Charlotte’s first 4-year medical school will be built in Midtown

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte is the largest U.S. city without a 4-year medical school. That will soon change.

On Wednesday, officials revealed that Wake Forest University and Atrium Health will build their new medical school in Midtown, at Baxter and South McDowell streets.

Construction on the 20-acre site will begin early next year. The initial class of Wake Forest School of Medicine-Charlotte first-year M.D. students is anticipated to begin their education in 2024.

Atrium Health’s technology offices currently on the site will be replaced with a large, mixed-use campus. It is envisioned it will become, over time, the nucleus for collaborative efforts that will bring about new innovations in health technology and research.

“Through our partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine, today we fulfill a long-held desire for Charlotte to have a four-year medical school that will usher in a brand-new era of healthcare education, innovation and social impact,” said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health. “The significant investments we are making will not only enrich countless lives as we train the next generation of top-tier clinicians but will also be a pivotal economic driver that will propel us forward as we emerge from the pandemic, stronger than ever.”

Earlier this year, Channel 9 reported on renderings of what the 4-year med school, which will be the city’s first, will look like.

Discussions began decades ago about a 4-year medical school in Charlotte. In October, Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine solidified their partnership about a year and a half after announcing it.

“This location for Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Charlotte campus will provide our students the perfect mix of expertise,” said Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, chief academic officer for Atrium Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. “And with the latest technology, whether students are learning in Winston-Salem or this new, second campus, their immersive experience will be second to none. In addition to having the opportunity to learn from some of the finest minds in academia and take part in life-changing research, Wake Forest School of Medicine students and residents will have easy access to the renowned experts practicing at our combined world-class service lines across multiple specialties.”

The deal -- characterized as a strategic combination, not an acquisition -- will bring Wake Forest under the Atrium name and create a second School of Medicine campus in Charlotte.

“A second campus for Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte is truly a significant milestone for both health and education in the Southeast,” said Nathan O. Hatch, Ph.D., president of Wake Forest University. “It will also be a driving force for innovation in the corridor between Winston-Salem and Charlotte. This will further strengthen the academic bonds Wake Forest has with Charlotte and help advance learning, economic growth and opportunity. We are excited about the significant opportunities that our partnership with Atrium Health and the new facility will afford us, as we seek to better serve our communities in Charlotte and Winston-Salem and enhance the dynamic connections between the two vibrant cities.”

The proposed school would support about 3,500 students each year, including Wake Forest School of Medicine and local residents, fellows and nursing students. There would be more than 100 specialized programs.

Based on a recently commissioned economic study by Tripp Umbach, the new school of medicine and the anticipated spin-off activities -- in healthcare and other economic development -- is projected to generate an additional $5.2 billion in economic impact and create nearly 43,000 jobs over the course of the next 20 years.

The Atrium-Wake Forest deal will also generate an initial $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, according to the study.

The arrival of a medical school in Charlotte brings a broad range of benefits. A four-year school would train the next generation of doctors, focusing on population health and technology. It would create research opportunities where the area lags behind peer markets. Medical schools are economic engines, adding more jobs and supporting industry expansion.

In addition to the location of the medical school, Woods announced Atrium Health has established the Bishop George E. Battle Jr. Scholarship Fund to support the continuing education of those who live in underserved communities.

Key Stats for the Wake Forest School of Medicine-Charlotte

The two campuses of the Wake Forest School of Medicine will build on the clinical and academic excellence of Atrium Health and the educational and research distinction of Wake Forest Baptist to create a next-generation, academic learning health system.

  • Location will be on a 20-acre site in midtown Charlotte, at the current corner of South McDowell Street and Baxter Street, adjacent to US-277.
  • As the largest educator of physicians and other medical professionals in the state, the new Atrium Health is already educating nearly 3,200 total learners across more than 100 specialized programs each year.
  • It aspires to be one of the most diverse learner bodies in the country – producing a generation of medical professionals representative of the communities it serves. Through this, it will reduce the shortage of doctors working in inner-city, suburban and rural areas of North Carolina.
  • The two medical school campuses in Winston-Salem and Charlotte will create a new, preeminent regional corridor for health technology and innovation. Convening the surrounding academic, healthcare, government and business communities, the corridor will focus on improving health by bringing new medicines and treatments to patients in half the time and advancing economic equity.
  • Research capabilities will be expanded across a large, diverse market to drive discovery that improves the health of Atrium Health’s patients and communities with an emphasis on health equity.
  • It will increase national recognition and prominence of Atrium Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine in key areas, including Aging and Mobility, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes & Obesity, Pain & Addiction and Regenerative Medicine.
  • A comprehensive philanthropic campaign will also be forthcoming this year, a component of which will be dedicated to supporting the infrastructure and naming of the facilities and programs at the school of medicine.