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Atrium Health Sets $500 Million Campaign Goal For Charlotte Medical School, Other Needs

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Atrium Health
An artist's rendering shows the planned Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte, which will be on 20 acres near uptown. A groundbreaking is planned for 2022.

Atrium Health announced plans Tuesday to raise $500 million for construction of the planned Wake Forest School of Medicine near uptown Charlotte as well as other facilities, research and health-related community needs.

Charlotte-based Atrium has already quietly raised $75 million over the past two years. Tuesday's announcement kicked off the public phase of the six-year "Giving Hope" campaign.

Chairing the effort is former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl.

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Atrium Health
Former Bank of America chief executive Hugh McColl is chairing the half-billion-dollar campaign.

"This ambitious campaign will make an impact for the next 50-plus years," McColl said at the virtual kickoff Tuesday. "Together, we'll strengthen our community as we address the needs of the underserved. We will transform facilities and take research and education to the next level."

Atrium is building the new medical school with Wake Forest Baptist Health, which already has a campus in Winston-Salem. The two hospital systems merged last October. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 on 20 acres at McDowell and Baxter streets near Atrium's flagship hospital, Carolinas Medical Center. The first class is expected to join in 2024.

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Atrium Health
Eugene Woods, Atrium Health CEO

Besides that massive project, Atrium says the money will go toward renovating and expanding the health system to accommodate population growth, medical research, recruiting and staffing, and for community health needs, including affordable housing and food programs.

CEO Gene Woods said community campaigns have always been part of Atrium — eversince the founders asked Charlotte residents to contribute $1 a month toward the construction of the original Charlotte Memorial Hospital in 1940.

"From Charlotte Memorial 80 years ago to a 42-hospital system today, we yet again endeavor to reinvent ourselves as an organization that not only cares but educates, that not only innovates but impacts, that not only leads but transforms," Woods said.

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Atrium Health
Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and Dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Dr. Julie Freischlag, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health, called the campaign "important for the future health, growth and vibrancy" of the region.

"The health, social and economic challenges our communities face are real. And we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference by bringing together clinical and academic excellence, advancing innovation and discovery and investing in our communities," Freischlag said.

The campaign's $500 million goal would make it one of the Charlotte region's largest. Davidson College raised $555 million in a campaign that ran from 2014 to 2019.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.