This story was last updated at 3:30pm on Wednesday, March 25, to include more details on the campus.
Charlotte’s first medical school will sprawl across nearly 30 acres in midtown, with the goal of putting the “Silicon Valley of health care” just a few blocks from the heart of the second-largest banking center in the country.
What’s happening: Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist and Wake Forest University unveiled the location of the new Wake Forest School of Medicine on Wednesday morning. It will be right off Interstate 277, at a newly engineered intersection at McDowell and stretching down Baxter. It’s about a five-minute drive from Carolinas Medical Center.
- Construction of the med school campus and its accompanying state-of-the-art innovation district will begin early next year. The first class of students will be in 2024.
Why it matters: Charlotte is one of the South’s largest economic engines, but for years it’s been the largest U.S. city without a four-year medical school. Leaders say this campus will help position Charlotte as a destination for research and innovation.
- Over the next 20 years, the medical school will have an economic impact of $5.2 billion, Atrium CEO Gene Woods said. The project will create nearly 43,000 jobs over the next two decades, including technical roles in engineering in the innovation district.
Zoom out: Banks built Charlotte. Over the years, and especially since Amazon snubbed Charlotte for its HQ2 shortlist, the city has been rapidly bolstering its tech workforce with big expansions through companies like Lowe’s and Centene. Charlotte’s already home to Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the U.S.
- This medical school adds another major cornerstone industry for Charlotte.
“We will impact millions of lives through even better care, research and education,” Woods said in a briefing Wednesday.
The campus, he added, will also serve as “a catalyst for innovation, economic development, and social impact across the southeast and beyond.”
The innovation district will focus on the latest virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology, according to Atrium and Wake Forest. The goal is to be “the Silicon Valley for health care,” offering dozens of specialized medical programs for more than 3,000 students, Woods has said.
- The school “will be a nationally ranked top 10 medical research center” in signature priority areas such as regenerative medicine, aging, cancer, cardiovascular care, children’s services, and neurosciences, to name a few, according to Woods.
Of note: Economic equity is major theme driving decisions for the new medical school, officials say. The school will be “one of the largest, most diverse learning bodies in the country, producing a generation of medical professionals representative of the communities that we serve,” Woods said.
- As a way to improve access to medical school education, Atrium and Wake announced the creation of a scholarship fund, named after Bishop George E. Battle, a philanthropist and bishop of the AME Zion Church. Atrium has started it with a $5 million investment.
The medical school campus also will be “a collaborative home” for Wake Forest’s MBA program, which has been in Uptown Charlotte for years, Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch said. Wake will locate its new school of professional studies on the med school campus, too.
Currently, Atrium and Wake are in the process of interviewing architects. It remains to be seen how the campus will be laid out, or how many buildings will comprise it.
“It’ll be a really important part of the skyline. It’ll be something that will catch people’s eyes,” Woods said.