Public, Private Collaboration Supports Physical Therapy Program, Internal Medicine Residency at UAMS Northwest

By Nate Hinkel

UAMS officials were joined today at its regional campus by supporters and state legislators to celebrate more than $2 million total in gifts from individuals and foundations as well as economic development grants supported by area legislators. The funding is being used for renovation and construction of facilities as well as program support.

The grants were awarded to UAMS by the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District and the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District from surplus state funds allocated to the districts this year by the state Legislature.

A physical therapy clinic, to open in late 2014, is being built at UAMS Northwest, where faculty therapists will provide care for patients and eventually offer hands-on clinical experiences for UAMS physical therapy students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. The program expects to welcome its first 24 students in 2015. It is part of the UAMS College of Health Professions and is the first UAMS academic program to be housed solely on its Fayetteville campus.

The three-year postgraduate internal medicine residency program at UAMS Northwest will increase the number of new physicians starting their careers in the state. The program, now working toward accreditation, hopes to admit its first group of eight physicians in July 2015.

“UAMS Northwest has been fortunate since its inception to have a broad base of support from the region’s leaders in health care, government and the business community,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.

Area state legislators supporting the collaboration include Sens. Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers, Uvalde Lindsey of Fayetteville and Jon Woods of Springdale, and Reps. Duncan Baird of Lowell, Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs, Les Carnine of Rogers, Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, Gary Deffenbaugh of Van Buren, Bart Hester of Cave Springs, Debra M. Hobbs of Rogers, Greg Leding of Fayetteville, Stephanie Malone of Fort Smith and David Whitaker of Fayetteville.

Lewis Epley of Fayetteville, a retired attorney who is on the UAMS Northwest Advisory Board and is a former chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, has been an advocate of UAMS Northwest and its programs from the beginning.

“This physical therapy program further fulfills the vision we had for UAMS Northwest,” Epley said. “Physical therapy treatment helped my recovery from polio as a teenager, so I cannot be more pleased to see this academic program come to fruition here.”

Peter O. Kohler, M.D., vice chancellor for UAMS Northwest, said he is grateful for all the area support, saying, “We strive to translate it into programs and facilities that give our students the interprofessional education experiences necessary to better serve northwest Arkansas and the entire state.”

The internal medicine residency program will have 24 total residents — admitting eight per year — who will serve in five hospital systems across the region. They will join UAMS family medicine, pharmacy and psychiatry residents already completing their training in northwest Arkansas.

In addition, some of the grant funding will be used to create a sports medicine fellowship at UAMS Northwest to give physicians specialized training in physical fitness, treatment and prevention of injuries related to sports and exercise.

About 10,000 square feet on the UAMS Northwest campus is being renovated for teaching and administrative space for the physical therapy program. Students will take advantage of existing UAMS Northwest resources, such as the simulation lab for exercises involving simulated patients. The students also will participate in team-based multi-disciplinary opportunities where they will learn alongside students from the other programs at UAMS Northwest.

In a 2013 needs assessment conducted by UAMS, nearly 90 percent of clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities in northwest Arkansas agreed there was a need for a physical therapy education program in the area. The program also has commitments from many clinics and rehabilitation centers in the region to serve as training sites for students.

John Jefferson, Ph.D., started Jan. 1 as the program’s first director. He previously served as an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala.

Once the three-year physical therapy program is at full enrollment, 72 students in 2018, annual revenue from tuition and the faculty-run clinic is expected to cover operational expenses.

Established in 2007, enrollment at UAMS Northwest reached an all-time high in early 2014, with185 students and resident physicians continuing their education in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and the allied health professions.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.