A Closer Look at The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation


| 4 min read

Along with the employees at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan who answer customer phone calls, investigate health care fraud and pave the way for technology innovation, there’s an entire team dedicated to improving the quality, cost and access to health care—this organization is known as the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation is a nonprofit organization with more than 35 years of grant funding experience. Operations began in 1980 with $800,000 in seed money—three years later, the Foundation received $19.2 million from Michigan doctors to help further the cause. Today, the Foundation has roughly $60 million in assets and gives nearly $2 million each year in grants to improve research quality, cost and access to health care. “We want Michiganders to understand what the Foundation is and what we do,” said Audrey Harvey, MD, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “We also want to make sure we connect people across the state to the resources that could benefit their health.” The Foundation’s work is done through five targeted grant programs: investigator initiated, physician investigator, community health matching, request for proposal and student award programs:
  • Investigator Initiated Research Award Programs: This program provides researchers employed by universities and hospitals up to $75,000 in grants. The expectation is that that the funding will support getting the researcher’s work published to share among other Michigan researchers and medical professionals to improve the cost and quality of care for Michigan residents.
  • Physician Investigator Research Award Programs: Michigan physicians employed by a university or public/private hospital will use these grants to support pilot projects and/or small research studies to address unmet health needs to improve the delivery and quality of patient care.
  • Community Health Matching Grants: This grant funding targets community-based, nonprofit organizations in Michigan who will use the funding to develop, test or validate new techniques and programs to address the needs of its community members and produce a tangible effect in their lives. It focuses on improving access to care in an innovate way that empowers members of the community to use their health care more wisely and follow the protocol set by health care providers.
  • Request for Proposals (RFP): This program allows the BCBSM Foundation to decide the grant funding category based on topics of interest or need. The only qualification is that it serves to provide care to Michigan residents and is approved by board members. Oftentimes, these programs are a collaborative effort between the BCBSM Foundation and the Blue Cross Social Mission team.
  • Student Award Programs: The Student-Award Program is available to medical and doctoral students enrolled in Michigan universities. This one-year grant supports research dissertations.
In 2017, a total of 107 grants were given to support organizations and individuals working on innovative health care research and programming. The funding spans the state, from the Metro Detroit area to the communities of the Upper Peninsula. “Two years ago, I looked at a map of the organizations receiving grants and realized there weren’t many beyond mid-Michigan,” Harvey says. “So, I reached out to some community leaders in the Upper Peninsula who share our passion for making an impact in the area.” Though the work of this organization is diverse and reaches various communities throughout the state, the primary focus of the BCBSM Foundation is to enable other organizations, researchers and health care experts to improve the overall health of Michigan residents. “It’s gratifying to see our grantees benefit from the funding we provide—it’s enabling organizations and individuals to make a difference in the health of Michiganders,” Harvey said. In addition to their broader work in the Upper Peninsula, the Foundation has provide funding support to several groundbreaking projects over the past few years. These include:
  • The Military Medic to Paramedic Program, which is the first program of its kind in the country and helps military medics transition into civilian life by providing a fast-track path to EMS certifications and licensure
  • Research that investigates whether self-selected music before surgery has an edge over music specifically engineered to be calming
  • The ”Nursing for Life” program, which helps veterans who are nurses find jobs in nursing homes, hospice and ambulatory care facilities
In the future, Harvey also sees the Foundation getting more into collaboration and integration with other organizations that fund grants to improve community health, particularly targeting underserved communities of the state. “We’re working with grantees now to seek out integrated care solutions between both physical and behavioral health,” Harvey says. “We’re looking forward to forging partnerships that, as a collective, can help Michiganders broadly improve their wellness and grow as people.” To learn more about the Blue Cross Foundation and the work they’re doing to improve the health of Michigan residents, visit bcbsm.com/foundation. Want to see what the Foundation has been up to most recently? Check out the stories below:
Photo credit: Deb Nystrom
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association