UAMS Northwest Arkansas Campus Receives $1.5 Million from Arkansas Philanthropists

By Kevin Rowe

LITTLE ROCK – A trio of Arkansas philanthropists today gave a total of $1.5 million towards development of the northwest Arkansas campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS.


Donations of $500,000 each were announced from Don Tyson and the Tyson Family Foundation, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation and Johnelle Hunt during a news conference at the Embassy Suites hotel in Rogers, site of a National Philanthropy Day luncheon.


The funds are going toward continued renovations and work to prepare the former Washington Regional Medical Center to house the campus. The work also will make room for the UAMS Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Northwest, which provides health education and medical care, to relocate there in 2009.


Located in Fayetteville, the campus will open for the fall 2009 semester and is intended to address growing health care work force shortages by allowing UAMS to increase enrollment. The campus will include students in the UAMS colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Health Related Professions.


“We are pleased with this support from Johnelle Hunt, the Tysons and the Walker Foundation, showing their commitment to the future of health care for all of Arkansas,” UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “It is fitting this gift comes on National Philanthropy Day, which recognizes those who give so selflessly to help others – in this case leaving an enduring impression on the quality of health care in the state.”


The satellite campus will provide facilities for students, resident physicians, faculty and patients. It will have 250 to 300 students along with resident physicians when full enrollment is reached.


“This UAMS campus in northwest Arkansas will have a far-reaching impact as it improves not just quality of life but also the economy as it makes the state a more attractive environment for companies looking to grow,” said Don Tyson, former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Springdale’s Tyson Foods Inc.


Tyson joined his father’s burgeoning poultry business in the 1950s, seeing it grow into one of the nation’s leading food producers. The Tyson family has supported numerous education projects in the state including endowed chairs and scholarships.


“Our family has long believed in the work UAMS does for education and health care in Arkansas and we are happy to support this effort to ensure the future supply of health care professionals in the state,” said Debbie Walker, executive director of the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation.


The Walker family’s support of UAMS includes gifts that made possible the Pat and Willard Walker Tower of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Pat Walker Tower of the UAMS Jones Eye Institute and the Pat and Willard Walker Memory Research Center at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. The late Willard Walker was hired by Sam Walton as a store manager in the early days of Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., today the world’s largest retailer.


“It is exciting to see the momentum building behind the UAMS satellite campus because of the long-lasting impact it will have on the state,” said Johnelle Hunt, widow of JB Hunt Transport Services Inc. founder J.B. Hunt and a longtime member of that company’s board of directors.


JB Hunt Transport of Lowell, started in 1969 by Johnnie Bryan Hunt, is one of the nation’s largest transportation and logistics companies. Johnelle Hunt currently sits on the UAMS Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute Advisory Board and has supported causes ranging from breast cancer research to Easter Seals.


Peter O. Kohler, M.D., vice chancellor for the northwest Arkansas region, is leading the satellite campus effort, working with community leaders, hospital administrators and local health care providers.


“Support from these Arkansas philanthropic and business leaders allows us to continue preparing the facility to serve as home to our satellite campus,” Kohler said. “We are grateful for the continued support from across the state as we move toward opening this campus.” 


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit