Challenges, Achievements at UAMS Shape 2018

By Ben Boulden

To ensure a better financial future, UAMS in early 2018 eliminated about 700 jobs. Although about 250 workers were laid off, the majority of the cuts were in vacant positions, and budget tightening paid off economically. By the time of the new fiscal year July 1, the budget was balanced and UAMS no longer needed to draw on reserve funds to cover revenue shortfalls.

Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, on June 1 started work as the university’s new chancellor. He said the balanced budget would “put us in a position to do a lot of important work, including creating programs that will dramatically impact Arkansans and ensuring that we are recruiting the very best caliber team members we can.”

By August, Patterson was helping kick off a $6 million remodeling project for a new home for the existing UAMS Family Medical Center in Pine Bluff there and officially concluding another $5.5 million remodeling project for a new UAMS Family Medical Center in Batesville. Both family medical centers are part of UAMS Regional Campuses.

Arkansas children can look forward to a healthier tomorrow after UAMS and Arkansas Children’s in October signed updated research collaborative and affiliation agreements. Patterson called the agreements “a vital step and the next milestone” in the more than 40-year relationship of the two institutions.

Other major developments and accomplishments include:



  • In February, UAMS Medical Center became the only hospital in Central Arkansas to have received international recognition as “baby friendly” for its policies and procedures encouraging new mothers to breastfeed as a healthier way to feed their babies. Then, in April, the Medical Center installed 40 new camera systems in its neonatal intensive care unit, making it the first in the state with a camera on every preemie bed.
  • Also in April, the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at UAMS was accredited with the highest designation available from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. The accreditation means UAMS is capable of performing the most complex surgeries for the treatment of epilepsy.
  • The Medical Center in July became the first and only health care provider in Arkansas to be certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. The certification means a stroke patient at UAMS has a better chance at the Medical Center than anywhere else in the state of not only surviving but leaving with the best possible health outcome.
  • UAMS continued to play a central role in addressing two major public health crises — obesity and opioids. In October, the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine received $3.29 million for a five-year project to reduce obesity, increase physical activity and improve nutrition in Arkansas. More than half of the obese fifth through eighth graders in the Magazine School District reduced their obesity in the previous year after participating in a program run by the UAMS Center for Distance Health.


  • In collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, UAMS started a free one-on-one consultation service for health care providers treating patients with opioid addiction, providing a range of advice from determining dosages of addiction treatment medications to handling billing.
  • Two interim, college dean appointments became permanent. Christopher Westfall, M.D., in September became dean of the College of Medicine after serving as interim dean since late February. An ophthalmologist, Westfall joined the faculty in 1997 and has served in numerous leadership positions, including as director of the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute. Susan Long, Ed.D., was named dean of the College of Health Professions in June. She had served as interim dean since Dec. 31, 2017. Long first joined the UAMS faculty in 1992 as an assistant professor in the college’s dental hygiene program.
  • Several new educational programs started in 2018. UAMS received approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for a nurse anesthesia specialty in the College of Nursing, becoming only the second Arkansas university to offer nurse anesthesia training and the first in central Arkansas. Arkansas’ first-ever radiation oncology residency program welcomed its inaugural resident at UAMS. The Baptist Health-UAMS Medical Education Program in October began recruiting residents for residency programs in internal medicine and family medicine expected to begin in summer 2019.
  • With $600,000 from the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute at UAMS in March opened the Walker Eye Surgical Simulation & Education Center. The center is home to a simulation center, classrooms and clinical space as well as simulation machines, microscopes and other equipment to help the next generation of ophthalmologists hone their skills.


  • UAMS Professor Charles O’Brien, Ph.D., in March was awarded $11.3 million in federal funds over five years to launch the Center for Musculoskeletal Disease Research. The funds are from a National Institutes of Health program to create multidisciplinary collaborative and synergistic research centers in states with lower rates of federal research funding. It will support the research of four UAMS faculty who are early in their careers and have yet to secure independent research funding.
  • Several efforts led by the university’s researchers and aimed at the opioid public health crisis were showcased at a November Showcase of Medical Discoveries, from finding ways to increase prescription medication naloxone among pharmacists to gauging the interest of opioid-addicted patients to using naltrexone, a medication often used to treat heroin addicts.
  • The Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) at the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute in July received a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to look at how the addiction process affects future-oriented thinking to gain a better understanding of how people think about and plan for the future.
  • Founding director of the BIRC, Clint Kilts, Ph.D., was named an Arkansas Research Alliance Fellow along with five other researchers at the state’s five other research universities. He received a $75,000 grant from the alliance along with the honor.
  • In July, UAMS researcher Arny Ferrando, Ph.D., received $2.1 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to determine the best possible nutrition for military personnel engaged in combat and combat training. His study will look at amino acid intake under conditions often experienced by U.S. military personnel in combat and training, then look at the best delivery format, whether food and/or supplements.
  • A team of UAMS research scientists in November was awarded a $1.8 million, five-year grant by the National Institute on Aging to investigate common pathways that contribute to aging of various tissues. The goal is to identify what different neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease have in common with other age-progressive diseases and conditions such as heart disease, muscle wasting, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.