Obesity Prevention Professorship Endowed on Behalf of Former Gov. McMath, Father of Modern-Day UAMS

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – Former Arkansas Gov. Sid McMath, who pushed for statewide public health improvements a half-century ago, was honored posthumously today with the endowment of a new professorship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.


The Governor Sidney S. McMath Professorship in Obesity Prevention, created from settlement funds obtained by the McMath Woods Law Firm in a health-related, multi-state lawsuit, was celebrated in a ceremony at the College of Public Health.


McMath, governor from 1949 to 1953, is viewed by many as father of the modern-day UAMS because of his advocacy of a 2-cent cigarette tax to build University Hospital, now UAMS Medical Center, and to move the campus from MacArthur Park to its West Markham site.


“Gov. McMath’s efforts on behalf of health care helped build a lasting legacy for the people of Arkansas,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “The tobacco tax shows that he knew well what we know today – that a tobacco tax is a key prevention tool as well as a resource for improving health care. This endowment is a fitting tribute to his legacy.”


A medallion with McMath’s World War II image was presented to his son, Phillip McMath, and his widow, Betty Dortch Russell McMath, by Wilson and College of Public Health Dean James M. Raczynski, Ph.D. Medallions also will be given to Sid McMath’s other children – Sandy McMath, Bruce McMath, Melissa Hatfield and Patricia Bueter.


The McMath Woods Law Firm donated $1 million to the College of Public Health from the proceeds of the lawsuit, which specified that some of the money be used to serve the public. Professorships are established with gifts of $500,000 or more. In addition to Phillip McMath, others in the law firm who attended the ceremony were Mart Vehik and Charles Harrison.


The endowment of the Professorship in Obesity Prevention will contribute to the development of an Obesity Prevention Center will address Arkansas’ major nutrition and diet-related problems, pay for research, and provide support for the recipient of the endowed professorship. A recipient of the endowed professorship is expected to be named within a year.


McMath, who died in 2003, was a native of Columbia County, a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a decorated veteran of the Pacific theater in World War II. He would become a leading figure in the Southern reform movement, making major contributions in race relations, labor relations, rural electrification and other matters that helped Arkansans.


The former governor’s efforts were crucial to the construction of the UAMS campus, the neighboring State Hospital, and the establishment of UAMS’ Department of Psychiatry.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.