Marbles Kids Museum communications + freelance writer
“Healthcare is the great equalizer. In one bed, you can have one of the richest men in the area. Next door, you can have someone who can’t afford to pay. They’re both vulnerable in these places, and they both need care.” WakeMed Health & Hospitals CEO Donald Gintzig aptly summarized the importance of healthcare in our – and in any – community during a panel discussion for Leadership Raleigh 37’s Healthcare Day. It’s a vast and complex sector to understand, and we spent the day learning firsthand about each of the county’s key players.
“There’s a collaborative spirit here that transcends competition,” said Steve Burriss, president of UNC REX Healthcare, in the same panel discussion. In that spirit, we visited three major medical hubs: Duke Raleigh Hospital, WakeMed Hospital, and UNC REX Heart & Vascular Hospital. Often, they work together, such as the two-year-old Cancer Care Plus+ collaboration and innovation partnership between Duke and WakeMed. Partnerships like these aim to provide a wider network of care locations that will create a stronger, and together more comprehensive, system that truly serves the best interests of community health.
At Duke Raleigh, we learned about its steady growth and “high-end boutique” procedures and services. The Raleigh location is a relatively small slice of the Duke hospital network, which is based in Durham. It is small but mighty, and gearing up for physical expansion in the near future.
Despite staggering facts throughout the day, we also learned how lucky we are to live in Wake County. Our healthcare system is among the strongest in the state. “Two miles apart, there is a 10-year difference in life expectancy,” WakeMed’s Gintzig pointed out.
To conclude another jam-packed Leadership Raleigh day, a few classmates chose to tour the new Poyner YMCA facility downtown. It’s a gleaming space including several group exercise spaces and specialty fitness classes, such as hot yoga and TRX training. We ended on a high note when we learned about an exciting new initiative the YMCA is helping to develop: a “medical membership” program where doctors can write a prescription to patients … for the YMCA. These patients receive a special discounted membership rate to use exercise equipment and take classes. The program is an important step toward systemic preventative care, and felt like an optimistic full-circle end to Healthcare Day.