Just as the United States got involved in World War II, the medical school of Wake Forest College in Wake County moved to Winston-Salem, where it became the Bowman Gray School of Medicine and was allied with the North Carolina Baptist Hospital. Led by Mrs. Coy Carpenter, wife of the first Dean, and Mrs. Tinsley Harrison, wife of the first chairman of the Department of Medicine, the wives of the faculty members formed the Bowman Gray Guild in 1943. The Guild began as a social group but evolved to include service projects to benefit the hospital. Making toys and picture books for pediatric patients marked the first service project.
The Guild expanded to 40 members in 1946 when the wives of the house staff were included. New service projects included a bookmobile (stocked by collected books and magazines) and wrapped donated Christmas gifts for hospital employees.
Shortly after the hospital opened in 1923, the state's Baptist churches started contributing to an annual Mother's Day offering for the care of indigent patients, a practice that continues to the present. In the 1950's, Guild members prepared promotional material sent to churches prior to Mother's Day. About the same time the growth of the membership was such that the Guild established a board of directors to handle its affairs.
New efforts undertaken by the Guild in the sixties included arranging the medical school's annual party for graduating students and managing the Graylyn swimming pool. Acting as hostess for prospective medical students began in 1969 and continues to the present, creating a favorable impression of the school. Interest groups covering varied and changing topics began in the sixties and remain a popular Guild activity.
In 1971, the name was changed to the Medical Center Guild. The constitution was amended to allow designated spouses of persons from the medical school and the hospital to be members. Fundraising through bake sales and photographing newborns began. A benevolence committee made recommendations of funding requests from anyone in the medical center for non-budgeted needs.
In the early 1980's, the Guild undertook larger fundraising efforts such as a designer Show House, which enabled the establishment of a low-interest student loan fund. A Cook's tour showcasing attractively designed kitchens contributed significant funding for the Adolescent Care Center.
In 1990, a second Cook's Tour raised funds for a future contribution to the proposed J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging. In conjunction with the Garden Council, the Guild held another designer Show House in 1991. The gathering of resources in the nineties enabled the Guild, aided by the Hawthorne Hill Society, to present a sculpture, Grandparents, to the Sticht Center. The Guild cooperated with the Medical Alliance of the Piedmont in successful fundraisers including MedBowls, MedShows and Game Nights that provided substantial support to the Crisis Control Pharmacy and the Community Care Center. These entities provided free prescriptions and medical care for patients lacking insurance.
An oral history of the Guild that consists of twenty-seven, one-hour tapes was compiled by Jean Cooper in 1995 and is held, along with Guild records, in the archives of the Carpenter Library of the Medical School. It is known as the Dorothy Carpenter Archives.
In 2000, the Guild pledged $25,000 to establish an endowed Medical Center Student Scholarship Fund. Through a number of fundraising efforts, including Appreciation Day baskets in 2001, Appreciation Day bags in 2002 and the annual bake sale, the pledge was met. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, a Wine Tasting Gala and Auction Benefit was held annually. The No-Go-Gala was in 2006. In 2007, a Rising Stars Holiday Auction was held, all adding to the fund. In 2004, the scholarship was awarded to its first recipient.
In 2008, the Guild and Alliance had their fall joint meeting in the evening as a Murder Mystery Fundraiser for the new Hospitality House. Sandy Poehling hosted a Welcome Pot Luck Dinner for the new CEO of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Dr. John McConnell and his wife, Melinda, in January 2009. It was a great turnout with over 100 Guild members and staff attending.
In 2009-2010, Guild members, with their generous gifts of support and time made a difference in many lives. Theirs gifts of time, monetary donations and home furnishings transformed the Global Health House into a warm and gracious home for visiting medical students and faculty. Volunteers designed and decorated a tree for the annual Festival of Trees – a fundraiser for Brenner Children’s Hospital, and our members gave generously to the “Meals on Wheels” program providing hot meals for older adults in our community. Our members funded, baked and staffed our annual Valentine’s Bake Sale supporting the Medical Center Student Scholarship Fund. Many creative hours were spent to ensure the success for our “Racing to Save Lives” auction in support of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. Remaining funds from the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 budgets were donated to the Office of Church and Community at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
In 2019 the Guild voted to expand membership to physicians, faculty, and administrators and their families in all of the Wake Forest Baptist Health Community as opposed to just in the Medical Center itself. The name of the Guild was changed to The Wake Forest Baptist Health Medical Guild.
The Medical Center continues to honor the traditions established by its founders 75 years ago and offers its members a wide variety of opportunities to provide services and form friendships.