On the Road

How Dean Freischlag Is Connecting with Alumni

As dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine and CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, is a busy woman. Yet despite her packed schedule, she finds creative opportunities to meet and interact with Wake Forest medical alumni.

Since assuming the position of interim dean in 2017, one of Freischlag’s primary ways of connecting with alumni has been through regional alumni events organized by the Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations.

Freischlag frequently travels for lectures and meetings.

When possible, she plans ahead to meet with alumni along her travel stops.

“Whenever I travel to give talks, our Alumni Relations office reaches out to the alumni in the city where I’ll be,” she says. “I was giving a talk at Rutgers, so we had a brunch for our alumni in the New York/New Jersey area. When I was in Chicago, we had a dinner for our alumni there. At ECU, we had a cocktail reception. We’re going to do another brunch when I’m in San Francisco for a meeting.

“We’re really reaching out to our alumni to let them know to keep their eyes and ears open for news that I’ll be catching up with them when I travel to their area.”

Back for a Visit

While regional alumni events are an excellent way for alumni to have a link to their alma mater where they work and live, Freischlag also encourages alums to visit the School of Medicine whenever they have an opportunity.

“We invite them to come back and see the new medical school building, which is gorgeous, as well as Winston-Salem, which has changed a lot, too,” she says.

“We also encourage them to come interact with the students.”

Freischlag describes the Wake Forest alumni group as very active with the medical school.

“They have been very engaged with our medical students, and one of their requests has been to get to know more about what we’re currently doing at the school,” she says. “So, we’ve been doing a series of symposiums where our departments present what we call ‘Ignite Sessions’ a couple of times a month. The sessions are about two hours, and each department and center will provide a three-minute TED-type talk on their research. It really keeps the alumni up-to-date on what we’re doing.”

Maintaining the Connection

Lisa Marshall, chief philanthropy officer and vice president of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations, says active alumni are critical to the health of the School of Medicine.

“They are our external banner,” Marshall says. “And because they know firsthand the sacrifice of serving in the medical field, they are often willing to support those coming behind them.”

“Once a Deacon, always a Deacon,” says Mary Claire O’Brien, MD, senior associate dean of education. “Alumni are the School of Medicine’s most loyal supporters—and most powerful ambassadors in their hometowns and professional networks across the globe. There is a natural sense of community between current and former students, and we rely on our alumni to be engaged and active, to share their advice and concerns about the practice of medicine and the future of Wake Forest School of Medicine.”

Freischlag says one of the first events she attended at Wake Forest last year was an alumni dinner. Now that she’s dean of the medical school, she’s even more enthusiastic about events involving alumni.

“I was so impressed with the hundreds of people that were at that dinner—alums that work here, all over North Carolina and around the world,” she says. “The enthusiasm of the alumni is just incredible, and we’re very excited to show them what we’ve been doing.”

Honoring a Dean, Showcasing a School

During this spring’s alumni weekend, the School of Medicine dedicated a portrait of former dean Edward Abraham, MD. It is the first portrait hung in the new medical school building. Freischlag appreciated the event and the opportunity to show alumni all that’s been going on at the medical school.

“We got to show them some of the science we’ve been doing, and we also gave them an opportunity to meet some of the students while they were here,” she says.