Year in Review: UAMS in 2020 Helps Lead COVID-19 Response, Keeps Focus on Missions

By Ben Boulden

UAMS responded quickly and robustly to the pandemic’s public health threat in keeping with its 140-year history of patient care, medical education and research.

Classes and meetings moved for several months to live online video streams, outpatient and elective surgeries were suspended for several weeks in the spring and anyone entering the campus was screened for symptoms. Employees who could work from home did so.

The university organized and made available some of the first testing for the disease done in the state and played a key role in public education by disseminating the most up-to-date knowledge about COVID-19.

On Dec. 15, the first UAMS clinical staff received vaccinations against the virus that causes COVID-19.

On Dec. 15, Deborah Hutts, left, was among the first health care professionals at UAMS to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Dec. 15, Deborah Hutts, left, was among the first health care professionals at UAMS to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.Image by Bryan Clifton

While UAMS did everything it could that was recommended to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, what may be equally remarkable are the positive things that continued UAMS’ tradition of excellence. Diversity and inclusion was one of those areas.

The university’s College of Pharmacy welcomed the Class of 2024, which had one of the highest percentages of underrepresented minorities in the college’s history, nearly 20 percent.

Erika Petersen, M.D., became the first female neurosurgeon in Arkansas to be promoted to full professor while Heather Pinckard-Dover became the first female neurosurgeon to complete a residency at UAMS.

Johnathan H. Goree, M.D., an anesthesiologist who specializes in chronic pain and director of the Chronic Pain Division at UAMS, was named Arkansas Physician of the Year on April 2 at the Arkansas Business Healthcare Heroes celebration, which was held virtually online.

Longtime professor Paul Phillips, M.D., started work as the new director of the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute.

Work on the $150 million Energy Project, including construction of the new power plant on the east side of campus, stayed on schedule despite the pandemic. The first of the new generators to be installed in the plant was recently delivered to the campus.

UAMS once again was designated by the American College of Surgeons as the state’s only adult Level 1 Trauma Center, and the Medical Center again was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the best hospital in the Arkansas.

In January through UAMS HealthNow, UAMS began providing 24-hour, digital health access to convenient, real-time care for Arkansas patients using the internet through mobile devices or computers.