CHAPEL HILL – During multiple deployments as a U.S. Army Special Forces medical sergeant, David Costa said he provided care for civilian children with cuts and bruises, worked to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds and prepared patients for transport.

“I’ve pretty much seen the country from one dust pile to the next,” Costa said of Afghanistan. He said he was been deployed eight times to the country or Iraq, and would “easily” do it again. He said he found the work rewarding.

He’s now a master sergeant at the Tactical Human Operations Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Program at Fort Bragg.

To build on the training of Special Forces medical sergeants like Costa, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, announced a plan to create a two-year master’s degree program. The program would prepare veteran medical sergeants to be physician assistants.

“They deserve opportunities to continue their healing work when their military service ends, and when they get that chance, we will all benefit,” said Holden Thorp, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, at a news conference at the Rizzo Conference Center in Chapel Hill.

The program would enroll its first class in 2015. It would start with about 15 students, said Dr. Amelia Drake, executive associate dean of academic programs at the UNC School of Medicine. The program needs approval from the UNC Board of Governors, and Drake said they’ll be seeking accreditation.

Read more: The Herald-Sun – UNC to train special forces vets as physician assistants