UAMS Celebrates Opening of 10-story High-Tech Hospital

By Kelly Gardner

LITTLE ROCK – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) supporters, patients and their families today celebrated the opening of a 540,000-square-foot hospital replacing most of the patient care services in the original 52-year-old UAMS Medical Center building.


The 10-level, nearly $200 million building incorporates the latest medical technology, larger all-private patient rooms and private rooms for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Other design elements focus on creating a pleasant environment that promotes healing and provides ample space for family members to support loved ones during a hospital stay.


Patients will be moved from the old building into the new facility Jan. 17 and 18.


“Today marks an exciting milestone in the history of UAMS and health care in Arkansas as we open our new hospital, allowing us to replace an outdated, outgrown and more than 50-year-old hospital building,” said Richard Pierson, UAMS vice chancellor for clinical programs and UAMS Medical Center executive director. “The quality of the facility now matches the quality of the care our terrific physicians and staff provide.”


Added UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D.: “This is the next, much-needed step in the evolution of UAMS from its earliest days as a charity hospital to a world-class facility where our talented faculty and staff provide quality patient care, instruct tomorrow’s health care professionals and conduct valuable, lifesaving research.”


The new hospital gives UAMS Medical Center 437 total patient beds – 333 adult beds and 64 newborn bassinets between the new facility and the existing Harry P. Ward Patient Tower that was completed in 1999, and 40 beds in the adjacent UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute that opened in December 2008.


The facility’s Emergency Department has 31 private exam rooms and three trauma rooms.


“This new addition to the campus will further bolster the international reputation that UAMS has earned for providing state-of-the-art care,” said Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, who spoke at the opening. “Arkansans take great pride in the exceptional medical treatment available at UAMS and the economic benefits it provides for the State.”


The new hospital building includes an Emergency Department, a clinical laboratory and the Radiology Department along with room to expand other services. The new facility also has additional capacity for surgery, cardiology and interventional radiology as well as an intensive care unit and an intermediate care unit.


“When my mother was ill recently, we could have gone to any medical facility in the country, but we knew we could get the care she needed close to home at UAMS,” said actor and Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen, who also spoke at the opening. “This is a wonderful day for our state, as we celebrate this new hospital. We are glad that so many Arkansans will have access to the medical care they need without having to leave the state.”


A groundbreaking ceremony for the hospital took place in 2006 following the implosion of an old student dormitory that stood at the site. A double topping out ceremony was held in 2007 when construction reached the highest point for the hospital and the adjacent 110,000-square-foot Psychiatric Research Institute.


Among the features and improvements in the new hospital: 

  • The private rooms in the Emergency Department have removable walls to serve up to 54 patients in the event of a large-scale emergency.

  • Dedicated imaging services are located in the Emergency Department, including an X-ray room and computed tomography (CT) unit.

  • A rooftop helipad has a special elevator connecting directly to the Emergency Department, surgical floor and the labor and delivery unit.

  • New operating rooms, adjacent to existing surgical facilities, bring the full capacity to 19 operating rooms.

  • A new communications system connects the operating rooms to pathology and other units on campus to allow sharing of images, voice and data for consultations during surgery.

  • The new NICU features private baby rooms with special lighting, noise and temperature controls to meet each infant’s special needs. Each patient room includes family space, allowing a parent to stay with their child.

  • Larger, private adult patient rooms feature a sleeper sofa for family members, a 26-inch flat screen TV with pillow speakers and a private bath.

  • The entire facility is equipped with wireless Internet access.

  • A large lobby with a two-story ceiling creates a welcoming atmosphere featuring pillars of Arkansas limestone, terrazzo floors and a Steinway grand piano.

A multi-level parking deck, adjacent to the new hospital and Psychiatric Research Institute, has 1,000 spaces intended primarily for patients and visitors. Hooper Drive, which stretches across the UAMS campus, was reconfigured from a two-lane street into a four-lane divided boulevard beside the new hospital. The circular drive runs from Hooper Drive in front of the new hospital and includes a ramp down into the parking deck to allow easy patient drop-offs.


The original hospital building will continue to house some hospital services. The building also is expected to be used for office space for some departments previously forced off campus due to a lack of space.


UAMS Medical Center provides medical care for many patients who come from all over the United States and around the world to be treated by nationally and internationally known experts at UAMS. In addition to the Psychiatric Research Institute, the hospital serves patients of the other UAMS institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy.


The facility also serves as a teaching hospital where students in the UAMS colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Health Related Professions can gain experience working with patients in supervised settings.


The new hospital building was funded through a variety of sources, including hospital revenues, a bond issue approved by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees and gifts from donors.


Architects and construction contractors for the hospital, Psychiatric Research Institute and parking deck are CDI Contractors Inc., Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects, The Wilcox Group and HKS Inc.


Baldwin & Shell Construction Company was the general contractor for the reconfiguration of Hooper Drive.


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 or