Patterson Discusses Finances, Raises in First State of the University Address

By Yavonda Chase

Click here to watch a video of the presentation.

Patterson noted that 15 months ago, UAMS faced a potential $72 million deficit and was trying to figure out how to avoid an “existential crisis.” Through the hard work of then-interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., and UAMS employees, “UAMS averted what would have been a crisis for the entire state of Arkansas.”

Hundreds of employees turned out for Chancellor Patterson's first State of the University address.

Hundreds of employees turned out for Chancellor Patterson’s first State of the University address.

After making some tough decisions, UAMS ended fiscal year 2018 with a deficit of less than $15 million. In July, UAMS presented its first balanced budget in many years to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. As of January, UAMS is $11.5 million ahead of budget — a significant turnaround.

“This is great news because it means we can be back in the business of innovating, of growing and of taking care of ourselves,” said Patterson.

Part of taking care of ourselves involves looking at employee compensation, he said. Patterson announced a plan to ensure that every UAMS employee makes a living wage. Raising salaries to above minimum wage won’t wait until July 1, when Fiscal Year 2020 begins, but will start as soon as possible, he vowed.

Patterson also announced plans to reward exemplary work by creating a merit pool for staff raises.

“With your hard work, we can turn fiscal responsibility into something that benefits everyone,” he said.

UAMS has partnered with MGT Consulting Group to conduct a classification and compensation study to update the current compensation system to be market competitive, he said. This study will include all non-nursing and non-faculty positions.

“The consulting group will be sending out online surveys that ask you to provide information about your job roles and responsibilities. I encourage everyone to participate in these surveys,” he said.

Chancellor Patterson updated employees on the legislative efforts to support UAMS' bid for National Cancer Institute designation.

Chancellor Patterson updated employees on the legislative efforts to support UAMS’ bid for National Cancer Institute designation.

A major priority for UAMS is earning National Cancer Institute designation. Such designation would have an economic impact of more than $72 million on the state and create more than 1,500 jobs. It would also mean greater access to clinical trials and treatments for all Arkansans.

“NCI designation is something we can’t do on our own — we need support from donors and from lawmakers,” he said.

The Arkansas House and Senate passed Senate Bill 151 and sent it to the governor for his signature. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the legislation on Wednesday. This legislation establishes a fund that would allow the General Assembly to contribute to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Legislation that would earmark approximately $10 million a year is pending in the state Legislature.

As part of UAMS’ efforts to achieve NCI designation, the Myeloma Institute was moved last year under the Cancer Institute and renamed the Myeloma Center.

“We were advised by many people at NCI that we would never achieve our goal if we had two separate institutes for cancer on campus,” Patterson said.

As part of the merge, Patterson ordered an audit that uncovered some discrepancies in accounting practices at the Myeloma Center. Funds that were in a 279 (restricted) account were incorrectly used for operations. Those funds should have come from an unrestricted account and should have been recorded against the net unrestricted position on the balance sheet.

Over the past nine years, $29 million was incorrectly accounted for, he said. This error has been corrected, and the Finance Department has been reorganized to ensure this doesn’t happen again, he said.

As part of that reorganization, Amanda George is now chief financial officer for all of UAMS. Financial operations are no longer divided into separate clinical and academic/research teams.

In addition to George, several other leadership changes have been announced over the past nine months. They are:

  • Christina Clark, chief operating officer and vice chancellor for institutional support services including Information Technology and Campus Operations;
  • Angela Wimmer, vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement;
  • Jake Stover, chief administrative officer and associate vice chancellor for the integrated clinical enterprise;
  • Amy Wenger, chancellor’s chief of staff; and
  • Mark Williams, Ph.D., will be dean of the College of Public Health on July 1

Patterson then announced that Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., from the University of Cincinnati would be joining UAMS as the vice chancellor of research.

He pointed to the newly formed Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and efforts to expand the number of Regional Campuses as examples of how UAMS is working to better provide care and education in rural areas of Arkansas.

The Academic Senate and House of Delegates co-sponsored the event. Lee Ann Macmillian-Crow, Ph.D., president of the Academic Senate, introduced the latest official UAMS video, while Annette Robinette, chair of the House of Delegates introduced Patterson.

Patterson also handed out some UAMS swag to a few lucky employees. The winners were:

  • Rohan Sumant
  • Tiffany Cross
  • Angie Reynolds
  • Michelle Gonzalez
  • Terry Prowse
  • Kathy Hicks
  • Clare Nesmith
  • Sarah Howard
  • William Greenfield
  • Edward L. Williams
  • Suresh Kannan

Three employees watching the presentation from remote locations also won UAMS swag. They were:

  • Noelle Danylchuk
  • Nina Stigall
  • David Wise