Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods highlighted the lasting impact of the future Innovation District at the final 2021 Board of Commissioners meeting for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Hospital Authority
This is the Charlotte of tomorrow.
That was the headline from Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods as he unveiled a dramatic glimpse into the future of the Queen City at the final Charlotte Mecklenburg Hospital Authority Board of Commissioners meeting of the year on Tuesday.
“This is Charlotte today,” Woods shared with the board. “And this gives you an idea of what Charlotte will look like in the future.”
The image showed Charlotte’s skyline as it appears today, before transforming into what it will look like in the future – after Atrium Health officially opens the Charlotte campus of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the heart of Midtown and development in an adjacent Innovation District transpires
The Innovation District, a “city-within-a-city,” will transform the surrounding neighborhoods and bring cutting-edge research and innovation the city has never seen before, attracting new businesses, while also addressing health disparities. The education building on the campus will also become home to Wake Forest University School of Business, the new Wake Forest School for Professional Studies and Carolinas College of Health Science.
As the largest employer in the state, Atrium Health is also increasing access to care across the Charlotte region. Woods told the board that, this month, Atrium Health’s footprint will expand in two of the hottest growing suburban areas.
A new, 250,000-square-foot bed tower at Atrium Health Pineville will provide 108 additional medical/surgery beds in Mecklenburg County when it welcomes its first patients.
Additionally, construction of a new 171,000-square-foot, full-service Atrium Health Union West Hospital will be completed in December and is set to open early next year.
These expansions cap off a banner year for the health system that has led the way in “COVID-Safe” care throughout the pandemic. In fact, Woods detailed a series of “firsts” that Atrium Health achieved in the past year, including: the first to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in the state of North Carolina; the first in the entire region to host mass vaccination events; and the first to distribute free face masks – totaling more than 3 million given away – to our most vulnerable populations in our region.
As Atrium Health’s health care heroes worked tirelessly to care for patients throughout the pandemic, leaders in the health system knew Atrium Health would also have to lead the way in helping people understand the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and reaching all of its teammates about the need for vaccination.
Atrium Health’s chief of Crisis Operations and Sustainability, Dr. David Callaway, provided an update on the health system’s ongoing pandemic response and vaccination efforts across the enterprise.
“Six months after opening up teammate vaccinations, we were at around 65% vaccinated, as a system,” Callaway explained, describing a scene that similarly played out across the country. As community spread continued and the highly contagious Delta variant arrived, Atrium Health joined health systems across the nation in requiring COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment, in order to protect its patients, teammates and visitors. After months of work to support and educate teammates about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the result, was overwhelming.
“I’m happy to report,” Callaway beamed, “that 99.5% of our workforce has chosen to comply with the requirement.”
It’s a stark contrast from reports of other health systems being forced to separate from hundreds of teammates for failure to comply with similar requirements. And, for those teammates who chose to leave the organization, Callaway said Atrium Health is providing them with career transition assistance.
“Our vaccine requirement has always been about providing the safest environment for our patients and our teammates,” Callaway said. “We have never wanted any of our teammates leave us. We still deeply care for our colleagues who have made this choice and we’re providing career transition assistance to help them take the next steps in their future endeavors.”
During the quarterly meeting, Angie Vincent-Hamacher was elected to serve as the chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Hospital Authority Board of Commissions, which oversees part of Atrium Health’s operations, including all locations in the Charlotte region. Vincent-Hamacher is the first person of color and first woman to chair the board. She has been serving as vice-chair and succeeds long-time chair Edward Brown III. Brown will remain on the board, as well serve as the chair of the Atrium Health, Inc., board of directors.
“While serving Atrium Health for more than a decade, I’ve seen what we are capable of – especially over the past few years during the pandemic – when our teammates reaffirmed Atrium Health as the preeminent source of health, hope and healing,” said Vincent-Hamacher. “With our ‘for all’ mission, we have a unique opportunity to continue to reshape the landscape of access to care and equity of care for people in rural and underserved areas, as well as for people of color.”
For an organization that prides itself on leading the way, Atrium Health’s president and CEO closed his portion of the board meeting by honoring a true pioneer, Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, who sadly passed away recently. Garmon-Brown was the third female and first African American female resident in the Atrium Health family. As Woods explained, Garmon-Brown dedicated her life to making sure everyone in Charlotte was seen and cared for.
“I have no doubt her legacy will be felt for generations to come,” Woods said.
And perhaps that presence lives on in Atrium Health’s mission for the Charlotte of tomorrow: to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all.