Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist
Health System Mirrors Growth and Collaborative Spirit of Carolina Core
Doubling in size, Forsyth County’s largest employer drives collaboration and innovation.
Dr. Julie A. Freischlag joined Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in 2017 to oversee and grow the health system’s clinical, academic and innovation enterprises. In that time, the system’s operating budget has increased from $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion.
“We’re seeing tremendous growth in our footprint and our ability to get better access for patients,” says Dr. Freischlag, chief executive officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine and chief academic officer of Atrium Health. “This community is growing and strengthening, and we’re growing with it.”
One of the Region’s Largest Employers
Wake Forest Baptist is a leading academic health system encompassing Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest School of Medicine. It employs more than 20,000 people systemwide at its 885-bed tertiary-care hospital, children’s hospital, five community hospitals and more than 350 primary and specialty care clinics.
“I came to Wake Forest Baptist because there is such growth potential here, having almost doubled in size in the last five years,” says Dr. Freischlag.
That growth requires a skilled workforce to fill new positions. “We’re able to draw from the skilled talent pool in and surrounding the Carolina Core for our staff, physicians and nurses. When it comes time to hire from outside North Carolina, we don’t have to do a lot of convincing,” Dr. Freischlag says, pointing to the concerts in Bailey Park, walkability and outdoor recreation among her favorite reasons for living in the Carolina Core.
Having lived across the United States, from Baltimore to Milwaukee to Sacramento, Dr. Freischlag is the health system’s highest profile recruit and proud to be an ambassador for her new home. “This is a wonderful place to bring both your family and your company,” she says.
Leading Collaborative Innovation
Research and innovation are at the heart of Wake Forest Baptist’s work.
Wake Forest Innovations, a commercialization enterprise of Wake Forest School of Medicine, is focused on advancing health care through new medical technologies and biomedical discovery. “Wake Forest Innovations is able to improve health through collaboration between industry and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s faculty and staff,” says Dr. Freischlag. “Sharing expertise, knowledge, risk and reward at all stages of product research and development is helping us innovate in everything from mechanical tissue resuscitation to modulation therapeutics.”
Another product of collaboration, Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem is home to 90 companies employing 3,600 people working on advanced data analytics, clinical research, population health and regenerative medicine, and more.
Wake Forest Baptist partnered with real estate development firm Wexford Science & Technology to develop a high-tech ecosystem in Innovation Quarter that serves business, academic and societal needs.
“We’re proud of what Innovation Quarter has grown into, and even more excited for what’s to come,” Dr. Freischlag says, noting that Innovation Quarter has been dubbed one of the most distinctive emerging innovation districts in the U.S. by economist Bruce Katz.
Creating the Future
Wake Forest Baptist continues to grow its footprint as the Carolina Core grows in population and momentum.
“There’s critical thinking and incredible opportunity here,” Dr. Freischlag says. Of the communities she’s called home, Dr. Freischlag considers the Carolina Core to be the ripest for growth and most ambitious in the mindset of its residents and local leaders. “People are excited about the possibilities for what’s next in the Carolina Core. We’re able to create something as we go forward, and we want people who want to create and do incredible things.”