U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor Receives Bumpers Award at UAMS Ceremony

By David Robinson

The award ceremony was attended by Pryor and Bumpers, who was Arkansas’ governor from 1971-1974 and served as U.S. senator from 1975-1998. As governor, Bumpers led successful efforts to address health care issues in the state, including the establishment of the AHEC Program in 1973. As senator, he supported federal AHEC Program efforts and helped secure federal funding that allowed expansion of the Arkansas program. UAMS now operates eight AHECs around the state.

Pryor, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, was selected for the Bumpers Leadership Award by the UAMS Regional Programs Advisory Council, which includes the chairs and co-chairs from each of UAMS’ eight AHECs in Arkansas.

“Senator Pryor and his staff have really shown a commitment to the AHEC Program,” said Mark Mengel, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor of Regional Programs and executive director of the AHEC Program. “Senator Pryor twice pushed through waivers that allowed the AHEC Program to qualify for federal funding. If he hadn’t done that, we would not have received federal funding the last two years.”

Pryor is working to reinstate AHEC funding in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 federal budget. Pryor recently testified on behalf of AHEC funding along with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, at a Senate appropriations subcommittee.

The UAMS AHEC Program receives about $600,000 a year in federal funding. While 25 percent supports its central administrative functions, 75 percent supports new programs at the six AHECs with medical residency training programs for family medicine physicians. Those AHECs are in El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

“I am honored to receive this award, and proud to support our AHECs so families in every corner of the state have access to high-quality care. With looming shortages in primary care physicians and other health professionals, the role of the AHECs has never been more critical,” said Pryor, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We are fortunate to have UAMS at the helm to train primary care providers and lead innovations in clinical care.”

Pryor serves on five Senate committees in addition to the Appropriations Committee. He is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee. He also chairs the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs.

Pryor was first elected to public office in 1990 as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. In 1998 he was elected Arkansas’ Attorney General. In 2008, Pryor was elected to serve a second term in the U.S. Senate.

The Bumpers AHEC Leadership Award was last presented in 2008 to Stephanie Gardner, Ed.D., Pharm.D., who is dean of the UAMS College of Pharmacy.

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 hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven 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, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.