UAMS Opens State’s First Adult Genetics Clinic

By Nate Hinkel

The clinic, on the sixth floor of Freeway Medical Tower, 5800 West 10th St., provides specialty care not previously available in Arkansas for patients with genetic syndromes. The clinic, along with the recently endowed chair in clinical genetics, is being supported in part with a gift from Lisenne Rockefeller in honor of her late husband Winthrop P. Rockefeller, the philanthropist and former lieutenant governor.

“People with Down syndrome have a unique set of medical issues and predispositions for virtually every organ system but are now able to live long, happy and productive lives. This clinic will provide much-needed specialty care for patients with very complex and unmet needs,” said Kent McKelvey, M.D., an associate professor in Genetics and Family Medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine and the inaugural recipient of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Chair in Clinical Genetics.

“The goal of the genetics service is to provide research, teaching and clinical care that will serve all our patients. Because of advancements in medicine, many of our pediatric patients have outlived and outgrown the services of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Until now, Arkansas didn’t have a resource dedicated to specialty care for adult patients. In fact this is a vast area of need nationwide, and thanks to the Rockefellers, Arkansas is now far ahead of the curve.”

The clinic will primarily serve adolescents and adults. Younger patients will continue to receive genetics-related care at UAMS’ pediatric affiliate Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“With the commitment of UAMS and Dr. McKelvey, this clinic will serve the unique needs of its patients, giving those with Down syndrome or other genetic disorders a lifelong source of care,” said Rockefeller, who has two children with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes both developmental and physical challenges.

Around age 10 or 11 is an ideal time for patients with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions to transition to the UAMS clinic, McKelvey said. “If you wait to see someone until they’re an adult, it’s not as easy to establish rapport. They have to learn to trust you, and you have to learn tendencies over time.”

Because of challenges in diagnosing complex physical and behavioral problems extra time is required for appointments – those with Down syndrome patients can take an hour and a half in person with much more time spent before and after the appointment. While lengthy appointments are not always possible in a traditional clinic, he said the Rockefeller gift will allow adequate time to spend with patients. McKelvey will establish a unique health care plan for each patient in partnership with their hometown physicians.

The clinic has four exam rooms and a customized, comfortable waiting room that will be filled with photos and drawings that patients and parents bring.

The clinic will help people with many conditions. “Down syndrome is one example of hundreds of genetic syndromes that need similar attention,” McKelvey said. “Down syndrome is more common than others and because of that we’ll spend the bulk of our time following those patients.”

As part of the Division of Genetics, established by the UAMS College of Medicine in 2008, the clinic also will become a hub for personalized medicine under the leadership of McKelvey and Division Director G. Bradley Schaefer, M.D. Arkansans will have access to medical geneticists and genetic testing for conditions other than what are considered traditional genetic syndromes. For example, tests that show how an individual metabolizes medications can be used to personalize medication type and dosage.

“Genetics has been heralded as the next frontier in medical care and preventive health care,” McKelvey said. “The opening of this clinic is a concrete step into the future of health care in Arkansas and I’m excited to be practicing medicine at this time.”

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, 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 the state’s largest public employer with more than 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. Visit or