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

Leading health systems to enhance care, transform medical education, expand research and improve countless lives in North Carolina and beyond

October 9, 2020

A new era of health care was ushered in today as Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health, including Wake Forest School of Medicine, officially joined together as a single enterprise, Atrium Health. Both health systems are renowned for their clinical expertise and the school of medicine is nationally recognized for its medical education programs and research. With the strategic combination now complete, the collective vision to transform medical education, expand patient-centered research and innovation, and define the next generation of clinical excellence becomes a reality.

The new Atrium Health enterprise will bring clinical expertise together with the research, innovation and the educational capabilities of these renowned institutions to revolutionize the ways people become and stay healthy, changing lives for the better for the more than 7 million people across the region who now have access to care from the combined organization. The enterprise will have over 70,000 teammates working together to provide personalized care for each of the 15 million patient interactions it has each year, fulfilling its mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all.

“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 Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., 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.


Media contacts:

Atrium Health: Chris Berger,

Wake Forest Baptist Health: Paula Faria,