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Foundation News
A New Chapter in WNC Medicine, Pharmacy and Research

In August, 2011 Mission Health System purchased the former Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) building that straddles Biltmore Avenue between the two campuses.

The 49,000 square foot building, affectionately known as the "Bridge Building", will become the home of Mission's growing medical education, research and quality programs, according to Ron Paulus, M.D., President and CEO of Mission Health System.

In 2009, the Health System signed an affiliation agreement to open a branch campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Medical School in Asheville.  This was followed a year later by the UNC Board of Governor's decision to open an Asheville branch campus of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, one of the top pharmacy programs in the United States.  "For decades Western North Carolina has south to have state university professional schools like Engineering, Medicine and Pharmacy", said Mission Foundation President Bruce Thorsen.  "Over the years Engineering has been accomplished and now Medicine and Pharmacy have come to Western North Carolina.  This is truly a great achievement for our region"

"The bridge building needs substantial renovation to house these new programs," according to True Morse, Director of Mission's Facility Planning.  "We expect renovations to approach $8 million which includes a significant amount of technology that is needed to connect our branch campuses with the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and throughout the region.  We also must expand laboratory space for the schools, a new larger simulation laboratory for the medical students and Mission staff plus additional space for Mission Research Institute operations."

Mission Health System has asked Mission Foundation to assist with seeking gifts and grants to help fund the renovations.  A special Foundation committee has been created to develop and implement a plan to raise the funds within the next 18 months, according to Bruce Thorsen and Leon Elliston, M.D., chairman of the Foundation's Board of Trustees.

"There will be some very exciting and visible naming opportunities connected to this renovation", according to Thorsen.  "This is the perfect project for anyone who has an interest in the future of Western North Carolina and who has an interest in expanding higher education and research in our region," he explained.

Mission Health System CEO Dr. Ron Paulus emphasized the need for regional support for these two branch campuses.  "We all know Western North Carolina competes with other regions of the state for resources like these two campuses.  With state government facing tough financial times it is vital that the private sector step up to help underwrite these programs in Medicine, Pharmacy and Research.  These are two critical professions that our region will need in the coming decades as our aging population continues to grow."

If you would like specific information on how you personally, or your company or family foundation can become part of this landmark development in Western North Carolina, please contact Bruce Thorsen at 828-213-1023 or [email protected]

Medical School drawing top students in just first two years

Jeffrey Heck, M.D., Dean of the Asheville Campus of the UNC School of Medicine, has set the bar high for students selecting Asheville as the place to spend their 3rd and 4th years of medical school.  Students are asked to evaluate their program after each year and in 2011 the entire UNC medical school class cited the Asheville Campus as one of the top six strengths of the UNC School of Medicine.

The Asheville campus students have scored higher on standardized tests and specialized tests given by the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Board than their counterparts on the main campus at Chapel Hill.  Students in Asheville have won two MacNider Awards (presented by UNC School of Medicine) and two are national Albert Schweitzer fellows!


Pharmacy School Enrolls First Class

Asheville Branch Dean, Molly Scott and Eshelman School of Pharmacy Dean, Bob Blouin welcomed the first class of the new Asheville branch/ Eshelman School of Pharmacy to the UNC Asheville and Mission Health System campuses on August 17.  There was a great amount of excitement and anticipation among both the students and faculty surrounding the occasion.  Dean Blouin said, "There is no better plan on earth for a pharmacy school than Asheville, North Carolina, where the entire practice of pharmacy, nationally was changed in the past decade because of the 'Asheville Project' that originated here between Mission Health System and the City of Asheville." (for more information on the Asheville Project visit