The partnership formed this year between Novant Health and two UNC Chapel Hill medical facilities in Wilmington will include a future UNC School of Medicine branch campus at Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte.
Novant, based in Winston-Salem, has its second biggest market in Charlotte at Presbyterian.
The groups provided few details Thursday about when the Charlotte medical school branch campus would open.
The medical school has what it refers to as branch clinical campuses in Asheville and Wilmington.
"At branch clinical campuses, students experience the Foundation Phase curriculum, where they get exposure to outstanding basic scientists and cutting-edge research, like COVID work," UNC Health spokesman Phil Bridges said.
The expanded partnership "allows us to expand access to medical education and clinical research across the state," Carl Armato, Novant's president and chief executive, said in a statement.
The 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.
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 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."
When asked if there will be a brick-and-mortar UNC Health presence in the Triad with Novant, Barnhardt said "some details are not finalized at this time, so we can't speak to that today."
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 pending $5.3 billion acquisition of New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.
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.
The Novant acquisition of the New Hanover hospital awaits approval from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein.
Novant and UNC Health said the collaboration will include expansion of UNC School of Medicine’s Kenan Primary Care Medical Scholars program. The goal is training more students to work in rural and under-resourced communities with enhanced training.
Another feature is Novant medical providers gaining enhanced access to new UNC medical school treatment options and clinical trials.
“I am excited for the opportunities ahead for Novant Health, UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine to build a healthier North Carolina and to train more physicians for North Carolina,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, UNC Health's chief executive and medical school dean. “Our partnership will impact health in North Carolina for decades to come.”
Novant is attempting to establish a third flagship hospital in North Carolina, in addition to hubs in the Triad and Charlotte.
Novant already operates Brunswick Medical Center in the nearby town of Bolivia, where it opened a $100 million, 78-bed community hospital in July 2011.
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