Virtual Hospital Launched
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist launched a new virtual service to better and more quickly meet the needs of patients hospitalized at the health system’s hospitals in North Wilkesboro and Lexington.
Atrium Health provided the carts – complete with a remote camera, microphone, speaker and stethoscope – which allow physicians to remotely examine patients and listen to their lung, chest and bowel sounds.
“Perhaps a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s been a disruptive innovator, forcing health systems to come up with new solutions to meet the needs of their patients,” said Harsh Barot, M.D., medical director of the Wake Forest Baptist Virtual Hospital program. “This virtual approach, of course, does not take the place of a clinician at the bedside, but rather extends the reach of physicians and allows more patients to be seen sooner.”
Around 800 patient encounters were completed during 2022.
Grant to Provide Colorectal Cancer Screenings to Underserved Patients
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist received a grant to fund colorectal cancer screenings for people who live in underserved communities.
The one-year, $9,775 grant from the Colon Cancer Coalition allowed the health system’s Mobile Health Program to offer fecal immunochemical tests for those without health insurance who live in Forsyth County and other surrounding areas. The test is done once a year and uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool.
“Colorectal cancer screenings drastically decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among our patients who are underserved and who would otherwise not have access to this important screening method,” said Rachel Zimmer, D.N.P., assistant professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and founder of the Wake Forest Baptist Mobile Health Program. “Our team is pleased to be able to implement colorectal cancer screening in our practice through outreach, education and navigation with follow-up diagnostic colonoscopies if needed.”
Grant to Study Non-opioid Pain Management in Hispanic/Latinx Cancer Survivors
Wake Forest University School of Medicine was awarded a $580,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) HEAL Initiative and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop a culturally and linguistically responsive pain intervention for Spanish-speaking populations.
The two-year grant is supplemental to two previous grants awarded to Wake Forest University School of Medicine: a $25 million grant from NCI’s Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) and $6.9 million in grant funding from the NCI and the NIH HEAL Initiative to study non-opioid pain management in cancer survivors through a web-based pain management program called painTRAINER.
“Although non-pharmacological interventions for managing chronic pain can be very effective, these programs often are underused and access to them has been lacking,” said Donald B. Penzien, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the study.
$1 Million Gift to Senior Services Capital Campaign
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist pledged a $1 million gift to Senior Services, Inc., of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County’s Creative Connections Capitol Campaign toward construction of the new Intergenerational Center for Arts and Wellness.
Wake Forest Baptist, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Senior Services have a long history of collaboration through the J. Paul Sticht Center on Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention and the Elizabeth & Tab Williams Adult Day Center.
“We are pleased and excited to continue to support Senior Services, Inc., in our similar mission to enhance healthy aging,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., CEO and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, chief academic officer of Advocate Health and executive vice president of health affairs at Wake Forest University. “This leading-edge, state-of-the-art facility is so important to the health and welfare of our senior citizens throughout the communities we serve. This is truly a worthy investment in the lives of our older family members and neighbors across our region.”
$4 Million Grant to Study Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder
Wake Forest University School of Medicine was awarded a five-year, $4 million grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative.
The School of Medicine is coordinating and supporting a network of clinical research centers across the country to develop, evaluate and implement patient-centered interventions.
“Traditionally, treatments for these conditions have been very siloed,” said Meredith Adams, M.D., principal investigator and assistant professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “There are interventions to treat chronic pain. There are interventions for opioid use, misuse or disorder, but what about treatments for people who have both? Our objective is to find effective interventions to make sure we’re addressing patient pain while also avoiding an escalation of opioid use disorder.”
$1.7 Million Grant to Study Obesity Medication
Wake Forest University School of Medicine received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to lead the Long-term Effectiveness of the Anti-Obesity medication Phentermine (LEAP) trial, a placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trial that will enroll 1,000 adults at five sites across the U.S.
The clinical coordinating center and data coordinating center for the LEAP trial are both housed at the School of Medicine and is co-led by Kristina Henderson Lewis, M.D., associate professor of epidemiology and prevention, Jamy Ard, M.D., professor of epidemiology and prevention, and Nicholas Pajewski, Ph.D., associate professor of biostatistics and data science.
“Obesity is a chronic disease,” Lewis said. “As our understanding of physiology has changed, we’re learning that there are complex processes in our body that are actively opposing weight loss, so it’s not surprising that many people have a hard time keeping weight off in the long-term with just lifestyle changes.”
Free Sports Physicals for Local High School Students
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist held free sports physicals for area student-athletes who attend high schools that are part of the health system’s Athletic Training Outreach Program.
Wake Forest Baptist’s sports medicine physicians conducted the physicals – at locations in Winston-Salem, High Point and North Wilkesboro – for students who planned to participate in any sport during the school year.
“We are thrilled to once again be able to offer these sports physicals to high school student-athletes at three events across our region,” said Christopher Ina, Wake Forest Baptist’s manager of athletic training services. “Pre-participation physicals can identify health issues and are an important part of our efforts to keep young athletes healthy and safe.”
More than 400 student-athletes received free sports physicals at these events.
$9 Million Grant to Study ‘Love Hormone’ as Treatment for Pain
Scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine were awarded approximately $9 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study the use of oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone, as a treatment for pain after injury.
Oxytocin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is involved in childbirth and is commonly administered to induce labor.
Sometimes called the love hormone, oxytocin also has been shown to have anxiety-reducing and trust-enhancing effects in small studies in rodents and humans, but how it actually works is not understood.
The goal of the five-year grant is to gain a better understanding of potential benefits to improve clinical practice regarding the use of oxytocin as a pain therapeutic and potential disease-modifying agent to prevent the transition from acute to chronic pain. It is led by Thomas J. Martin, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, and James C. Eisenach, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, both at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
$3.1 Million Grant to Help Prevent Heart Disease in Young Breast Cancer Patients
A 5-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), enables researchers from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and Duke Cancer Institute to collaborate in a first-of-its-kind prospective study to look for the earliest signs of heart vessel damage in young, pre-menopausal breast cancer survivors.
The study is called “Cardiac Outcomes With Near Complete Estrogen Deprivation” (CROWN) and will include 90 women, age 55 and under, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Sixty-five of the study participants will receive standard estrogen-depletion therapy, while 25 participants with hormone receptor negative breast cancer will serve as a control group for the study. Researchers hope to recruit a diverse group of women, especially Black women, who have higher rates of both breast cancer and heart disease.
“Our patients with hormone-receptor breast cancer are living longer due to aggressive treatment that includes turning off estrogen production that induces early menopause,” said Alexandra Thomas, M.D., Williams Family Chair in breast oncology, professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the study’s co-principal investigator. “These patients have decades of life ahead of them and we hope that, by identifying early changes in coronary arteries, we may find ways to lower their risk of irreversible heart disease.”
Grant to Support Teen and Young Adult Cancer Patients
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist received a two-year $380,000 grant from Teen Cancer America and First Citizens Bank to support programs for teens and young adults with cancer.
The grant enables Wake Forest Baptist to develop an oncology program specifically for adolescents and young adults (AYA) undergoing cancer treatment at their NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and at Brenner Children’s Hospital. Funding helps support a medical program manager, patient navigator and medical director for the program.
“We are very grateful for this grant which helps us continue to expand our specialized oncology services and create activities that align with our patient-centered model of care and meet the unique needs of teens and young adults with cancer,” said Dianna Howard, M.D., professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest Baptist and medical director of the program.
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Partnered with Davidson-Davie Community College on Largest Health Care Apprenticeship in North Carolina
Davidson-Davie Community College announced the creation of the largest health care apprenticeship in North Carolina, with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist signing on as the college’s first health care partner under the agreement. Students are able to work in a health care profession while taking courses related to their career goals.
The partnership between Davidson-Davie and Wake Forest Baptist includes medical assisting, medical laboratory technology, nursing, licensed practical nursing, pharmacy technology, central sterile processing, surgical technology, and nurse aide. The college will work with other health care partners to establish apprenticeships in health information technology, EMT, and paramedic.
“As the region’s only academic learning health system, a large part of our mission is to help train the next generation of health care professionals,” said Kimberly Stanbery, D.N.P., chief nursing officer at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Davie Medical Center and Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We are so pleased to collaborate on such an important program and give people in our community the necessary education and skills to serve in a wide variety of health care roles.”
Development of Digital Platform to Better Care for Stroke Patients
With physicians and patients looking for ways to extend health care beyond the traditional doctor’s office, remote monitoring and care coordination can provide increased support to patients who suffer a major health event such as a stroke.
To address this growing need, clinical researchers and bioinformatic experts at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and stroke experts at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, created COMPASS-CP, a digital health platform that can be embedded within electronic health records. This platform brings together health care providers and patients to improve health outcomes and avoid unnecessary costs.
“COMPASS-CP allows clinicians to securely receive and easily interpret remote monitoring data, such as blood pressure and physical activity, which helps them, their patients and coaches make timely decisions and adjustments to lifestyle behaviors and medications aimed at reducing the likelihood of patients suffering future strokes,” said Pamela Duncan, Ph.D, professor of neurology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the COMPASS study. “This is a great example of how our academic learning health system can take research findings and develop solutions to help improve the health of patients right here at home and across the country.”
$3.5 Million Grant to Study Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Opioid Use Disorder
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the highest drug overdose death toll since 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 29% increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and nearly 75% of those deaths involved an opioid. The pandemic’s disruptions to health care access, loss of support systems, social isolation and staggering unemployment only exacerbated the problem, especially in communities already marginalized by economic and social vulnerabilities.
With the support of a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers will study how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted opioid use disorder and how the COVID-19 response and mitigation policies impact health outcomes, especially in vulnerable populations.
“We are all impacted by the pandemic, but there are big differences in outcomes,” said Meredith Adams, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “It’s important to understand what the differentiators are to better support our communities.”
Daily Multivitamin May Improve Cognition and Possibly Protect Against Decline
Could taking a daily multivitamin help maintain cognitive health with aging and possibly prevent cognitive decline? According to research from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, conducted in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, taking a daily supplement may improve cognition in older adults, but additional studies are needed to confirm these findings before any health recommendations are made. The study also showed that daily use of a cocoa extract supplement does not benefit cognition.
The findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“There’s an urgent need for safe and affordable interventions to protect cognition against decline in older adults,” said Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the trial, along with Mark Espeland, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Became Exclusive Medical Partner of Metropolitan Village Development in East Winston-Salem
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist became the exclusive medical partner of the new Metropolitan Village mixed-use redevelopment effort in East Winston-Salem. As part of the partnership, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist will partner with community leaders and Liberty Atlantic Development Partners to program 8,000 square feet of community wellness space.
In addition to space for health and wellness coaching and nurse navigators who can work directly with residents on their goals and needs, the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity will relocate their headquarters to the space to establish a health equity center in the heart of East Winston-Salem.
“Every community matters,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., CEO and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, chief academic officer of Advocate Health and executive vice president for health affairs at Wake Forest University. “Every community deserves access to the highest quality health care. Through research, health education and training, health promotion and literacy, and social justice programs, Metropolitan Village can become a place where we all work to reduce health disparities and improve the quality of life. We are honored to have been entrusted with this unique opportunity.”
Alzheimer’s Association Awarded Grant to Wake Forest University School of Medicine for Alzheimer’s Research
The Alzheimer’s Association, through its Part the Cloud global research grant program, awarded Wake Forest University School of Medicine $795,000 over two years to study potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Part the Cloud is designed to accelerate translation of findings from the laboratory, through trials, into possible therapies — filling the gap in Alzheimer’s drug development by providing essential support for clinical studies.
“Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the medical school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “With support from this grant, we hope to increase our knowledge in the development of much-needed innovative strategies for prevention and treatment.”
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Broke Ground on New Care Tower
Atrium Health leaders broke ground to signify the official beginning of construction on the new $450 million care tower on the campus of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The care tower will include an upgraded emergency department, state-of-the-art operating rooms and enhanced adult intensive care units. In addition, larger and brighter rooms with more natural light and increased privacy, along with new outdoor green space, will help promote wellness and healing and reduce stress on patients, their families and staff.
The project was the first in a series of significant investments in the Triad region as a result of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s strategic combination with Atrium Health.
“This new facility will allow us to enhance our clinical capabilities, build on our expertise, expand our educational and research opportunities and continue to attract the best and brightest learners, who are the next generation of health care professionals,” said Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., CEO and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, chief academic officer of Advocate Health and executive vice president for health affairs at Wake Forest University.
DEAC Clinic Moved to New Site
The Delivering Equal Access to Care (DEAC) Clinic, a Wake Forest University School of Medicine student-run and physician-staffed free clinic for individuals who have no insurance and are ineligible for Medicaid, relocated to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Pediatrics – Winston East, located at 2295 E. 14th St., in Winston-Salem.
The clinic, which is for adults 18 years and older, is open every Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. by appointment only for uninsured residents of Forsyth, Davidson, Davie, Stokes and Yadkin counties.
“This new location for the DEAC Clinic will provide improved accessibility for many of the patients we see and will also offer an enhanced clinic flow,” said Stephanie Snyder, a Wake Forest University School of Medicine student. “We’re excited to welcome patients into this new space and to continue providing high quality care to the underserved communities in and around the Winston-Salem area.”
Researchers Received $30 Million Award to Study Novel Rehab Program for Heart Failure Patients
The National Institute of Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, awarded Wake Forest University School of Medicine a five-year grant expected to total $30 million to support research to test a novel rehabilitation program designed for older patients hospitalized for acute heart failure.
Led by Dalane Kitzman, M.D., professor of cardiovascular medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, a team of scientists from Wake Forest, Duke University, Thomas Jefferson University and partner institutions will lead a Phase III REHAB-HFpEF trial to examine whether a novel physical rehabilitation intervention will reduce rehospitalizations and mortality in patients hospitalized for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).
“Our previous research, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that our novel intervention significantly improves physical function in these patients,” Kitzman said. “We hope a larger trial will show that the intervention also reduces the likelihood of repeat hospitalization and death.”
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Opened 24/7 Urgent Care in Kernersville
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist opened its first 24/7 urgent care clinic, dedicated to treating patients of all ages, no matter the day or the time.
The practice, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Urgent Care – Kernersville, is located at 111 Gateway Center Dr. and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.
“This new location allows us to increase access to health care for everyone in our community, especially families with children, when they have unexpected illnesses or minor medical emergencies,” said Chad Miller, M.D., chair of emergency medicine at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “From newborns to older adults, our providers are ready to provide convenient and expert care for patients of any age, at any time of the day or night, even on weekends and holidays.”
Share the Health Fair Provided Free Screenings, Tests and Other Services
More than 10 free screenings, tests and other health-related services were available to the public at the 22nd annual Share the Health Fair, sponsored by Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Northwest Area Health Education Center.
The free event was held at Wake Forest Baptist’s Downtown Health Plaza, located at 1200 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Winston-Salem. The event was open to all adults regardless of insurance coverage, income level or immigration status.
“As medical students, we’re honored to educate fair participants and the community about lifestyle changes they can make and resources they can utilize to improve their health,” said Pinyu Chen, a medical student at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “For some attendees, this is the only time they’re able to see someone for a health checkup, and we feel grateful for the opportunity to hold this impactful event that affects the very community in which we live and study.”
More than 380 people were served at the 2022 event.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine Joined International Genetic Study of Alzheimer’s Disease in People of African and Hispanic Ancestry
Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity joined an international initiative, led by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, to build a resource that will expand Alzheimer’s disease genetic studies in 13,000 people of African ancestry and Hispanic/Latinx groups. This work will address the social determinants of health and will lead to new therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease.
The five-year, multisite initiative includes investigator teams from Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Ibadan, in Nigeria, which will lead efforts in nine countries in Africa.
The study is funded by a $46 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.
“Increasing diversity in Alzheimer’s disease research and clinical trials is one major step toward closing gaps in Alzheimer’s disease health disparities,” said Goldie S. Byrd, Ph.D., director of Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity. “A large portion of marginalized and minoritized communities suffer from poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans because of social drivers, such as where they live and sleep, what they eat and do, and everyday discrimination and stress.”