Business leaders, health care and technology innovators, and elected officials came together at the inaugural FirstHealth Innovation Summit held May 18 in Pinehurst to share knowledge, inspire and drive innovation.
The two-day event was sponsored by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, The Foundation of FirstHealth and Moore County Partners in Progress to showcase the innovative work of the local health care community and North Carolina-based biotech companies to transform health care and technology locally and globally, and to highlight the Moore County community.
“I believe Moore County is a premier location for biotech firms,” said Natalie Hawkins, PMP, executive director, Moore County Partners in Progress. “Just a short one-hour drive to the Raleigh-Durham area, we offer small town living with easy access to big city amenities. We currently have a very strong health care industry that employs 30% of our workforce. Our local economy could be strengthened further with other biotech companies locating here.”
Mickey Foster, MHA, FirstHealth chief executive officer, said FirstHealth has consistently been on the cutting edge of health care and continues to provide top quality service in a rural community. In addition to outstanding patient care, FirstHealth has a lot to offer biotech companies as well.
“As a non-academic community-based health system, FirstHealth and its provider partners provide biotech companies the agility and flexibility to get pilot projects off the ground,” said Foster.
FirstHealth worked in partnership with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to identify companies to participate in the Innovation Summit.
Triangle-based companies that participated in the Innovation Summit included UNC Fast TraCS, VitalFlo, Continuous Precision Medicine, Higgs Boson Health, Infinitus Medical Technologies, LEEP Mobility Systems, Lucerno Dynamics and Feedtrail.
“As we promote Moore County as a prime location for biotech companies, FirstHealth is a wonderful example of how the field of health care can be advanced in a rural community,” added Hawkins. “As a leading health care provider and largest employer in our area, FirstHealth was the perfect partner to hold this type of event.”
From the groundbreaking work of pulmonary disease and critical care medicine physician Michael Pritchett, D.O., MPH, in the detection and treatment of early-stage lung cancers to infectious diseases expert Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., leading Moore Regional to be the first site to enroll a patient in a worldwide clinical trial for treatment of COVID-19, the Innovation Summit was also an opportunity for several FirstHealth providers to share about their commitment and dedication to advance health care not only in the Sandhills region, but globally.
In addition to Dr. Pritchett and Dr. Arnoczy, urogynecologist Janet Harris-Hicks, M.D., shared her trailblazing efforts to advance treatment options for patients suffering with pelvic floor disorders; interventional and structural cardiologist Sun Moon Kim, M.D., presented on innovations in heart care for patients in the Sandhills; and practicing pathologist Megan Difurio, M.D., passionately shared about the importance of the expansion of molecular testing to advance cancer care at FirstHealth.
The Summit also highlighted the work of general and bariatric surgeons David Grantham, M.D., and Raymond Washington, M.D., and endocrinologist Alex Bonnecaze, M.D., in relation to the recently opened Metabolic and Weight Management Center. The new Center is a partnership of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Pinehurst Surgical Clinic and Pinehurst Medical Clinic and is unique to the Sandhills area while being one of just a few comprehensive metabolic centers in the state.
According to Foster, the presentations showcased how FirstHealth providers bring together emerging technologies to advance health care and provide access to the highest quality care to patients.
“The compassion and dedication of FirstHealth providers, and their deep-rooted commitment to the communities they serve, is so inspiring,” said Foster.
Hawkins said the Summit was eye-opening for many attendees. “This was the first time many of the attendees toured Moore County and were exposed to the innovative work of FirstHealth providers and our wonderful community,” she said.
Planning is already underway for the second Innovation Summit to take place in the fall of 2023.