UAMS Center for Distance Health Named Top 25 Program by Harvard University’s Ash Center

By Ben Boulden

Every year for more than 20 years, the Ash Center has used it Innovations in American Government Awards competition to recognize the very best innovations in American government to bring them national attention and to promote their dissemination. The Top 25 programs represent the top 2 percent of the initial applicant pool in the competition.

The Center for Distance Health is part of an exemplary group of programs that represent the cutting edge in government policies, initiatives and best practices, the organization stated.

“Every day at the center, we see the positive effect distance health is having on the health and well-being of Arkansans,” said Curtis Lowery, M.D., the center’s founder and medical director and chairman of the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “But it’s heartening to know that others see the value of it, too, and we’re honored to receive this recognition from the Ash Center.”

The Ash Center advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education and public discussion. The Innovations in Government Program is one of three major programs that support its mission.

In a primarily rural and largely medically underserved state, increasing access to health care is an enormous, ongoing challenge. Arkansas represents just one of 15 states in the United States where the population is more than 50 percent rural.

In rural communities there are many challenges, like poverty and the lack of access to specialty health care. These deficiencies contribute to poor health outcomes, with the state ranking 48th in overall health in 2015.

Leaders at the state’s only academic health sciences university, UAMS responded to this crisis in 2003 first by establishing ANGELS (Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning Systems), an interactive video consultation service for Arkansas’ rural, high-risk pregnant women and their providers. ANGELS’ success led to the founding of the UAMS Center for Distance Health (CDH) in 2007, which delivers specialty clinical expertise through interactive video to address Arkansans’ health disparities.

The center now manages ANGELS and other medical consultation programs that leverage real-time technologies to connect UAMS specialists to patients, hospitals and clinics to rural locations throughout Arkansas where no such expertise exists. The center has brought 21 telemedicine and 10 distance education programs to rural Arkansans, collectively conducting more than 77,000 clinical consultations and educating over 3,238 patients and students in 2015 alone.

Moreover, the center led to the creation of a statewide telemedicine network through federal grant support, which provides telemedicine connectivity to more than 400 health care entities. Initially formed through an alliance with the state’s Medicaid program and UAMS, the Center for Distance Health has partnered with health care competitors, insurance companies, prison systems, and federal- and state-supported community clinics to bring health care closer to the people of Arkansas.

Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government program at the Ash Center, called these Top 25 programs “the vanguard of creative, solution-oriented governing, demonstrating that the drive to make government work better and do more comes from all levels and jurisdictions of every size. These programs are focused on an impressive range of areas and some of the country’s most pressing social concerns, including the opioid epidemic, government efficiency and efficacy, environmental conservation, homelessness, and the school and workforce readiness of our citizens.”

The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 in response to widespread pessimism and distrust in government’s effectiveness. Since its inception, over 500 government innovations across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $22 million in grants to support dissemination efforts.

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 northwest Arkansas regional campus; 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, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,870 students, 799 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS and its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.