiation therapy with both entrances connecting directly to the outdoors and radiation therapy just steps from the parking deck. CT, CT simulation and PET suites. Natural light from windows and a skylight. Quick serve Café for visitors and patients.

– 2nd level: Pediatric and adolescent care, with separate waiting and treatment areas for teens and younger children. Cancer registry and research.

– 3rd level: Outpatient infusion therapy, with both private and semi-private treatment areas. All infusion services, including transfusion and chemotherapy, for cancer and all other all types of patients, will be provided there. Most patient treatment areas have windows that look out to gardens and mountains.

– 4th level Shell space for future medical oncology offices.

– 5th level: Roof top. The mechanical penthouse will share space with a special rooftop “hardscape” for special events and functions, taking full advantage of the spectacular western view

More information about the Cancer Center and the SECU Cancer Center Building

Mission Hospital is affiliated with the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the new North Carolina Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Mission Wins Baby Friendly Designation

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

ASHEVILLE, NC – Mission Hospitals has become the first hospital in the state of North Carolina to achieve the coveted Baby Friendly hospital designation, and one of only 89 in the entire nation.

The Baby Friendly certification initiative is given to hospitals and birth centers for consistently educating, supporting and encouraging new mothers to breast feed. It is part of an international UNICEF/World Health Organization effort designed to give babies the immediate and long term health benefits of breastfeeding. The benefits are enormous. According to a recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, if 90 percent of new mothers in the United States breast fed their infants for the first six months of life, it would save billions of dollars and an estimated 900 lives in the United States alone.

Mission is only one of two large hospitals in the entire Southeast to receive the designation. (The other is Morton Plant Hospital in Florida). That’s significant because it’s much simpler to implement the program in a small birthing center serving a few hundred families a year for low risk deliveries than it is to do so in a hospital like Mission serving more than 4,000 widely diverse new families a year, including hundreds of babies who require intensive intervention and care.


To receive the Baby Friendly designation, hospitals must consistently carry out the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals, as outlined by UNICEF/WHO. The steps for the United States are:

Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.

Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.

Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.

Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.

Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

Practice “rooming in”– allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.

Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Hard work and gratifying feedback

Although Mission has had an active breastfeeding education and support program for more than 30 years, meeting these ten rigorous requirements meant placing even more emphasis on every aspect of care.

Two surveyors from Baby Friendly USA interviewed more than 60 people – physicians, staff members, senior leadership, and new mothers themselves. They naturally found areas for improvement: They wanted to see a designated quiet time for mothers to rest, more communication about breast feeding with physicians in their offices, and lactation consultants available nights and weekends.

But most of what the surveyors shared was praise.

“They were impressed at how much our mothers love us,” said Ginny Raviotta, director of Women’s and Children’s Services. “They said that it’s unusual, to have that much sentiment come out to the surveyors. They complimented the excitement and the camaraderie of the team and commented about how everybody seemed to love their jobs. And they told us about one mother who said her experience with breastfeeding at this delivery was totally different from her experience here three years ago, in terms of the consistency of support for breast feeding, and the information she received.”

Learn more about our Breastfeeding Center.

UNC Chapel Hill Pharmacy Education Expanding to UNC Asheville

Monday, April 12th, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors on Friday approved UNC-Chapel Hill’s plan to expand its pharmacy-education program to UNC Asheville in partnership with Mission Health System.

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill will create a satellite pharmacy program that will be based at UNC Asheville. The program at UNC Asheville is an expansion of the successful partnership the UNC-Chapel Hill pharmacy school has had with Elizabeth City State University since 2005. That program will graduate its second class in May.

The start-up costs for the program will be covered by a $2.5 million fund-raising initiative spearheaded by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has pledged $600,000 toward that goal, and the City of Asheville has pledged $100,000. By the fourth year of the program, its cost is projected to be fully covered by tuition and by Mission Health System funding half the clinical faculty’s salaries. The partnership program should not require any state funding.

Asheville was considered the natural choice for locating a satellite program because of the close working partnership between UNC Asheville, Mission Health System, and UNC-Chapel Hill. UNC Asheville, a nationally ranked public liberal arts college, is noted for its strong science and mathematics programs.

Like its counterpart at ECSU, the satellite program at UNC Asheville will educate more pharmacists in an area of North Carolina that doesn’t have enough health-care providers in general. The UNC Eshleman School of Pharmacy recognized the need for more health-care practitioners in Western North Carolina and made expansion into the area part of its strategic plan five years ago. The satellite program could enroll up to 40 Doctor of Pharmacy students a year. (The Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., is the professional degree required to practice as a pharmacist.),/p>

The Asheville community is well known in pharmacy circles for the very successful Asheville Project, which began as a collaboration between the highly ranked UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Mission Health System, the City of Asheville and community pharmacists. It is a multidisciplinary program of care for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It has been widely recognized and copied all across the country.

The project provides intensive education to people with these conditions through their employer’s health plan. Patients are also teamed up with community pharmacists who help them understand how to use their medications correctly. The project has resulted in a system in which community pharmacists have developed thriving practices that have improved their patients’ health while saving money.