UAMS and NIH Recruiting Arkansans for Stroke Awareness

By David Robinson

Sponsored by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Center for Distance Health and the National Institutes of Health, the Stroke Champions Conference is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at UAMS and 19 other hospital sites. Refreshments and lunch will be provided at no cost. To register for the Little Rock conference, call 501-686-8514.

The conference will link all 20 sites using state-of-the-art interactive video communications. The UAMS campus in Little Rock will serve as the host site.

“The NIH selected Arkansas for this conference because this is where the battle is,” said Julie Hall-Barrow, Ed.D., education director for the UAMS Center for Distance Health and program director for the Arkansas SAVES stroke program. “We have the highest stroke mortality in the country, and the major reason is a lack of awareness. Too many people don’t know the signs of stroke and that someone with stroke symptoms needs to get to a hospital as quickly as possible.”

Arriving at a hospital within 4.5 hours of a stroke can mean the difference between life and death or permanent disability. That timeframe is when a powerful clot-busting drug can be given and is most effective following signs of a stroke.

Arkansas leads the nation in stroke mortality with 58.8 deaths per 100,000 population, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arkansas had 1,884 stroke-related deaths in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available. The nationwide direct and indirect cost of medical and institutional care of permanently disabled stroke victims was $62.7 billion in 2007, according to the American Heart Association’s 2010 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

Since November 2008, the UAMS Center for Distance Health has led a program that uses high-speed two-way video to allow a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether a patient at a distant hospital should receive the medication used to dissolve blood clots.

Called Arkansas SAVES (Stroke Assistance Through Virtual Emergency Support), the program is available to stroke patients 24 hours a day. The SAVES program is a partnership between the UAMS Center for Distance Health, the state Department of Human Services, Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith, and 19 other Arkansas hospitals.

“We’re very excited about the SAVES program and what it offers the communities whose hospitals are linked to it,” said Salah Keyrouz, M.D., a stroke neurologist and medical director of the SAVES program. “But we still need a much higher level of awareness throughout the state because we can’t administer the powerful blood thinning medication to anyone who doesn’t arrive at the hospital within that 4 ½- hour window.”

Other hospitals participating in the conference are:
Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, Ashley County Medical Center in Crossett, Baptist Health Medical Center – Arkadelphia, Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Booneville Community Hospital, Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis, DeWitt Hospital, Helena Regional Medical Center, Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville, Johnson Regional Medical Center in Clarksville, McGehee-Desha County Hospital, Mena Regional Health System, Ozark Health Medical Center in Clinton, Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Russellville, Saint Vincent Medical Center/North in North Little Rock, Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, White County Medical Center in Searcy, and White River Medical Center in Batesville.

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