Wellness: Local medical society goes regional

It's time for a change. Founded in 1885, the Buncombe Medical Society and its members have weathered many changes in the healthcare industry and in their own membership. At one time, society members were mostly male and wives served in an adjunct or supplementary capacity. But in the 21st century, it's more common for both the husband and wife to be doctors (or at least, both professionals), and the society’s CEO is a woman. And this year, the society has pushed beyond the local county borders: It's retooled itself as the Western Carolina Medical Society, naming Dr. Rob Fields as president of the Board of Directors.

"Regional expansion was the impetus behind our name change, says Miriam Schwarz, the Society's CEO and executive director. "An innovator, collaborator and community partner, WCMS is committed to supporting and advocating for physicians across WNC."

With the new name comes a new website, www.mywcms.org, Schwarz notes, explaining that the Society comprises two divisions: The WCMS Association is the professional arm, made up of more than 875 physicians, and advocates to further the professional interests of its members, improve conditions for practicing medicine, address overall community health issues, support educational opportunities for physicians and their staff and more. The WCMS Foundation is the organization's charity arm, addressing such issues as access to quality health care, disparities in health and overall wellness.

Some programs developed by the society include the WNC Interpreter Network, the Minority Medical Mentoring Program and the nationally recognized Project Access — a comprehensive, volunteer, primary and specialty physicians network that provides free health-care access to low-income, uninsured Buncombe residents.

Further, the BCMS Alliance — the Buncombe physicians' spouses group — works with the Foundation to manage an endowment that awards grants to health and wellness programs in the community.
For more information, call 274-2267 or visit the new website, www.mywcms.org.

Calling for more nurses

The Foundation for Nursing Excellence has received a $1,370,000 grant from The Duke Endowment to increase the number of Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates in North Carolina by expanding the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses project. Over the next three years, more than two-thirds of the award will be shared directly with five different regional RIBN partnerships throughout North Carolina.

A higher-educated nursing workforce is needed to address the increasingly complex healthcare needs of our citizens, and expand the pool for future faculty and advanced practice nurses, say foundation representatives, calling for new partnerships between community colleges and universities to support seamless progression toward a baccalaureate degree. The Duke Endowment is further investing in the expansion of the RIBN project to ensure an adequately prepared nursing workforce to support the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians.

Currently, more than 66 percent of newly licensed nurses enter the workforce with associate degrees in nursing, and less than 15 percent of them achieve a BSN or higher degree in nursing during their careers. Given the important role community colleges have in educating the majority of the N.C. nursing workforce, identifying new ways for qualified nursing students entering a community college to seamlessly progress to the completion of a baccalaureate degree at the beginning of their careers could help increase the proportion of BSN prepared nurses and solve a severe workforce crisis.

In 2008, the Foundation, in collaboration with Western Carolina University and AB-Tech, began work toward implementing a four-year, dual-admission, seamless progression educational tract with support from a Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Northwest Health Foundation, and the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, as well as from U.N.C. General Administration, the Janirve Foundation and The Duke Endowment. Based on the project's initial success and the broad interest in expanding it statewide, The Duke Endowment is investing in the expansion of the RIBN model in five regions across the state, including 14 associate degree and five university nursing education programs.

For more information about the Foundation, visit www.ffne.org. For more information about The Duke Endowment, which has awarded nearly $2.8 billion in grants since 1924,visit www.dukeendowment.org.

— Send your health-and-wellness news to mxhealth@mountainx.com or news@mountainx.com, or call News Editor Margaret Williams at 251-1333, ext. 152.I


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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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