By Katie Nash, UNC Health Foundation
Thanks to the advocacy of a Carolina alumnus, UNC Health Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund has surpassed $2 million in gifts less than one year after its introduction.
UnitedHealthcare has donated $50,000 to support UNC Health’s COVID-19 mobile clinic, which deploys to underserved communities across North Carolina.
The gift began with Blake Berquist, Chief Financial Officer at UnitedHealthcare Community & State. Since the onset of the pandemic, UnitedHealthcare has leveraged its clinical knowledge and expertise in the fight against COVID-19, providing more than $100 million to support people and communities it serves. Community & State provides healthcare products and services to states that care for the economically disadvantaged, the medically underserved and those without the benefit of employer-funded healthcare coverage.
Berquist was catching up on emails one evening when UNC Health Foundation’s story about the COVID-19 mobile clinic caught his eye.
“COVID-19 has upended all of our lives, and it’s been a focus at UnitedHealthcare and also for me personally to support recovery and getting back to normal as much as possible,” Berquist said. “That’s been my recent passion, and UNC Health Foundation is making an impact in that space – when I saw that they were meeting underserved populations where they are with the mobile clinic, it really struck a chord with me.”
Berquist hails from St. Paul, Minnesota, and works out of UnitedHealthcare’s headquarters near Minneapolis. He received his Master of Accounting degree in 2017 from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online program. Having donated individually to Carolina in the past, Berquist quickly knew he wanted his next gift to benefit the COVID-19 Response Fund and mobile clinic – but considered how his network could potentially have an even greater impact. He contacted his UnitedHealthcare counterpart in North Carolina that night to begin leveraging support for a corporate gift.
“It was a really nice synergy to bring the company together to support what UNC Health is doing – everyone was immediately supportive, and we made it happen,” Berquist said.
Through Berquist’s quick advocacy and UnitedHealthcare’s support, UNC Health was able to hit an important milestone for the COVID-19 Response Fund and continue supporting community outreach and high-quality care for underrepresented populations in North Carolina.
Since its establishment last May through an investment from the COVID-19 Response Fund, the mobile clinic has provided almost 4,000 COVID-19 tests to communities across the Triangle at no cost to patients. The clinic has now shifted to administering COVID-19 vaccines, providing more than 1,000 inoculations since early February while also addressing patient issues such as food insecurity and providing educational and behavioral health resources. UnitedHealthcare’s gift will enable the clinic to expand its reach to additional underserved communities in North Carolina and continue to provide healthcare support to patients beyond COVID-19.
“We make philanthropic investments across the nation to make sure we are supporting the people we serve,” Berquist said. “This is a great way to impact our community in North Carolina.”
Anita Bachmann, CEO of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina, fully supported the investment as a part of ongoing efforts to address the pandemic’s impact in North Carolina. The health plan has been dedicated to increasing access to testing and providing resources, including PPE and medical-grade refrigeration equipment, to help manage COVID-19 in low-income communities across the state.
“UnitedHealthcare is remarkable in how our employees are eager to make positive impacts in the communities we serve. We are thankful to Blake for putting our mission to help people live healthier lives to action in North Carolina,” Bachmann said. “Addressing barriers to testing and vaccination, such as transportation, is critical to managing the spread of COVID-19, and we are proud to partner with UNC Health to support these efforts in underserved communities.”
For more information on COVID-19 and UNC Health’s response to the pandemic, please visit the UNC Health COVID-19 resource page. To learn more about supporting the UNC COVID-19 Response Fund, please contact Martin Baucom at email@example.com.