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UTMC: $5 million gift from Jim and Natalie Haslam will boost health care access, equity

The medical center announced the gift Wednesday morning. It will come through the Natalie and Jim Haslam Fund at the East Tennessee Foundation.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jim and Natalie Haslam are giving $5 million to the University of Tennessee Medical Center to help boost access to medical care for those who otherwise might not get it.

The medical center announced the gift Wednesday morning. It will come through the Natalie and Jim Haslam Fund at the East Tennessee Foundation, according to the hospital.

The money is meant to "provide support for existing, developing and innovative initiatives at the medical center aimed at promoting community health equity by addressing health disparities and improving access to care."

Ways  the medical center will use the money include creating new community partnerships and expanding existing ones and increasing health education and screening, the Wednesday announcement states. There also are opportunities to encourage "underrepresented populations" to explore health care, according to Kathy Boyd, senior vice president and chief development officer.

Federal health authorities have argued for decades that better access to health care ultimately benefits all of society and reduces overall health care costs.

In a statement with the announcement Wednesday, Haslam said: “Natalie and I are aware that serious disparities exist in our community that cause many people to not have access to quality health care. We hope this gift will help The University of Tennessee Medical Center develop and implement creative programs to alleviate this pressing problem and ensure that everyone can get the health resources they need to live their best lives.”

Haslam founded the Pilot Co., the nationwide fuel and truck stop chain. The Haslams and their family have given millions of dollars through the years to benefit the East Tennessee community.

In Wednesday's release, UTMC CEO and President Joseph Landsman said: “The University of Tennessee Medical Center continues to be extremely grateful for Natalie and Jim Haslam for their commitment to excellence in healthcare and support of our community by investing in our work to address health equity. Their love of community and humankind is clear in this transformational gift.”