A planned UNC School of Medicine branch campus at a Novant Health Inc. facility in Charlotte has gained the backing of a key national medical educational accrediting group.
Novant said Friday that the Liaison Committee on Medical Education has determined the groups “have adequate resources” to proceed with training medical students at Presbyterian Medical Center.
Novant, based in Winston-Salem, has its second biggest market in Charlotte at Presbyterian.
The health care systems unveiled in November what the medical school refers to a branch clinical campus in Charlotte.
There are similar campuses in Asheville and Wilmington, the latter featuring a Novant collaboration at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Medical students are expected to beginning enrolling in February.
The campus will provide UNC medical school curriculum to third- and fourth-year medical students, with a special focus on health equity led by Novant. The campus will begin with nine students and has the capacity to educate up to 30 students per class.
Dr. Pam Oliver, president of Novant’s physician network, said the Charlotte campus “will offer the best of both worlds by combining UNC School of Medicine’s top-notch curriculum alongside instruction from Novant Health leaders dedicated to achieving health equity.”
Dr. Cristy Page, executive dean of the UNC medical school, said the Charlotte campus “will bring great benefits directly to the students who will train at the campus, while enhancing care in the region.”
The systems have discussed, but not disclosed, plans for a collaborative effort in the Winston-Salem market, also with a focus on “finding innovative solutions to enhance care in rural areas.”
The expanded partnership “allows us to expand access to medical education and clinical research across the state,” said Carl Armato, Novant’s president and chief executive.
The Novant-UNC Health announcement of the medical-school branch campus follows the Oct. 9 confirmation of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center building a medical-school campus in Charlotte as part of the not-for-profit system combining into one entity with Atrium Health.
Atrium has chosen a 20-acre midtown site for the location. In February, Atrium unveiled illustrations of the planned campus, which is to feature a seven-story main building, a large tower and a fountain area.
Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, chief executive of Wake Forest Baptist and the medical school dean, said in March that construction will begin in the first quarter of 2022. The campus is scheduled to be ready for students in 2024.
There was an extended attempt to merge UNC Health Care with Atrium in 2017-18 that would have featured a UNC medical school campus in Charlotte. Those talks ended unsuccessfully in March 2018.
Novant spokeswoman Kristen Barnhardt said in November the UNC medical school branch campus “is not in reaction to competitor actions. We’ve been discussing this with UNC for some time.”
However, David Meyer, a senior partner for Keystone Planning Group LLC of Durham, said that the Novant-UNC Health branch campus “absolutely is” in response to the Wake Forest Baptist-Atrium project.
“No one wants to be left without a partner on the dance floor,” Meyer said.
Bridges said that “this expanded relationship is an important step for the UNC School of Medicine to have a place to train medical students in the Charlotte area and elsewhere.”
“Partnering with Novant Health is another way UNC Health can improve access to health care and the overall health and well-being of North Carolinians.”
While Charlotte and Presbyterian will gain a second medical school presence, Barnhardt said the main benefit for Novant’s Triad hospitals will be “expanded medical education, research and clinical services to all Novant markets.”
Novant and UNC Health said the expanded partnership was spurred in part by their collaboration as part of Novant’s $5.3 billion acquisition of New Hanover Regional that closed in February.
Novant agreed to form its first medical-education partnership with UNC Health and its medical school. UNC Health already provides educational and clinical services to the New Hanover system, which is made up of 855 licensed beds at three hospital campuses.