Arkansas to Get 30 More Family Medicine Resident Physicians

By David Robinson

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a $4.56 million federal grant to add the 30 family medicine resident positions phased in at six a year, beginning in 2011.

The new residency slots are a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in March and will help Arkansas meet the demand for family medicine physicians. Nationwide, 500 additional residency positions were funded.

There currently are 136 family medicine residents at six AHECS throughout the state. To become a family medicine physician, medical school graduates must complete three more years of training as residents, treating patients while under the direction of an attending physician.

The federal government funds these positions and sets the number of slots. Medical schools across the country have been increasing student enrollment over the last several years to help address the nationwide shortage of health care workers. However, the number of residency slots has not increased, meaning these additional students have nowhere to serve their residencies.

These new grant-funded residency positions at the AHECs are a welcome addition, said Mark Mengel, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for Regional Programs and executive director of the AHEC Program

The additional residency positions will be at AHEC Northeast in Jonesboro, AHEC Northwest in Fayetteville, AHEC Pine Bluff and AHEC-South Arkansas in El Dorado. Funding was approved by the Health Resources and Services Administration in the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“There’s already a huge demand for primary care providers like family medicine doctors, and that demand is only going to grow,” Mengel said.

He noted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that everyone have health insurance by 2014. The law is expected to cover more than 400,000 more people in Arkansas who otherwise wouldn’t have insurance. Also, the population in Arkansas is expected to grow by 17 percent over the next 10 years. The number of people over age 65 in Arkansas will grow by 42 percent over the same period, and the number of people with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer, is expected to increase 42 percent over the next 15 years.

Mengel said Arkansas will need to roughly double its current 1,150 primary care physicians to meet projected demand over the next 15 years. Arkansas has 650 AHEC-trained family physicians practicing in 122 Arkansas communities, including 67 of the state’s 75 counties.

“I think people recognize the need in Arkansas,” Mengel said. “UAMS has taken steps to add medical school students, but we have a limited number of residency slots. This funding is critical because residency training is very expensive.”

AHEC Pine Bluff received $1.52 million for two new residents each year for a total of 10 additional residents at the end of five years. The AHEC currently has 28 residents.

AHEC Northeast in Jonesboro received $1.52 million for two new residents each year for a total of 10 additional residents in five years. The AHEC currently has 20 residents.

AHEC Northwest in Fayetteville received $760,000, which will enable it to add one resident each year for a total of five additional residents in five years. The AHEC currently has 27 residents.

AHEC South Arkansas in El Dorado received $760,000, which will enable it to add one resident each year for a total of five additional residents in five years. The AHEC currently has 15 residents.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: 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 only Level 1 trauma center. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. 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