UAMS Program for Training PreK-12 Teachers/School Nurses in Health Science Marks 25 Years

By ChaseYavondaC

E. Robert Burns, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences since 1968, started the program after being asked by UAMS leadership to find a way for UAMS to have a positive impact on PreK-12 health science education in Arkansas.

The next workshop will be April 8 at UAMS, focusing on the heart and lungs.

In summer 1991, the first 13 teachers participated in a three-day workshop in medical embryology. They learned lessons and participated in activities that were designed to be immediately reproducible in the teachers’ hometown classrooms.

“We took a ‘train the trainer’ approach, but with an important twist, and that was the inclusion of the gift of an appropriate resource kit containing supplies, materials and even items of equipment to every newly trained participant,” Burns said. “In this way, the program uses a train-and-equip model that helps the lessons immediately translate to the classroom.”

The program grew from there. The average value of a resource kit was $300, but the program’s impact has stretched much further.

“Each teacher took the lesson plans and the resource kits home and spread what they had learned. This translates into thousands of children being impacted by each newly trained and equipped PIHS workshop participant,” Burns said.

Over 25 years, 22,576 PIHS participants have earned 82,558 hours of professional development, with participants from all 75 counties in the state. More than 200 UAMS faculty, representing all of the UAMS colleges — Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions, Public Health — and the Graduate School have volunteered to teach workshops on 102 different health science topics, including heart health, sickle cell anemia, lung health, skin health and the biology of cancer.

“These topics were selected because childhood health education provides a solid informational base from which they can make healthy lifestyle choices, especially in relation to cardiovascular disease, emphysema, lung and oral cancer, and skin cancer – all of which have beginnings in the childhood years,” Burns said.

Many of the events were hosted at UAMS, but a significant number have been held in communities throughout the state. PIHS workshops have also been conducted directly with students. By use of live telecommunication technology, students in California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Montana, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Taiwan attended PIHS seminars with Arkansas students.

Until 1997, PIHS was funded by the UAMS offices of the chancellor and College of Medicine dean, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, UAMS Office of Regional Programs and The Kellogg Foundation. From 1997-2003, PIHS was funded by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health. From 2004-2016, PIHS has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Cancer Coalition. Outside funding has totaled $3.4 million. The educational research conducted in the PIHS program has appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals, such as Education, The American Biology Teacher, the Journal of Cancer Education and more.

To receive additional information about the workshops, contact Rosemary Cornett at 501-603-1971 or

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.