Present and Future

UTHSC Receives Nearly $3 Million Grant from BlueCross

Memphis, Tenn. (January 21, 2011) The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has been awarded a $2,912,751 grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation to fund its "Promoting Patient Safety Through Teamwork-Focused Interdisciplinary Simulations Program." Vicky Gregg, CEO for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will provide UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab with the first installment of the grant at a January 24 check presentation. The event will be held in the lobby of the chancellor's office on the UTHSC main campus in Memphis at 10 a.m.

The nearly $3 million grant, which becomes effective this month and runs through 2013, will support the purchase of new medical simulators, computers and software for training students from five UTHSC colleges Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. Use of simulators allows students from different colleges to work together as an interdisciplinary team and respond to simulated patient care crises and address real-world health problems.

The grant supports recruitment of three staff members to administer the program, including a director. It will also fund the installation of equipment and software to record, analyze and evaluate the performance of the teams.

"This grant will be a tremendous asset in educating future generations of health care professionals from a wide variety of disciplines," said Chancellor Schwab. "Today's health care students and trainees must learn to consistently work as teams, to trust each other's judgment, and to maintain a constant, shared focus on patient safety." He also noted, "The grant will allow us to move ahead with this collaborative training methodology at a much faster pace. We will be able to bring together students with a range of health care specialties in simulations where they can practice listening, learning and pooling their knowledge and resources to better serve patients."

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), a more than 65-year-old health insurance provider that serves some 3 million Tennesseans, established its health foundation in 2003 to award grants for initiatives that improve health for the state's citizens.

"The idea of health care as a team exercise that is practiced and coordinated with a focus on quality patient care and safety resonates strongly with our organization," said Gregg. "We are pleased to support this forward-thinking initiative, which will better prepare the next generation of health care providers in our state and positively impact the health of Tennesseans."

Hershel P. Wall, MD, special assistant to the UT President in support of Development and Alumni Affairs, organized and submitted the grant to BCBST Health Foundation. "We are very thankful for this generous support from the BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation," he said. "Teaching our students to be better, team-focused health providers and to rely on each other's expertise will help them serve patients more efficiently and effectively. Combine that with showing students how each of them can positively affect patient safety and the result is a winning strategy for patients, hospitals and the entire health care system."

In keeping with the essence of the program, Dr. Wall observed that producing the grant proposal was an interdisciplinary effort. "A critical team from nursing, medicine, pharmacy and the development office share credit for writing the grant proposal," he explained.