200215-CY-Blue & You Photo

University of Central Arkansas nursing students pose with Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas Associate Executive Director Rebecca Pittillo, executive director Patrick O’Sullivan, Curtis Barnett, president and CEO, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield; UCA President Houston D. Davis, UCA School of Nursing Director Susan Gatto, UCA College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Dean Jimmy Ishee and UCA College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Senior Director of Development Maegan Dyson during a $149,991 grant presentation to UCA from the foundation on Feb. 10.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has set out to promote health across the state through issuing $3.4 million in grants to different entities across the state.

Through the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, $3,467,872 has been awarded to fund 40 initiatives in 23 of the 75 counties ranging from splash pads to hiring a nurse case manager to implementing a cooking class.

Included in that number is the University of Central Arkansas and the Conway Regional Health Foundation.

The foundation presented the $149,991 grant check to officials at UCA on Feb. 10. The university will use the funds to purchase training simulation equipment for its Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation, a “state-of-the-art” lab, where students are able to go through life-like scenarios to prepare them to work in a collaborative, health care work environment.

“We are grateful for the support of the Blue & You Foundation,” President Houston Davis said about the grant. “As a leader in health care education in Arkansas, this grant further enhances our ability to provide exceptional training for our students. With more than 90 percent of our College of Health and Behavioral Sciences graduates remaining in Arkansas, this grant will help us make a significant impact on the quality of health care in the state.”

The purchase will include the BD Pyxis Meditation 4000, an automated medication dispensing unit used by hospitals and three of the simulation manikins for the lab – a Nursing Anne Simulation for development of core nursing skills, the SimMom, to learn advanced full-body birthing, and Nursing Baby, an infant, 6-month-old manikin simulation.

“The high-fidelity simulators provide our students with opportunities to practice critical thinking in health care situations that they may not be exposed to until they are working as licensed registered nurses,” Susan Gatto, director of the UCA School of Nursing said. “These nonthreatening realistic simulations build their confidence and prepare them to enter the workforce as competent health care practitioners.”

According to UCA officials, more than 300 students receive training in the center each semester, mostly nursing but it is used by other departments within the UCA College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

The center’s usage will continue to increase with its planned expansion into UCA’s new Integrated Health Sciences Building, which is currently under construction. In addition to the expanded Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation, the 80,000-square-foot facility will be home to the UCA School of Nursing, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Interprofessional Teaching Center to be utilized by the entire College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. The facility is scheduled for completion in fall 2021.

The Conway Regional Health Foundation received $150,000, which will go toward the Family Medicine Residency Program to recruit and train 12 primary care residents for a three-year program in Faulkner County. The Log Cabin Democrat reached out to the foundation but were unable to comment by press time Thursday. Since it was started in 2001, the foundation has given out more than $36 million to nonprofits, government agencies and more to fund 1,922 programs in 248 communities across Arkansas to promote health:

$477, 050 in northwest Arkansas.

$287,043 in north central Arkansas.

$216,387 in the upper delta.

$1,100,980 in central Arkansas.

$687,012 in the lower delta.

$708,400 in southwest Arkansas.

“Our grants this year went to programs throughout the state that address issues and needs that organizations have identified as important to their communities,” Patrick O’Sullivan, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation, said in a news release. “These include physical and mental health programs for all ages, opportunities to participate in exercise and good nutrition and building the future medical workforce that will care for all our citizens.”

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews


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