The Charlotte Observer

Atrium gets approval to open med school to students in 2022

- BY HANNAH SMOOT hsmoot@charlotteo­bserver.com

Wake Forest School of Medicine and Wake Forest University have received approval to open the first phase of a medical school in Charlotte, through a partnershi­p with Atrium Health — starting with third- and fourth-year medical students in 2022.

The school will be Charlotte’s first four-year medical school. The groups said they have received the necessary accreditat­ion to proceed with their plans.

The full medical school is expected to open in 2024 with a class of about 48 students.

The medical school received approval from both the Southern Associatio­n of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Liaison Committee

on Medical Education in June, Atrium Health announced Wednesday.

The approvals “mark a crucial milestone” for the medical school, Atrium said in a statement.

“This is such fantastic news for our students and for our School of Medicine,” Wake Forest School of Medicine Dean Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag said in a statement.

Wake Forest and Atrium will still need to submit plans for approval to those organizati­ons for the full four-year school after opening the first phase to third- and fourth-year students. The school plans to

submit those plans in 2022, Freishlag told the Observer in an interview.

PLANS FOR THE MED SCHOOL

The partnershi­p was first announced in April 2019.

Charlotte is the largest city in the country without a four-year medical school, according to Atrium.

Adding a four-year medical school will be important for the city’s developmen­t, Freishlag said. It means more medical students will likely choose to stay in the city for residency and beyond, and will bring more medical research to Charlotte, she told the Observer.

“More jobs, more people, more doctors that will stay in town,” she said.

The school will be built on a 20-acre parcel at the intersecti­on of Baxter and South McDowell streets, Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods announced in March.

“Because it’s right off of I-277, I believe it will become an iconic addition to the Queen City skyline,” Woods said at the time. “Everyone who sees it will know this is a place where excellence lives and excellence is learned.”

OTHER HEALTH CARE EXPANSIONS

The news comes just days after Atrium rival Novant Health announced it had received approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education for its UNC School of Medicine branch campus.

The Novant branch campus will host nine third- and fourth-year medical students at Charlotte’s Presbyteri­an Medical Center starting in February 2022.

News about the branch campus and Atrium’s four-year medical school should be exciting for the community, Novant Health branch campus director Mark Higdon told the Observer.

“It’s good for Charlotte,” he told the Observer. “... The core thing is the workforce pipeline to help with education, caring for our community, touching those areas where we need health care desperatel­y is all enhanced by training people where they will eventually practice.

“That’s at the core of this. So, the more the merrier.”

Meanwhile, Atrium announced plans to build a 30-bed hospital in Cornelius earlier this week, in a $154-million project. The 160,000square-foot facility, Atrium Health Lake Norman, is scheduled to open in 2024.

And in April, Atrium opened a $228-million medical plaza just down the street from the future med school campus.

That facility, Atrium Health Kenilworth Medical Plaza I and II, is the new flagship location for Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.

 ?? Ayers Saint Gross ?? Atrium Health has taken another step toward bringing a four-year medical school to Charlotte.
Ayers Saint Gross Atrium Health has taken another step toward bringing a four-year medical school to Charlotte.

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