Business Journal Honors Freischlag with Special Achievement Award
Triad Business Journal has selected Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), DFSVS, chief executive officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine and chief academic officer of the Atrium Health Enterprise, as the 2021 recipient of the Outstanding Women in Business Special Achievement Award.
In honoring Freischlag, the Journal noted her role as a trailblazer for women in medicine. In addition to being the first woman to lead Wake Forest Baptist as CEO, Freischlag was the first woman to chair the department of surgery at Johns Hopkins University, the fourth woman to chair a surgery department in the U.S. and the sixth woman to complete surgical residency and a vascular fellowship at UCLA.
During her career, Freischlag said she has often been the only woman in key meetings, and she uses such experiences to help mentor others.
“I think the key when you are unique, either in your background, or your color, or your gender or your gender preference … your job is to raise your hand and make that unique contribution and tell them what you feel, especially if it feels differently,” Freischlag told the Journal. “And sometimes it’s really hard because people don’t want to hear it, but it’s getting better.”
Wake Forest Baptist Health reported that it provided community benefits − charity care, unreimbursed care, education, research and community outreach programs and services − valued at $596.2 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. This includes community benefits provided throughout the Wake Forest Baptist Health system and is $15.4 million more than last year, which was a record high at $580.8 million.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges we faced from the COVID-19 pandemic, our faculty, staff and students stepped up and made incredible sacrifices to make sure we did all we could to meet the needs of our community, and I could not be more proud of them and what we were able to accomplish together,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), DFSVS, CEO of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Enterprise.
“We were able to continue to provide compassionate care to all of our patients, while training our students and encouraging those in our community during very uncertain times, and we are grateful to the many members of our community who participated in research studies to track the prevalence of COVID-19.
“Local college and high school student-athletes benefited from our expanded sports medicine and athletic training programs, some of our most vulnerable neighbors were able to better manage their health through free screenings and prescription medications, underserved neighborhoods received convenient access to health care through our Mobile Health Clinic, and our patients, their loved ones and others in the community saw their spiritual and emotional needs met in times of incredible need.”
Work is set to begin on a new $450 million care tower at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center that will include an upgraded emergency department, state-of-the-art operating rooms and enhanced adult intensive care units.
The care tower is the first in a series of significant investments in the Triad following Wake Forest Baptist Health’s strategic combination with Atrium Health. It will be built where Parking Deck B currently stands and is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.
“This new, world-class facility will allow us to enhance our clinical capabilities and provide leading-edge educational and research opportunities to help improve trauma and emergency care in our region and across the country,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), DFSVS, CEO of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Enterprise.
Plans also have been announced for a new children’s outpatient center, representing at least a $30 million investment in the Triad. The center is expected to be a 45,000- to 50,000-square-foot multi-level building that offers a full range of comprehensive pediatric clinics and services, including more than a dozen specialties and subspecialties, along with imaging and on-site lab and pharmacy services. A specific location has not yet been announced.
Wake Forest Baptist Health and Davidson-Davie Community College have partnered to help address the nursing shortage affecting the region’s health care systems. The new Registered Nurse Apprenticeship program is the first in North Carolina to be approved by the Department of Labor.
The first group of students is completing the program with their time split between Davie and Lexington medical centers within Wake Forest Baptist Health. The current class of four aspiring registered nurses graduated from the community college with their LPN certification in summer 2020. They are currently employed by Wake Forest Baptist as LPNs, and they will transition to RN status in July 2022. The program provides a quicker route from LPN to RN status, allows students to graduate with their RN degree in 24 months and exposes students to training in a hospital/acute care setting.