Walmart Foundation Gives $750,000 to Fund Northwest Arkansas Residency Program

By Yavonda Chase

Aug. 11, 2016

“The Walmart Foundation aims to enhance the lives of families in northwest Arkansas and understands the importance of job training and education when it comes to recruiting and retaining top medical talent,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “We are very proud to support this partnership and help advance great physicians seeking a meaningful career in health care.”

The first eight resident physicians and the program director for the Northwest Arkansas Community Internal Medicine Residency Program.

The Northwest Arkansas Community Internal Medicine Residency Program admitted eight resident physicians for its first year. Shown with program Director Thomas Schulz, M.D. (second from left), they are (from left) Chris Finlay, M.D.; Mark Shelnutt, M.D.; Michelle Valentine, M.D.; Naveen Kallarackal, M.D.; Nhanmy Huynh, M.D.; Kristopher G. Stepps, M.D.; Sonia Chaudhary, M.D.; and Matthew Neoh, M.D.

The first eight resident physicians started June 30 for the program that is based at UAMS’ northwest Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. Five of the physicians are serving their residencies at Mercy Health System Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, while the other three are at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. All eight residents will practice at both locations as well as the Residency Continuity Clinic on UAMS’ northwest Arkansas campus.

The program is expected to grow over the next two years until there are 24 residents by 2018.

The Walmart Foundation’s grant will go toward covering the residency program’s first two years of operating costs, including residents’ salaries.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Walmart Foundation to bring more talented physicians to train — and, hopefully, stay — in northwest Arkansas,” said program Director Thomas K. Schulz, M.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine.

The program received accreditation in September 2015 from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Residents are trained in a variety of internal medicine subspecialties including critical care medicine, cardiology, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, gastroenterology, oncology and pulmonary disease.

The residents are:

  • Sonia Chaudhary, M.D., University Medical & Dental College Faisalabad in Faisalabad, Pakistan
  • Chris Finlay, M.D., UAMS
  • Nhanmy Huynh, M.D., St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies
  • Naveen Kallarackal, M.D., Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Commonwealth of Dominica
  • Matthew Neoh, M.D., UAMS
  • Mark Shelnutt, M.D., UAMS
  • Kristopher G. Stepps, M.D., UAMS
  • Michelle Valentine, M.D., Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo.

“We are excited at Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks for this opportunity to partner with UAMS for the internal medicine residency program,” said Bryan C. Matthews, medical center director. “Through its partnerships with affiliated academic institutions, VA conducts the largest education and training effort for health professionals in the nation. Our affiliation with UAMS will continue this effort, and ensure that medical professionals are well trained to meet the unique needs of veterans.”

The residency program is important to the region’s effort to address its doctor shortage, especially with regard to primary care doctors who treat adults and the elderly, said Steve Goss, M.D., president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas.

The number of students graduating from schools of medicine and osteopathy is growing, but the number of residencies lags behind, he said. Mercy wants to do its part to help educate the next generation of doctors by giving them this intensive clinical experience.

Mercy also wants to be part of building northwest Arkansas as a destination for great health care, and the residency program is part of that, Goss said.

“We believe if we train them here, many of them will stay here. It’s another way to attract great physicians,” Goss said.

Mercy Northwest Arkansas is a health care destination with more than 203 integrated primary care and multi-specialty providers working from a 208-bed, state-of-the-art hospital completed in 2008 and 30 clinics through the region. After investing $400 million in the community over the past 20 years, Mercy Northwest Arkansas plans a $247 million expansion that will add a seven-story, 100-bed tower to the hospital and seven new clinics. The expansion will add 1,000 co-workers, including 100 physicians, to Mercy Northwest Arkansas’ existing workforce of 2,000.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VHSO) consists of one Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. VHSO has Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in Fort Smith, Harrison and Ozark, Arkansas; Branson and Mount Vernon, Missouri; and Jay, Oklahoma. VHSO is a 63-bed facility providing various inpatient, outpatient specialty care, and primary care services. VHSO is a Robert W. Carey Award Circle of Excellence Winner (2013), as well as the 2013 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award.

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.