UAMS Expanding Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program to Northwest Arkansas

By David Wise

The degree is already offered by the UAMS College of Health Professions’ Department of Imaging and Radiation Sciences on UAMS’ Little Rock campus. The college received approval from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to expand the program to the UAMS campus in Fayetteville. The first diagnostic medical sonography class in Northwest Arkansas will begin in the fall of 2021.

The diagnostic medical sonography program at UAMS is unique in that it offers the only Bachelor of Science degree specific to sonography in the state of Arkansas.

Diagnostic medical sonography is a specialized, non-invasive technique that uses high-frequency ultrasound waves and specialized imaging techniques, such as spectral and color Doppler, to produce diagnostic images of internal organs and structures. Sonographers assist physicians in gathering pertinent anatomical, physiological and pathological sonographic data and images necessary to diagnose a variety of conditions and diseases.

Sonographers perform abdominal, gynecological, obstetrical, cardiac, vascular, musculoskeletal and pediatric examinations as required, and also aid in performing tissue biopsies, surgical procedures, placing drainage lines and catheters in the body, and locating foreign objects.

National demand for sonographers exceeds the supply of graduates as sonography procedures shift into areas traditionally performed by more expensive imaging procedures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sonography profession is expected to grow nearly 14% between 2018 and 2028, much higher than the 5% average for all occupations.

“Over the years, we’ve had several graduates of our program contact us and ask that we let the Little Rock students know that there were numerous jobs available in Northwest Arkansas,” said Layla Simmons, M.Ed., assistant professor and program director, who graduated from the program in 2015. “When we conducted a needs assessment survey in the region, we found there were 12 vacant full-time positions and one part-time position. Filling the vacant sonography positions with well-trained, competent graduates from our program will improve the quality of health care for residents throughout the region.”

The UAMS program lasts two years and begins each fall semester. It consists of four fall/spring semesters with one summer session. Students on the Fayetteville campus will experience the same curriculum and clinical training as the students in Little Rock. The curriculum covers every specialty area within the profession, including abdominal sonography, obstetrics and gynecology, vascular sonography and adult echocardiography.

Clinical training will expose students to more than 2,000 hours of clinical education during their five semesters in the program. Numerous clinical affiliation agreements with local hospitals and specialty clinics will give them experience with a wide variety of patients and clinical scenarios.

“This part of Arkansas is rapidly growing and has a need for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Campus. “Adding the sonography program to the current health education programs at our campus in Northwest Arkansas will help meet this need and will further establish the presence and the value of UAMS in this region.”

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — COPD, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and four dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

The UAMS Northwest Regional Campus includes 250 medical, pharmacy, nursing and health professions students, 50 medical and pharmacy residents, and 1,000 community-based faculty. The campus has nine clinics including a student-led clinic and physical, occupational and speech therapy. Faculty conduct research to reduce health disparities. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

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