Blue Ridge Community College and Wingate University students collaborate for a hospital simulation exercise during the spring semester of 2024. (Photo by Benjamin Rickert.)

‘Extra Miles’ Highlights Healthcare Education in Henderson County through Blue Ridge Community College

Featured photo: Blue Ridge Community College and Wingate University students collaborate for a hospital simulation exercise during the spring semester of 2024. (Photo by Benjamin Rickert.)


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This May, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS) released the “Extra Miles Report” (PDF), highlighting their two-year tour across the state “to meet those on the front lines working to improve the health and well-being of our communities.”

One stop in August of 2021 included Blue Ridge Community College’s state-of-the-art healthcare education facility located in the Health Sciences Center of downtown Hendersonville. The center opened in 2016, providing students with smart classrooms, well-equipped laboratories, and meeting spaces to support their healthcare career aspirations.

During a tour, BCBS administrators joined Jay Kirby, CEO of UNC Health Pardee, to explore Blue Ridge’s classrooms and labs, along with areas of Wingate University and the UNC Health Pardee Health Center and Surgery Center. The three organizations operate on their own floors of the same center, and Pardee Hospital is located next door. This provides endless opportunities for students who could, for example, begin their healthcare education in high school through Blue Ridge’s allied health programs, transition into a Blue Ridge two-year healthcare program, and then ultimately continue their education through a doctoral degree at Wingate – all without leaving their hometown.

“The purpose of the tour was to better understand the healthcare workforce landscape in North Carolina’s rural areas,” explained Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “They were extremely impressed with not only the facility but, more importantly, the collaborative and innovative approach to our healthcare partnerships. We were honored to be their only stop in Henderson County.”

Blue Ridge is highlighted on page 33 of the new BCBS report, which calls special attention to the unique relationships forged in Henderson County.

“The uniqueness of the partnership extends far beyond the building,” the report reads.

Learn more about Blue Ridge’s healthcare programs and county-wide partnerships in Education NC’s news coverage of the Extra Miles tour from October 11, 2021.