Public Health Sciences and Physician Assistant Programs Relocating to Wake Forest Innovation Quarter

December 10, 2013

Two of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s preeminent School of Medicine programs will move to Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in the spring of next year.

The Medical Center today announced that its nationally recognized Division of Public Health Sciences (PHS) and its nationally rated Physician Assistant (PA) program will relocate approximately 450 staff, faculty and students to state-of-the-art education and high-tech research space in the newly developed 525@Vine building, located across Vine Street from Wake Forest Biotech Place. The move is expected to begin in March 2014.

“The move of Public Health Sciences and the Department of PA Studies to our downtown campus is part of our overall strategy to create synergies between our world-class research and education programs embodied in the School of Medicine and our commitment to public-private partnerships to advance the economic development of the region,” said John D. McConnell, M.D., chief executive officer, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“Our PHS researchers are involved in meaningful studies to improve specific aspects of public health; its faculty and staff are dedicated to determining the cause of chronic diseases and ways to prevent them. In addition, our scientists, biostatisticians, logistics personnel and project managers – nationally known for coordinating multi-center clinical trials across the United States – are right here in Winston-Salem,” said Edward Abraham, M.D., dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Our nationally recognized PA program is preparing the next generation of physician assistants for positions that are key to providing quality health care to wider populations than ever before. These are just some of the strengths that our School of Medicine programs bring to companies and institutions that locate here.”

Gregory L. Burke, M.D., director, Public Health Sciences added, “We’re excited to seek synergistic relationships with our new neighbors, including Inmar, the Emerging Technologies Center of Forsyth Tech and the numerous startup companies located in and around the Innovation Quarter,” he said.

The Division of Public Health Sciences received more than $74 million in fiscal year 2013 in external research funding. Historically, the division has been ranked among the top two of similar groups nationally in National Institutes of Health funding. More than 260 of the division’s staff, faculty and students currently based in the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Winston-Salem will relocate to the third, fourth and fifth floors of 525@Vine.

Wake Forest Baptist’s Physician Assistant Studies program, which is rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top physician assistant programs, will move 24 faculty and staff and its 128 students from its present location at Victoria Hall to the fifth floor of 525@Vine.

“This new space will allow us to scale up our program, support new curriculum advancements as well as create a high-tech home base for community-based interventions throughout the region,” said Reamer Bushardt, Pharm.D., P.A.-C, chair, Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

In September, Wake Forest’s physician assistant program was approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant to expand its program with a new distant campus at Appalachian State University beginning in July 2014. This initiative, which is partially funded by a three-year, $375,000 grant from The Duke Endowment, seeks to help address the need for physician assistants in underserved communities.

Graduates of the PA program complete a 24-month course of study and are awarded the Master of Medical Science (MMS) degree. One class of 64 students is enrolled on the Winston-Salem campus in early June each year. Beginning in June 2014, one additional class of 24 students will be enrolled each year on the Boone, N.C. campus.

Combined, the PHS and PA programs will occupy 120,000 square feet of space in the newly developed 525@Vine building, bringing new synergy to Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and an expanded workforce to downtown Winston-Salem.

“The addition of the Public Health Sciences and Physician Assistant programs to the Innovation Quarter will be a huge boost to this expanding downtown area,” said Eric Tomlinson, D.Sc., Ph.D., chief innovation officer, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and president, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. “Together with the impending move of more than 800 Inmar employees beginning in February 2014, the opening in late 2014 of Forsyth Technical Community College’s Emerging Technologies Center, which is expected to train more than 1,200 students annually, and the opening by the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina of a new express branch, the Innovation Quarter continues to be one of the fastest growing urban-based research parks in the United States. We fully anticipate that the energy these students, staff and faculty will bring to the area will create new sparks for growth and lead to fascinating collaborations.”

Wexford Science & Technology, a BioMed Realty company, is currently renovating this former “90 series” R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company building using private investment and the application of federal and state tax credits. When the renovations are completed in late 2014, Wexford’s investment in the Innovation Quarter and Winston-Salem will total more than $250 million.

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