Professor of Faith and Health of the Public
BA, Wake Forest University; MDiv, Candler School of Theology, Emory; DMin, Interdenominational Theological Center
Rev. Dr Gary Gunderson is Professor of the Health of the Public in the School of Divinity and Professor of Public Health Science in the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He also serves as Vice President for FaithHealth at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which includes spiritual care, Clinical Pastoral Education and CareNet counseling centers in 32 locations across North Carolina, as well as a local novel “ground game” strategy focusing on the most vulnerable neighborhoods. The Division is developing clinically relevant partnerships with hundreds of faith groups throughout the state in collaboration with other hospitals and community partners (partly supported by key philanthropy such as The Duke Endowment and the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation). The Division has a long legacy relationship with the NC Baptist Convention and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, as well as with the General Baptist State Convention, but works across all lines of faith affiliation.
Vice President Gunderson is deeply involved in the challenges facing 13,000 employees, faculty and operational managers, helping them adapt to the profound and jarring changes in healthcare today, including his own institution. Although the Division offices are in the heart of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center a few miles from the School of Divinity, the Division is a close partner with the School offering a range of internships, field placements, residencies and highly flexible learning experiences.
Gunderson is known for more than two decades of creative work in the field of faith and public health. Initially he served at The Carter Center and Emory University’s School of Public Health, and has also had a long relationship with the University of Cape Town, where he continues to serve as visiting faculty. In Memphis, Tennessee these ideas found ground through more than 590 congregational partners showing hard evidence of significant improved outcomes including mortality, cost and dramatically lower hospitalization.
This long body of work has resulted in a significant learning group of dozens of faith-based healthcare systems, Stakeholder Health, which works closely with the White House and HHS to help mission-driven healthcare work in large scale partnerships to advance health and well being. Gunderson is the Secretary of Stakeholder Health, managed out of the FaithHealth Division. Likewise, the Division hosts the Leading Causes of Life Initiative with more than 30 interdisciplinary Fellows developing the foundations for an integrative paradigm that is not contained within the traditional health science focus on death, disease and dying.
Gunderson has authored four books including the recent Religion and the Health of the Public: Shifting the Paradigm with Dr. James Cochrance (Palgrave/McMillian, 2012) and Deeply Woven Roots (Fortress Press, 1997), which is widely used in seminaries. He has written many articles and delivered hundreds of presentations, often around novel concepts such as “religious health assets,” “boundary leadership” and, perhaps most interesting, the “leading causes of life.”
Gunderson is an ordained American Baptist minister. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Doctor of Ministry degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, as well as an honorary doctorate from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly at garygunderson.net. Gunderson has two daughters, Kathryn and Lauren, a grandson (Charles Isaac Gunderson Wolfe) and is married to Dr. Teresa Cutts, who is on faculty at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
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