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History of WakeMed

The Founder: Bill Andrews, CEO 1957-1983

1955-1969 Timeline


  • On December 13, Wake County voters approve a $5 million bond issue for a new hospital system by a margin of 926 votes.  The original system would consist of a 380-bed main hospital in Raleigh and four 20-bed satellite hospitals throughout the county.


  • After much debate, Wake County Commissioners approve the construction of the Memorial Hospital of Wake County off New Bern Avenue on 36.6 acres of land purchased.


  • William F. Andrews is hired as Chief Executive Officer to plan, construct and direct the new hospital.  Because no building was on the hospital site, Andrews and his executive assistant Etta Kimbrell shared an office at a bank in downtown Raleigh.


  • Construction on the Memorial Hospital of Wake County begins in March. Work also starts on the Fuquay-Varina and Apex satellite hospitals. The Zebulon satellite hospital site is selected and approved.


  • In October, the first satellite hospital opens in Fuquay-Varina.


Triplets born at Memorial
Hospital in the 1960s


  • The Memorial Hospital of Wake County opens with 380 beds and 90 physicians. A dedication ceremony was held on April 9. 
  • Saint Agnes Hospital closes and patients are transferred to the new hospital.  Though considered the first integrated hospital in North Carolina, the hospital had separate sections for whites and blacks.
  • The second satellite hospital opens in Zebulon.
  • Dr. Annie Louise Wilkerson came from St. Agnes Hospital to serve as the first Memorial Hospital of Wake County Medical Staff President and Chair of the Medical Executive Committee.


  • The third satellite hospital opens in Apex.


  • Memorial Hospital welcomes its first resident (in Obstetrics and Gynecology) as a result of an affiliation with the University of North Carolina Medical School.  Future affiliations lead to residencies in Medicine, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Urology, Surgery and Otolaryngology. 
  • Separate sections and entrances for whites and blacks are eliminated.
  • The fourth satellite hospital opens in Wake Forest.


  • To improve the care and treatment of Wake County's indigent, the Medical Staff establishes a medical clinic and internship program.


  • The Wake County Commissioners transfer management of Memorial Hospital from the Wake County Hospital Authority to a not-for-profit corporation, the Wake County Hospital System Inc. 


  • On January 4, the Articles of Incorporation for the Auxiliary to the Wake County Hospital System Inc. are filed.  Now named The Volunteers at WakeMed Raleigh Campus, its members continue to provide significant support to staff and patients. 


  • On March 2, the first open heart surgery in Wake County is performed at Memorial Hospital of Wake County.


1970-1979:  Expansion & Innovation


  • The Wake Medical Staff Foundation is established. One of its primary functions is to support the medical clinic for the indigent. 


  • The hospital opens the county's first neuro-intensive care unit.  It remains Wake County's only critical care unit exclusively dedicated to the care of neurological patients.
  • Rev. Richard McKay becomes the first hospital chaplain for health system and began the work to establish our Clinical Pastoral Education program.


Neonatal ICU and
Pediatric ICU opening in 1978


  • The first electroencephalogram (EEG) in Wake County is performed at Memorial Hospital.
  • A major expansion project to provide more space for ambulatory care clinics, the Emergency Department, an expanded 14-room surgical suite, a new recovery room and expanded Radiology and Pathology departments begins. 
  • Two new 41-bed nursing units are also added, bringing the system's total licensed bed count to 560. 
  • The addition of three specialized intensive care units for medical, surgical and heart patients gives physicians and staff the ability to provide comprehensive critical care services at Memorial Hospital.
  • Space is provided for the Wake Area Health Education Center (Wake AHEC), a new program initiated by the N.C. General Assembly and the School of Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. 


  • Wake County Medical Center installs the county's first computerized axial tomography (CAT) head scanner.
  • Invasive cardiologist Dr. Amarendra Reddy comes to Wake County Medical Center and is credited with performing the first cardiac catheterization in Wake County. 


  • In June, the Memorial Hospital of Wake County name is changed to Wake County Medical Center to coordinate with the opening of the expanded medical center.


  • A new $35 million addition is dedicated. It houses outpatient clinics, an emergency department, laboratory, radiology, expanded special care units, 82 private medical/surgical beds and, on two new floors, surgical suites and a new recovery room.



  • A full-body CAT scanner is purchased. 


Raymond L. Champ,
CEO 1983-2003

1980-1989:  A Culture Shift


  • Planning begins to seek 200 beds for a new hospital in western Wake County. 


  • The Board approves a plan to build a 110-bed hospital in Cary and expand Southern by 16 beds.  It would take eight years of legal disputes before construction could begin.


  • The founding President of today's WakeMed Health & Hospitals, William F. Andrews, retires and Raymond L. Champ is appointed to succeed him in December.  Mr. Champ is only the second CEO in the history of the institution.
  • A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the 16-bed expansion of Southern Wake in Fuquay-Varina is held on March 1, bringing the system's total bed count to 636.


  • Construction is completed on the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facility, the first of its kind in Wake County.
  • WakeMed receives designation as a Level II trauma center.


  • Cardiac care moves into the Medical Office Building which is officially named the Heart Center.
  • A two-story addition to the east wing of the hospital, completed in 1989, provided space for the Maternity Center, where more than 6,000 babies are delivered annually; an expanded Level III newborn intensive care nursery, which cares for 600+ premature, critically ill infants each year; and additional private patient rooms.  Continuing renovations throughout the main building provided a much-needed facelift and expanded space for more private patient rooms.

1990-1999:  Setting the Stage for the Future


Western Wake Medical Center in 1991


  • Wake Rehab Hospital opens as a 68-bed facility offering comprehensive inpatient rehab services. Today, WakeMed Rehab is one of the nation's premier physical rehabilitation facilities and remains the only inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Wake County.
  • The first WakeMed Mobile Critical Care Services ambulance is dispatched to a community hospital in our region to transport a patient who needed specialized heart and vascular services to WakeMed.


  • Western Wake Medical Center, an 80-bed hospital designed to replace the former Western Wake Hospital in Apex, opens in Cary.


  • On April 1, Wake County Hospital Systems, Inc. changes from public ownership to private, not-for-profit.
  • The name of Wake County Hospital Systems is officially changed to WakeMed.
  • The Women's Pavilion & Birthplace at Western Wake Medical Center, Cary's only birthing facility, opens.
  • North Carolina's only freestanding Children's Emergency Department opens at the WakeMed Raleigh Campus.
  • The new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is completed on 4C.


  • WakeMed Heart Center moves into a new, $22 million, state-of-the-art cardiac care facility. It features all heart services, including a hotel for visiting family members, under one roof.


2000-Today:  50 Years of Care & Caring

William K. Atkinson, II, PhD., MPH, MPA,
CEO 2003 - present


  • An expansion of the Western Wake Medical Center Emergency Department is completed.


  • The Western Wake Medical Center Cardiac Catheterization Lab opens in October.
  • In October, an amazing 22,581-square-foot rehabilitation Health Park opened on the Raleigh Campus. 
  • WakeMed Clayton Medical Park opens.



  • William K. Atkinson II, PhD, MPH, MPA, becomes the new president and CEO of WakeMed following the retirement of Ray Champ on July 12.


  • WakeMed joins 17 other North Carolina hospitals in forming the Southern Atlantic Healthcare Alliance. The alliance focuses on improving the quality and safety of health care for patients. 
  • WakeMed establishes the WakeMed Center for Patient Safety.
  • WakeMed establishes the Emergency Services Institute which works closely with all local resources to ensure we are ready to respond to any local or regional emergency.  Hurricane Katrina was one such event.


The WakeMed North Healthplex
Emergency Department,
NC's first 24-hour,
full-service, stand-alone
emergency department


  • WakeMed receives state approval to build the state's first at The WakeMed North Healthplex Emergency Department, the state's first 24-hour, full-service, stand-alone emergency department, opens.  It quickly becomes a national model and continues to attract health care providers from throughout the country who wish to build similar facilities.




  • Construction begins on the 200,000 square-foot addition of a new patient tower to accommodate WakeMed's growing heart and vascular and pediatric patient populations.
  • With WakeMed North Healthplex as its model, WakeMed Apex Healthplex opens to give Western Wake County residents direct access to a full-service emergency department and comprehensive outpatient diagnostic services. 
  • Cary Hospital undergoes a massive vertical expansion to add 82 beds.  Another expansion of the Cary Hospital Women's Pavilion & Birthplace soon followed. 


  • WakeMed Health & Hospitals earns approval to add 41 licensed acute-care beds to WakeMed North Healthplex, creating Wake County's fifth hospital.
  • The WakeMed Foundation launches the $20 million Just For Kids Kampaign to attract funds for the building of the new WakeMed Children's Hospital, the only dedicated children's hospital in Wake County.
  • The WakeMed Center for Innovative Learning opens on the Raleigh Campus.  Providing both live and web-based training in a variety of clinical settings, the center is a regional medical simulation center offering hands-on training in a safe environment.

WakeMed Raleigh Campus Today:
Now a Private, Not-for-Profit Health System


  • WakeMed opens its new Raleigh Campus E Wing, a 168,000-foot addition. It includes a new main lobby, intensive and intermediate Cardiovascular Care Units and a 34,000-square-foot, fourth floor that houses the new WakeMed Children's Hospital.


  • WakeMed marks its 50th anniversary.


© WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Raleigh, NC  |  919.350.8000