Division of FaithHealth News: Celebrating the Past and Considering the Future
More than 100 members gathered in person and more via streaming link to help Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Division of FaithHealth celebrate achievements of the past—from the origins of pastoral care and education to the movement of the past 10 years to help people be at the right door, at the right time.
The daylong program ended with the division’s vice president, Gary Gunderson (right), who arrived in 2012 to bring the “Memphis model” of care to what was then Wake Forest Baptist Health. The model promotes the connection of caring communities, in particular congregations, to assist those in need to “find the right door” and avoid the emergency department of hospitals. The concept has proven to improve health, especially among at-risk patients, while also reducing costs for the hospital system.
“Our original founding vision was preposterously imaginative,” Gunderson told attendees after presentations by each of the division’s leaders, including CareNet, the Center for Congregational Health, FaithHealth Clinical Pastoral Education, First Responder Chaplains, FaithHealth Community and more. “We’ve just kept expanding our imagination as more science came along—now with such a rich interweaving of bio-psycho-social-spiritual tools.”
One of the program’s goals was discussion “FaithHealth: Next,” the concept of where and how the division continues to grow and broaden.
Gunderson noted that a map presented by Rev. Brian Davis, director of community and congregation engagement for FaithHealth, shows how little territory in North Carolina is left uncovered by some form of outreach to those most in need thanks to many programs supported by the division, including CareNet.
Davis said FaithHealth’s purpose is to help plug holes in the map.
“Where can we leverage our relationships and take risks?” he asked. “There is no worthwhile ministry that doesn’t involve risk. The more we do it, the more we shrink risks in the safety net.”
The merger of Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist two years ago and more recently the planned merger with Advocate Aurora Health in the Midwest, broadens the ability to reach well beyond North Carolina in bringing unique ways to help those most in need with health care and services related to health—from housing to transportation to food, Gunderson said.
“We’re part of the structure within Atrium that is tuned in to the health of the community and tuned in to spiritual healing, the power of ideas, thoughtfulness and thinking in a deeply reflective manner.”
This is reflected in a radical notion that goes against the idea that hospital systems should focus on the business model that bring in high revenue, such as cancer treatment, although that obviously remains an important part of the mission. By focusing on preventive care, especially of those who traditionally have slipped through safety nets and become the most expensive to treat, change has arrived, he said.
“That (old) model is radically being flipped upside down in real time,” he said. “We’re focusing on the arts and crafts of population health, getting paid for what does not happen.”
Essentially, Gunderson said, everything the Division of FaithHealth does turns “toward the work of mercy and justice.”