M. Denise Compton, Ph.D., Invested in Magalene McKinnon Ingram Endowed Professorship in Geriatric Education

By Benjamin Waldrum

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Compton was invested in a brief ceremony broadcast online via Zoom. Attendees wore masks and were socially distanced.

“It is with humility and renewed inspiration that I accept this nomination for an endowed chair in geriatrics education,” Compton said. “In accepting this honor, I commit to using the earnings of this endowment to enhance our educational endeavors to the benefit of our seniors, our learners and our state.”

Compton joined UAMS in 2010. She is an associate professor in the Department of Geriatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and sees patients at the Walker Memory Center of the Thomas and Lyon Longevity Clinic of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. As part of the evaluation team, she provides comprehensive assessments of memory and cognition, as well as individual counseling for patients with memory problems and family counseling for their caregivers. She is actively involved in providing educational programs for the public regarding memory and cognitive disorders.

An endowed professorship is among the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member. A professorship is a $500,000 endowment established to support the educational, research and clinical activities of its holder, who will lead future innovations in medicine and health care. Those named to a professorship are among the most highly regarded scientists, physicians and professors in their fields of expertise.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Compton and her work to improve the lives of older Arkansans across the state,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, and CEO of UAMS Health.

Ingram’s children — Magalene “Susie” Ingram Hogan Pugh, William Kent Ingram Jr., Keith McKinnon Ingram and Billie Dean Ingram Reeder — established the professorship as a loving tribute. Ingram, whose passion was her children, put great emphasis on their education. She and husband, longtime Arkansas state senator William Kent “Bill” Ingram, sent their children to quality schools to prepare them for success in life.

Ingram was born in Rutherford, Tennessee, and grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas. She married Bill in 1932, raised four children, was a heritage member of the West Memphis First United Methodist Church and helped form the Twenty Club, a group that knitted sweaters, gloves and hats for soldiers. Ingram died in 2012, months before what would have been her 100th birthday.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation helped establish the professorship with an equal match. Over the years, the Reynolds Foundation gave more than $99 million to UAMS, making it the single largest donor in its history. Much of the foundation’s philanthropy benefited the eponymous Reynolds Institute on Aging. In 2017, the foundation ceased operation, marking the end of decades of visionary and transformative philanthropy to UAMS, other institutions and projects of benefit to the public.

In addition to the honor of being named chair holder, Compton received a commemorative medallion and an inscribed wooden chair.

Compton thanked her family for supporting her education through her lifetime, particularly her mother and grandmother for teaching her how to care for aging friends and family. She also thanked her patients, “who teach me more than anyone else.”

“Today, I am most grateful to the Ingram family for their appreciation of the value of geriatrics education,” Compton said. “Appreciating and understanding the complexities of caring for geriatric patients and their families is extremely important to their health and quality of care. I am thankful that the Department of Geriatrics has the opportunity to participate in the training of so many UAMS learners.”

Compton said her goal is to help each patient and family to understand the nature and extent of the problems they are experiencing, as well as to offer recommendations for both medical and lifestyle interventions that can maximize independent functioning, coping and quality of life.

“I am profoundly grateful to the Ingram family and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for making the Magalene McKinnon Ingram Endowed Professorship in Geriatric Education possible,” said Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., UAMS executive vice chancellor and College of Medicine dean. “Dr. Compton is an outstanding member of our faculty whose dedication to our older Arkansans is second to none. She is very deserving of this honor and we are extremely proud of her.”

Compton earned her bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University and her doctorate from Utah State University. She completed her internship at Tulane University Medical School.

From 1993 to 2010, Compton provided psychological services in a variety of settings in south Florida. She previously served as director of the Louis and Anne Green Memory & Wellness Center of Florida Atlantic University, where she oversaw a variety of programs and services for persons with mild and moderate cognitive impairment. These included a memory disorder clinic offering comprehensive memory evaluations; caregiver education, counseling and support; a driver assessment program; an adult day center and a variety of research projects.

Compton has served as co-investigator on a number of research projects on Alzheimer’s disease. Since 2004, she has taught more than two dozen continuing education courses on dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders.

Compton is a member of the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Neuropsychologists and the International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment. In 2016, she received the Eli Award from UAMS for excellence in patient and family centered care.