Former Head of Medicaid under President Bush to Serve as UAMS Faculty, DHS Senior Advisor for Medicaid

By Liz Caldwell

Portrait of Dennis G. Smith

Dennis G. Smith

“We were very excited when DHS Director Cindy Gillespie approached us about bringing Dennis Smith to Arkansas,” said Dan Rahn, M.D., chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). “As a visiting professor in the UAMS College of Public Health, Dennis will be teaching students and advising faculty and staff about health policy. Although he will only be spending a small percentage of his time at UAMS, we believe the experience and policy knowledge that he brings with him will be invaluable to our students and employees.”

Smith will spend 10 percent of his time as a visiting professor in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH). His duties at UAMS will include teaching COPH students, providing lectures on matters related to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policies and practices to UAMS faculty and staff, mentoring graduate students and advising faculty on CMS national and state policy. His appointment is from Sept. 15, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

The remainder of Smith’s time will be spent providing Medicaid policy and operations support to DHS, reporting directly to DHS Director Cindy Gillespie. Gillespie said Smith will provide valuable input and real-world experience with major health reforms as the state looks to modernize its Medicaid program. He will advise DHS during negotiations with CMS, draft and review waiver applications and help design health care reforms.

“For seven years, Dennis oversaw Medicaid in all fifty states and the territories under President Bush. He understands the nuances and intricacies of Medicaid on a level that few, if any, others can claim,” Gillespie said. “While leading Medicaid at CMS, he helped Republican governors in Rhode Island and Vermont develop the nearest version of ‘Medicaid block grants’ that the federal government has awarded.  His advice and knowledge will be invaluable as we look for innovative ways to transform the Arkansas Medicaid program so that it is sustainable for future generations.”

Smith served as CMS’s Director of Medicaid and State Operations from 2001 to 2008. In addition to Medicaid, he was responsible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the survey and certification arm of CMS. He served as the lead federal negotiator for landmark Medicaid demonstration projects. He also has extensive experience working with waivers associated with home and community-based care for people with developmental disabilities and is a nationally-recognized expert in long term care reform and helping programs become financially sustainable. During his time at CMS, Smith also served four months as the acting administrator of agency.

Smith left CMS to work as a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and eventually became Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services under Governor Scott Walker from 2011 to 2013. He has been in the private sector since March 2013 with McKenna Long and Aldridge and then Dentons US when the two firms merged.

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.