Published on July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014

Contact: Jennifer James

UNC Health Care receives Award from Department of Defense

Award is the nation’s highest honor for supporting Guard and Reserve employees

"I'm honored to announce the recipients of the 2014 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. "Guardsmen and Reservists across the nation rely on strong bonds with their civilian employers. By recognizing these 15 exceptional employers, the Department of Defense celebrates the contributions made by American employers to our Citizen Warriors. I commend these extraordinary employers for their unwavering commitment to service members and their families."

UNC Health Care was selected for several reasons, including:

  • UNC Health Care employees volunteered to maintain a military couple’s house while both were deployed and actively took on extra work responsibilities to support the service of their colleagues.
  • The health system recognizes veteran employees and actively recruits military members and their spouses for employment.
  • UNC Health Care is currently developing a master’s degree physician assistant (PA) program for veteran medics to continue their medical careers after leaving the military.

The plan to establish a PA master’s degree program at UNC Chapel Hill was announced in December 2012. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) and the UNC School of Medicine, with input from U.S. Army Special Forces Command, developed a plan for a program that could provide a pathway for U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Sergeants to translate the skills and expertise gained through military service into a civilian career.

BCBSNC made a $1.2 million commitment to help the University launch the program. The new PA program assists military veterans while also helping to meet the growing need for highly trained health care professionals in North Carolina.

"We are deeply honored to be selected for this award," said Timothy M. Weiner, MD, a pediatric surgeon at UNC Health Care and a Navy Reserve Commander in 4th Medical Battalion, Detachment 2. "As a member of the Navy Reserve myself, I am very proud of the support that UNC Health Care provides to our many National Guard and Reserve employees."

For more information about the Freedom Award and this year’s recipients, view the full announcement.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of ESGR to recognize exceptional support from the employer community. In the years since, 190 employers have been honored with the award. To learn more about ESGR, visit