UAMS Names Townsend as New Medical Center CEO

By Jon Parham

Townsend, an experienced hospital administrator, previously served as assistant vice president for health systems at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. In that role, she worked with the system’s 10 hospitals and their clinics in the development of operational strategies and system-wide policies.

She will join UAMS on Feb. 1, 2013. She succeeds Richard Pierson who is retiring at the end of December after a 31-year career at UAMS. Melissa Fontaine, UAMS Medical Center chief operating officer and associate vice chancellor for clinical programs, will serve as interim CEO until Townsend’s arrival.

“Dr. Townsend brings experience as an administrator both of medical centers and in state health care administration that offers the strengths and skills needed at UAMS going forward as we meet the challenges of coming changes in health care,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “She has worked as a nurse, a physician and as a hospital administrator, which brings a unique perspective to her role as part of the UAMS mission to improve health and health care in Arkansas.

“I also want to thank Dick Pierson for his service to UAMS and to the state as he led our hospital and clinical programs through a period of growth and a never-wavering commitment to excellence.”

Townsend also served as CEO of the Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans, Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and as CEO of the LSU Health Care Services Division. Prior to joining LSU in 2007, she was appointed by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco as secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) for the transition to a new administration. She also served DHH as the Medicaid Medical Director and Deputy Secretary of the Department.

“I look forward to working with Chancellor Rahn and the UAMS team as we navigate the uncertainties in health care reform while remaining focused on delivering excellent and comprehensive care to our patients,” Townsend said. “UAMS is well positioned for the future as the state’s only academic health center. It has a great reputation and strong support at the local, state and federal level that will allow it the opportunity to continue on its path.

She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Following graduation she spent nine years working as a nurse. She then entered medical school at LSU in New Orleans where she graduated and completed a residency in Internal Medicine.

UAMS Medical Center encompasses inpatient and outpatient resources anchored by a teaching hospital with 434 beds, including 330 private adult patient rooms, 30 adult psychiatric beds, 10 pediatric psychiatric beds and 64 bassinets. It features a major hospital expansion that opened in 2009 with a new emergency department, clinical lab and radiology department, along with room to expand other services.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health 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 790 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 or