When I was just starting out in my career, one of my greatest learning opportunities was to be mentored by former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley -- both before and after I worked for him as press secretary. I still meet regularly with Attorney General Kelley and relish talking with him about our professions, politics and families. The impact of that mentorship is one of the reasons I’m a strong advocate for our Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan internship program – and why we employ hundreds of interns each year. We believe it’s part of our corporate responsibility to prepare the next generation of leaders, helping them to learn the business of health care, develop professionally and have life-changing mentorship opportunities like mine. Our company also benefits from their fresh perspectives, and some become full-time staff. This year, we decided to broaden our interns’ experience even more. In addition to their work inside our company, we actively engaged them in community-based projects to help assess and address business and organizational needs of local, non-profit organizations. We wanted them to experience and be touched by a key value of Blue Cross – our corporate commitment to community responsibility. Each year, our company engages in hundreds of community projects, donates thousands of volunteer hours and contributes millions of dollars to improve the community in which we live, work and play. Those include our Building Healthy Communities program, where we’ve worked with more than 600 Michigan schools to encourage children and schools to embrace healthy habits. We’ve also partnered with local communities to fund grants aimed at fighting the opioid crisis harming families across the state. And we were an early champion in Detroit’s resurgence, moving thousands of employees from the suburbs to the city, doubling our workforce here; funding new police and emergency vehicles; helping to install streetlights; supporting the Live Downtown program; creating a new Fit Park for riverfront visitors to enjoy; and other initiatives. We do this community-driven work because we believe that when our communities are healthy and vibrant, our customers and members thrive. This year, we wanted to encourage our nearly 200 interns to take part in similar efforts – and be inspired to forge long-lasting connections and partnerships with our communities and local non-profits. Their hard work exceeded all expectations and received great feedback from our community partners. Our interns’ projects included developing an impactful employee recognition and wellness program for Southwest Solutions, a local non-profit that offers counseling, economic and housing solutions; learning about the challenges and disparities the LGBTQ community faces when interacting with the health care community; developing a volunteer outreach, recruitment and retention strategy for three community programs of Gleaners Community Food Bank; and creating an incentive program for Matrix Human Services to encourage young children to try new food in a classroom setting. The enthusiasm and dedication of our interns – and their commitment to these non-profit organizations and causes -- was rewarding and inspirational. I’m proud to be part of a company built upon a social mission that believes in giving back. And I’m even more proud that our company is helping to inspire the next generation to do the same. Daniel J. Loepp is President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which serves nearly 5.4 million members in all 50 states.
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