Movement to Wake Forest

Word began to spread this morning from both Memphis and North Carolina that I will be moving to become the Vice President for Faith and Health Ministries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. This is a similar role that I’ve played at Methodist Healthcare for the past seven years, although the systems are quite different and, of course the social/economic architecture of the region is even more different.

Wake is a mature academic medical center in a university where I did undergraduate work lo many years ago. Karen became a PA here and both daughters learned to shout “go deacs!” before they walked. So I’ll be glad  to teach in the seminary and department of public health on that campus.

The division itself has a long history in CPE and a network of 21 counseling centers scattered from the mountains to the ocean, just for starters. The hospital system plays a regional role that is relevant to statewide religious networks, most obviously with the 4,300 Baptist congregations affiliated with the North Carolina Baptist Convention. But the North Carolina Council of Churches and United Methodist Annual Conferences are already working partners, too. The National Baptist Convention have a long history going back to Dr. John Hatch at UNC, but except during ACC Basketball Tournament time, also work with Wake.

So what if all that could blaze with the creativity and spiritual energy I’ve experienced in Memphis? Tantalizing to wonder.

I’ll be sharing that learning journey in this blog as it unfolds. But before another syllable is typed, I need to express my deepest love for Memphis and the people and institutions that have been so generous to me.

Gary Shorb, our CEO at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare took quite a bold gamble in hiring me seven years ago knowing I had never worked in a hospital before. His words to our management team this morning were so generous regarding my time here.  The reality is that I’m no big deal; but the power that lives where faith and health converge is a very very big deal. We’ve only started to release that power at Methodist inside, outside and around the traditional workings of our hospital. We’ve caught international attention for what has happened when we blend the intelligence of what a hospital knows about disease and what hundreds of congregations know about life. But what I’m deeply moved by—more than I can ever say—is how in this bitterly bruised city Methodist and our 450 congregational partners have offered up a true signal that trust and hope are not delusional. Bobby Baker, Teresa Cutts, Donna Tosches, Niels French, the faith health managers, volunteers, navigators and chaplains are world class. They have earned the right to be trusted with the heart of Memphis. And the most obvious thing is that the most innovative work is yet ahead. 
I will continue to play a small role as scholar in the Center of Excellence as there is vital intellectual work alive here that I care deeply about.
Health systems from around the world come to Memphis to witness what a faith based health system can do when it lets the power of faith and health flow freely. That’s what has moved me and that’s the movement I want to be part of for years to come as I find my way with a new circle of colleagues in a great system. I start at Wake in July.

About garygunderson

Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
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1 Response to Movement to Wake Forest

  1. theologian says:

    This sounds like a wonderful opportunity. Beautiful area of the country, too. Dick and I used to hike all over the place in that area. Susan

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