Three Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center officials joined representatives of 48 other health care systems recently in Washington, D.C., to explore new ways of improving health and health care in vulnerable communities across the country.
The meeting of the Health Systems Learning Group was co-sponsored by the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The Wake Forest Baptist executives who participated were Board of Directors Chair Dr. Donna A. Boswell, Chief Executive Officer Dr. John D. McConnell and Dr. Gary R. Gunderson, vice president of Faith and Health Ministries, whose “Memphis model” of faith-based community care served as one source for an 80-page report that was reviewed at the meeting. Wake Forest Baptist is the only North Carolina organization in the national workgroup.
The report was produced over 18 months by group members who shared practices focused on integrating their communities as vital partners in better health care to reduce chronic disease and improve quality of life while lowering costs and readmission rates. The report confirmed persistent health problems in communities challenged by poverty, lack of education, inadequate housing, racism and other factors and concluded that these factors are beyond the ability of any single provider or institution to comprehensively address.
With Gunderson taking the lead, Wake Forest Baptist is initiating a community-oriented program in the Winston-Salem area similar to what he developed in his previous position at a hospital in Memphis. The Medical Center has contacted numerous congregations and organizations to serve as partners in improving health and health care in the Piedmont Triad.
“Gary’s work, particularly his ability to understand and meet the needs of patients in the community, has been recognized nationally and internationally,” McConnell said. “His model, which brings together patient need with services within the community, coincides with Wake Forest Baptist’s mission to provide a full range of caring and healing to those that we serve. Gary’s natural ability to engage patients and community partners offers a new way of thinking about what it is to provide health care. This new care model also reflects the deep and long commitments of our faculty and staff toward the health of our region.”