Our Essential Role as an Academic Learning Health System

Our focus in this edition of Engage is on our role as an academic learning health system. That role is what distinguishes our work, and some recent successes in patient care, research and education during a most challenging time illustrate the difference we make.

Julie Ann Freischlag Headshot - Engage Winter 2022As of the end of January 2022, we had sent more than 4,600 COVID-19 patients home or to a facility to continue their recovery. Outstanding care in our health system has made possible thousands of reunions between patients and their loved ones. Our clinical teams deserve our deepest thanks for everything they do for our patients and their families.

We also are leading or participating in more than 60 clinical research trials that are focused on COVID-19. Our investigators are making important contributions that help prevent and treat COVID-19 and a host of diseases, and our research program has grown to $307 million in funding, up from $300 million in 2020 and a 50% increase over the past five years. Our clinical trials, which number in the hundreds at any given time, are also expanding to include all medical centers within Atrium Health.

Providing optimal care and producing world-class research enhance our efforts to educate and train the medical professionals that our community and our world need. We are working hard to make sure that students across the Wake Forest School of Medicine reflect the broader world they will serve.

Our MD class of 2025 totals 146 learners — 55 are underrepresented minority students and 92 are women. Our Physician Assistant class includes 13 Latinx students who make up nearly 15% of the class. Our Nurse Anesthesia class of 2024 has 15 learners, including 11 women and six who are underrepresented minority students. This intentional focus on diversity is important for us as a leader in academic medicine. It provides our learners with new and dynamic perspectives, and we are confident it will make all of our students better medical providers.

We take great pride in fulfilling our essential role as an academic learning health system, and I hope you and the many others who make our work possible share in that pride.


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Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(hon), DFSVS
Chief Executive Officer, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist
Dean, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Chief Academic Officer, Atrium Health Enterprise