Announced! Opportunity Fund Investments

June 17, 2022

The strategic combination of Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center presents a unique opportunity to invest in our research mission. One method for doing so is the creation of an Opportunity Fund that will support the recruitment of faculty to enhance the scientific capabilities of our Enterprise and propel us to become national leaders in these areas of study.  The Opportunity Fund was created to give colleagues from across the Enterprise the chance to propose new faculty recruitments that are in line with our research strategic plan and focus on improving our ability to translate findings into care.

In December 2021, we received 27 Letters of Intent for the Opportunity Fund.  After a careful review, six were selected for funding in the following investment areas:

  • Microbial Ecology & Emerging Diseases
  • Pediatric Research
  • Remote Patient & Participant Monitoring
  • Sleep & Circadian Rhythms
  • Transformative Stroke Care
  • Translational Radiation & Cancer Care

Investment Area 

Project Leads

Microbial Ecology & Emerging Diseases:

Will promote and facilitate multidisciplinary research efforts, creating teams able to describe the interactome, identify and develop potential interventions, characterize the epidemiology, and conduct the pre-clinical and clinical trials necessary to assess impact. Positively impact all WFUSM Focus Areas and move AH/WF to the top tier of research institutions in this area through partnership and use of enterprise assets that will position us to effectively compete for extramural funding and lead to key therapeutic discoveries.

This effort will also expand public-private research activity– specifically DOD’s interest in microbial ecology. These partnerships will serve as “force multiplier,” allowing for expansion of research teams at lower costs to each organization and optimization of the use of AH/WF staff support and facilities. It will also serve as an academic incubator for government scientists, allowing them to take advantage of the data and specimen collection opportunities provided by a large academic health system, the participation of multidisciplinary teams, and the rapid testing of potential interventions.

  • Kylie Kavanagh, VMS (Pathology, W-S)
  • John Sanders, MD, MPH (Infectious Diseases) 

Pediatric Research: 

Aims to establish and use a Pediatric database to create cohorts of children and families for prospective study that will create immediate collaborations with clinicians and researchers, producing reputation-building publications, leading to significant NIH Funding. Patient recruitment mechanisms will be established across the 3-state region. We will see collaborations and translation from the bedside to the population that could lead to far-reaching impacts, including reductions in childhood obesity and future Type 2 Diabetes, reduced infant mortality through interdisciplinary research, and/or reductions in the negative impact of poor child mental health that has been worsened during the pandemic. This work paves the way Atrium Health Children’s being ranked in the top tier of Children’s Hospitals nationally, and a national leader in launching healthy children into adulthood.
  • Joey Skelton, MD (Pediatrics, W-S)
  • Christine Turley, MD (Pediatrics, CLT)
  • Jeffrey S. Shenberger, MD (Neonatology, W-S)
  • Javier E. Oesterheld, MD (Pediatrics, CLT)
  • Stacy Nicholson, MD, MPH (Pediatrics, CLT)

Remote Patient & Participant Monitoring:

Establish a new research center designed to promote innovative development and effective, efficient, and equitable use of remote and digital engagement technologies. We will grow extramural funding, evaluate and harness existing expertise to provide a centralized entity with expertise spanning the AH/WFUSM Enterprise; generate of high levels of collaboration across new and existing institutional centers; catalogue existing technology and infrastructure (e.g., dissemination channels) available to researchers;  and develop new technology applicable to piloting and implementation of new research discoveries into clinical care.

  • Guy Glorioso, MBA, MHA (Virtual Health, CLT)
  • David Herrington, MD (Cardiology, W-S)
  • Eric Kirkendall, MD, MBI (Pediatrics, W-S)
  • Michael Miller, PhD, MS (Public Health Sciences, W-S)

Sleep & Circadian Rhythms:

Will establish an internationally recognized sleep and circadian clinical and translational research center that will be competitive for large center (P50) grants and clinical trials and will be a destination site for clinical treatment of sleep disorders, through the provision of outstanding care to the large number of patients who suffer from sleep disorders.

  • Ruth Benca, MD, PhD (Psychiatry & Behavioral Med, W-S)
  • Douglas Kirsch, MD, FAAN, FAASM (Sleep Medicine, CLT)

Transformative Stroke Care:

The Center will develop multi-disciplinary research projects leveraging collaborations with investigators across the Enterprise.  It will expand, align, and integrate an Enterprise Stroke Registry to support management of stroke centers, identify health equity care gaps and quality improvement opportunities, and provide data for investigator-initiated studies.  It will initiate and test early triage and transport protocols to get the right patient to the right care at the right time with a goal of optimizing initial patient destination and inter-facility transfer and increasing access to stroke resources.

Ultimately, the Center will demonstrate the value of post-discharge care models that decrease cost, while improving outcomes; be highly funded for research on stroke care focused on health equity and improving population health; and decrease mortality, improve functional outcomes, and reduce the cost of care for stroke patients in the Enterprise.

  • Tony Asher, MD, FAANS, FACS (Neurosciences, CLT)
  • Cheryl Bushnell, MD, MHS (Neurology, W-S)
  • Amy Guzik, MD (Neurology, W-S) 

Translational Radiation & Cancer Care: 

Will engage in multidisciplinary research across the Enterprise with a large extramurally funded research portfolio that focuses on quality of life and follow-up clinical investigations that are examining treatment efficacy and normal tissue injury.  

  • J. Mark Cline, DVM, PhD (Pathology, W-S)
  • Michael Munley, PhD (Radiation Oncology, W-S)
  • Jeff Willey, PhD (Radiation Oncology, W-S)