Belmont Names Dr. Bill Bates Founding Dean of New College of Medicine

Noted physician, researcher, educator and medical business executive appointed to launch new college, recruit faculty, develop curriculum

Belmont University announced today the appointment of Dr. William (Bill) Bates, M.D., to the position of founding dean of the recently announced College of Medicine. Belmont announced last month its intent to start a new College of Medicine in collaboration with one of the nation’s leading healthcare providers, HCA Healthcare. 

Currently serving as professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of reproductive endocrinology at Meharry Medical College, Dr. Bates is the founder and former President/CEO of digiChart, an electronic medical records company. He has previously held positions as the vice president for health services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as executive vice president and chief medical officer for PrincipalCare (Brentwood, TN), as vice president for medical education and research for the Greenville Hospital System in Greenville, South Carolina and as dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He will begin his new duties as the Belmont University College of Medicine dean on Jan. 4, 2021.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “Just as we couldn’t ask for a better partner than HCA Healthcare in launching a new College of Medicine, we also could not imagine an individual better equipped to be our founding dean than Dr. Bill Bates. Dr. Bates brings with him a wealth of knowledge in medicine and medical education, as well as the experience and connections that will prove vital to making Belmont Medicine and its students successful.” 

Dr. Bates said, “With the academic reputation of Belmont University and the national reach and clinical breadth of HCA Healthcare, the new Belmont University College of Medicine will have immediate recognition. Even as a new medical college, it will quickly take its place among other outstanding medical schools and colleges in the United States. I am humbled and excited to be selected as founding dean. Dr. Fisher and I share a vision for this College of Medicine. Working with faculty, leaders of Belmont University and HCA Healthcare, we will fulfill this vision. My responsibilities are to recruit faculty and, with that faculty, develop a modern curriculum and attain accreditation.”

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Bates also received his M.D. and completed his obstetrics and gynecology residency at UNC. He completed a reproductive endocrinology fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) and received an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After serving as a major and chief of obstetrics and gynecology in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Bates went on to hold positions with the University of Tennessee and the University of Mississippi Medical Center before becoming dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He then served as vice president for medical education and research at Greenville Health System before moving to Middle Tennessee in 1996 as the chief medical officer with PrincipalCare.

Dr. Bates then served as the vice president for health services and clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. VUMC tasked Dr. Bates to take a leave of absence to turn Breathe America (now digiChart, Inc.) from a practice management company into an information technology company. digiChart—which develops, markets and sells electronic medical records for obstetricians/gynecologists—was recognized by Microsoft as a winner of the best ambulatory electronic medical records in 2007 and 2008. It received CCHIT certification in 2011 with a five-star usability rating. He has been a member of the Meharry Medical College faculty since 2012.

Belmont College of Medicine will seek to become the nation’s 156th medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and its graduates would be well positioned to help fill the significant physician gap anticipated to be felt between now and 2033. Sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association, LCME is the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in the U.S. (and Canada). Belmont will enroll its first class at the appropriate time in the LCME process.

HCA Healthcare’s Nashville-based TriStar Health will provide clinical elements in support of Belmont’s new college. As the largest and most comprehensive healthcare provider in the region, HCA Healthcare’s flagship, Tristar Health, will offer vast opportunities within a rich learning environment for Belmont College of Medicine students and residents. TriStar Health will provide third year medical students core clinical clerkships and fourth year medical students clinical elective rotations. HCA Healthcare also will provide a pathway to outstanding graduate medical education opportunities for Belmont College of Medicine graduates and will support existing members of the medical staff who may be interested in faculty positions in Belmont’s College of Medicine.

The academic and clinical expertise HCA Healthcare brings to the table along with the countless opportunities presented by being located in the nation’s healthcare capital aren’t the only advantages Belmont medical students will receive. They will also benefit from numerous interprofessional healthcare opportunities already embedded on the Nashville campus. The University is heavily invested in the health sciences, currently offering degrees in nursing (bachelor’s, master’s and DNP), physical therapy (DPT), pharmacy(Pharm.D.), occupational therapy (OTD) and public health (bachelor’s) as well as an MBA in Healthcare and a Health Law certificate program.