Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health Combine, Create Next-Generation Academic Health System


“As the healthcare field goes through the most transformative period in our lifetime, in addition to a new medical school, our vision is to build a ‘Silicon Valley’ for healthcare innovation spanning from Winston-Salem to Charlotte,” said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of the new Atrium Health. “We are creating a nationally-leading environment for clinicians, scientists, investors and visionaries to collaborate on breakthrough technologies and cures. Everything we do will be focused on life changing care, for all, in urban and rural communities alike. And we will create jobs that provide inclusive opportunities to enhance the economic vitality of our entire region.”

Based on an independent economic analysis, the immediate direct and indirect annual economic and employment impact from the combined enterprise exceeds $32 billion and 180,000 jobs.

“The impact of the strategic combination will be far-reaching, elevating North Carolina as a clear destination of choice to receive medical care for people all across the nation,” said Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. Through our combined, nationally recognized clinical centers of excellence in multiple specialties, we will be able to expand our research in signature areas, such as cancer, cardiovascular, regenerative medicine and aging, and target bringing research breakthroughs to the community in less than half the time of the national average.”

Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine will become the academic core of Atrium Health, building a second campus of the school of medicine in Charlotte, which is currently the largest city in the U.S. without a 4-year medical school. The growth of the school of medicine will expand existing academic research capabilities in a way that expands opportunities for clinical trials across a large, diverse market with some of the nation’s leading medical experts.

“With this combination, we are creating the future of medical education,” said Nathan O. Hatch, Ph.D., president of Wake Forest University. “As the only entity with two exceptional 4-year medical school locations in our region, we will become one of the largest educators of physicians and other medical professionals in the state – immediately educating over 3,500 total students across more than 100 specialized programs each year – while reducing the shortage of doctors in rural and under-served urban communities.”

With its vision for creating a next-generation academic health system, the new Atrium Health will not only be a center of excellence for medical care and academics, but also a catalyst for health innovation and economic development. The Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem is one of just nine innovation districts in the world recognized by The Global Institute on Innovation Districts. It will anchor the new high-tech corridor as it expands to Charlotte.

Both health systems have spent decades caring for their neighbors with a shared commitment of improving the health of people in communities they serve. The new enterprise will provide 50% more Medicaid services than any other provider in North Carolina and is committed to eliminating disparities in care – including rural-urban and racial disparity divides in care quality. It provides more than $5 million each day in charity care and other benefits to the community, making affordable, accessible, quality care available for all, regardless of a person’s income, ZIP code or the color of their skin.

Woods has been appointed president and CEO of the combined enterprise, guiding the strategic direction of the newly created next-generation academic health system, encompassing 42 hospitals and more than 1,500 care locations. Freischlag has been named the chief academic officer for Atrium Health, in addition to her current role as CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. She will focus on driving leading-edge, experiential medical education and training for its academic mission and re-imagining the future of basic science and translational research.

A 16-member board of directors appointed by The Charlotte Mecklenburg Hospital Authority (CMHA) and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC) will provide governance for the new enterprise through the newly formed nonprofit corporation, Atrium Health, Inc. Edward Brown, currently board chair of CMHA, will also chair the board of the new enterprise. CMHA, WFUBMC and Wake Forest University will each retain their own governing boards.

The strategic combination was first announced in April of 2019, with a definitive agreement signed in October of last year following approval by each entity’s governing board. With today’s signing, the new enterprise takes effect immediately, as will the integration process.

New Combined Organization at a Glance:

  • Caring for patients at 42 hospitals and more than 1,500 care locations
  • Reaching more than 7 million people across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia
  • Providing quality care through nearly 15 million patient interactions each year
  • Employing 70,000+ teammates
  • Educating over 3,500 students in more than 100 specialized programs
  • Receiving more than $300 million annually in external funding for research
  • Supporting over 3,500 clinical trials and research studies
  • Ranking among U.S. News & World Report‘s Best Hospitals for cancer treatment and eight different pediatric specialties

Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health are Committed to:

  • Creating the future of medical education, while increasing the number and diversity of health care professionals as well as strengthening the pipeline of medical professionals who will serve rural and under-served urban areas. 
  • Developing a second, state-of-the-art Wake Forest School of Medicine campus in Charlotte by building on the existing experiential learning curriculum and educating over 3,500 total healthcare learners – including students, residents and fellows across more than 100 specialized training programs each year.
  • Investing in the Translational Research and Population Health Center in Winston-Salem, exponentially expanding access to thousands of clinical trials across the region at Atrium Health’s and Wake Forest Baptist’s hospital and clinic locations to allow new treatments and cures to be realized more quickly.
  • Establishing a new Eye Institute in Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter for Wake Forest Baptist’s growing ophthalmology department, which attracts over 90,000 patient visits each year.
  • Constructing a new critical care, emergency department and surgery tower at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which will bring new innovations to emergency medicine and state-of-the-art operating rooms and intensive care capabilities.
  • Creating a “Silicon Valley” for health innovation where physicians, inventors, scientists and visionaries will collaborate on new technologies, techniques and treatments that improve people’s lives.
  • Expanding virtual care capabilities across the region, making care more accessible and affordable for more than 7 million people living in both rural and urban areas currently served by Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health.
  • Coordinating efforts to advance large, multi-site, patient-centered research collaborations in high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, vascular disease and other conditions that affect millions of Americans.
  • Transforming the research work in ground-breaking healthy aging, mobility and Alzheimer’s disease, preparing for the one in five U.S. residents who will be over age 65 by 2035, by helping this important population become healthier as they age with a better quality of life.
  • Combining Atrium Health’s “for all” mission and overall expertise in delivering behavioral health via telemedicine innovations with Wake Forest Baptist’s track record of behavioral health expertise and counseling across the state, opening the door to solving one of the greatest medical challenges facing the state today.
  • Providing health, hope and healing for all as the largest provider for Medicaid recipients and other vulnerable, underserved populations across North Carolina and as a nationally recognized leader in addressing and improving social determinants of health – such as food insecurity and affordable housing – in the communities it serves.

About Atrium Health
Atrium Health is a nationally recognized leader in shaping health outcomes through innovative research, education and compassionate patient care. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Atrium Health is an integrated, nonprofit health system with over 55,000 teammates at nearly 40 hospitals and hundreds of care locations throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. Atrium Health provides top-ranked pediatric, cancer and heart care to patients, as well as specialized musculoskeletal programs and organ transplants. Ranked among U.S. News & World Report‘s Best Hospitals for cancer treatment and in eight  different pediatric specialties, it has also received the American Hospital Association’s Quest for Quality Prize and was the recipient of the 2020 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Health Equity Award for its efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in care. Its flagship hospital, Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, is the region’s only Level I trauma center and is consistently rated among the nation’s best. Atrium Health is also a leading-edge innovator in virtual care and mobile medicine, providing care close to home and in the home. With a commitment to every community it serves, Atrium Health seeks to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all. Over the past three years, Atrium Health has provided nearly $2 billion per year in free and uncompensated care and other community benefits.

About Wake Forest Baptist Health
Wake Forest Baptist Health (www.wakehealth.edu) is a pre-eminent academic health system, with more than 20,000 employees, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest Baptist’s two main components are an integrated clinical system – anchored by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, an 885-bed tertiary-care hospital in Winston-Salem – that includes Brenner Children’s Hospital, five community hospitals, more than 300 primary and specialty care locations and more than 2,500 physicians; and Wake Forest School of Medicine, a recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research that includes Wake Forest Innovations, a commercialization enterprise focused on advancing health care through new medical technologies and biomedical discovery. Innovation Quarter is a vibrant, mixed-use innovation ecosystem with 90 companies, 3,600 workers and 1,800 degree-seeking students, and is home to Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center the region’s only Level I adult and pediatric trauma center, the only burn center in western North Carolina, and one of only three National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the state. Wake Forest Baptist performs the most kidney transplants in the state and is one of the largest transplant centers in a five-state region. More than 300 Wake Forest Baptist physicians are recognized on the Best Doctors in America list. Wake Forest Baptist provided a record-setting $580.8 million in community benefits during the 2019 fiscal year, which includes unreimbursed care, charity care, education and research, and community health improvement. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

SOURCE Atrium Health

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