By Caryn Little
Reprinted from WCCB Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, NC (News Release) – Charlotte will soon be included on the list of the largest U.S. cities with a four-year medical school. For months, following the announcement that Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health have combined to operate as a single enterprise, the discussion around the Queen City has been where a second campus of Wake Forest School of Medicine will be located in Charlotte. Leaders from Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University today announced they’ve chosen a 20-acre site in midtown Charlotte, at the current corner of South McDowell Street and Baxter Street, adjacent to US-277.
“Through our partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine, today we fulfill a long-held desire for Charlotte to have a four-year medical school that will usher in a brand-new era of healthcare education, innovation and social impact,” said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health. “The significant investments we are making will not only enrich countless lives as we train the next generation of top-tier clinicians but will also be a pivotal economic driver that will propel us forward as we emerge from the pandemic, stronger than ever.”
The school of medicine campus will be located less than three-quarters of a mile from Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center. The campus of the health system’s flagship hospital is undergoing an extensive renovation, ensuring the school of medicine students will have access to the most modern, state-of-the-art facilities and technology in all of their learning environments.
“A second campus for Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte is truly a significant milestone for both health and education in the Southeast,” said Nathan O. Hatch, Ph.D., president of Wake Forest University. “It will also be a driving force for innovation in the corridor between Winston-Salem and Charlotte. This will further strengthen the academic bonds Wake Forest has with Charlotte and help advance learning, economic growth and opportunity. We are excited about the significant opportunities that our partnership with Atrium Health and the new facility will afford us, as we seek to better serve our communities in Charlotte and Winston-Salem and enhance the dynamic connections between the two vibrant cities.”
In addition to the location of the medical school, Woods announced Atrium Health has established the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund to support the continuing education of those who live in underserved communities. Bishop Battle is an emeritus member of the Atrium Health Board of Commissioners and Atrium Health Foundation Board, and has led efforts for affordable housing, parks, small businesses and extracurricular programs throughout community, including in Biddleville-Five Points, a historically Black community in West Charlotte. He also served for 17 years as a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, including four years as its chairman. A lifelong advocate for at-risk and those economically disadvantaged, Bishop Battle has received more than 100 awards and honors during his career, including the Long Leaf Pine Award, the highest award bestowed by the state of North Carolina.
Through an initial seeding of $5 million, the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund will benefit those who are in pursuit of a degree in health sciences at an Atrium Health-affiliated college or university, including Wake Forest School of Medicine, Carolinas College of Health Sciences and Cabarrus College of Health Sciences. Atrium Health will be engaging the community to match the initial $5 million to create a $10 million fund by the time the first students are seated at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte in 2024. “We believe Atrium Health can play a significant role in providing equity in access to both healthcare and education. And that first starts by ensuring that students from disadvantaged and low-income communities have equal opportunity to pursue careers in health sciences. Through the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund, our hope is that these young professionals will stay and join the Atrium Health family after they earn their degree – addressing the growing shortage of clinicians in both urban and rural communities across the Carolinas and beyond,” said Woods.
Wake Forest School of Medicine-Charlotte is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2022, soon after completion of the zoning approval process. Atrium Health’s technology offices currently on the site will be replaced with a large, mixed-use campus. It is envisioned it will become, over time, the nucleus for collaborative efforts that will bring about new innovations in health technology and research.
Wake Forest School of Medicine began sending its first students to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center earlier this month, as part of its rotations. The initial class of Wake Forest School of Medicine – Charlotte first-year M.D. students is anticipated to begin their education in 2024. A comprehensive philanthropic campaign will also be forthcoming this year, a component of which will be dedicated to supporting the infrastructure and naming of the facilities and programs at the school of medicine, as well as seeking ongoing support for the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund and other education initiatives. As Atrium Health’s strategic combination is investing heavily into the Charlotte school of medicine, it is also continuing to invest into major infrastructure projects in Winston-Salem as well. Last year, Atrium Health announced $3.4 billion in planned investments into Wake Forest Baptist Health and the communities it serves over the next 10 years, including the construction of a new care tower at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and a new Eye Institute in Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter. It also includes a new $150 million academic endowment created to fund additional education and research growth and a $70 million Academic Enrichment Fund to accelerate academic initiatives. As recently as this month, a $30 million investment in the Triad area community was announced in a new children’s outpatient center.
Based on a recently commissioned economic study by Tripp Umbach, the new school of medicine and the anticipated spin-off activities – in healthcare and other economic development – is projected to generate an additional $5.2 billion in economic impact and create nearly 43,000 jobs over the course of the next 20 years.
Key Stats for the Wake Forest School of Medicine–Charlotte
The two campuses of the Wake Forest School of Medicine will build on the clinical and academic excellence of Atrium Health and the educational and research distinction of Wake Forest Baptist to create a next-generation, academic learning health system.
• Location will be on a 20-acre site in midtown Charlotte, at the current corner of South McDowell Street and Baxter Street, adjacent to US-277.
• As the largest educator of physicians and other medical professionals in the state, the new Atrium Health is already educating nearly 3,200 total learners across more than 100 specialized programs each year.
• It aspires to be one of the most diverse learner bodies in the country – producing a generation of medical professionals representative of the communities it serves. Through this, it will reduce the shortage of doctors working in inner-city, suburban and rural areas of North Carolina.
• The two medical school campuses in Winston-Salem and Charlotte will create a new, preeminent regional corridor for health technology and innovation. Convening the surrounding academic, healthcare, government and business communities, the corridor will focus on improving health by bringing new medicines and treatments to patients in half the time and advancing economic equity.
• Research capabilities will be expanded across a large, diverse market to drive discovery that improves the health of Atrium Health’s patients and communities with an emphasis on health equity.
• It will increase national recognition and prominence of Atrium Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine in key areas, including Aging and Mobility, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes & Obesity, Pain & Addiction and Regenerative Medicine.
• A comprehensive philanthropic campaign will also be forthcoming this year, a component of which will be dedicated to supporting the infrastructure and naming of the facilities and programs at the school of medicine. Key Stats for the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund Atrium Health has established the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund to support the continuing education of those who live in underserved communities.
• Through an initial seeding of $5 million, the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund will benefit those who are in their pursuit of a degree in health sciences at an Atrium Health-affiliated college or university.
• Atrium Health-affiliated colleges or universities include Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Carolinas College of Health Sciences and Cabarrus College of Health Sciences.
• Community support for the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund will be included in a comprehensive philanthropic campaign this year.
• Atrium Health will be engaging the community to match the initial $5 million to create a $10 million fund by the time the first students are seated at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte in 2024.
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