UAMS Wins AAMC Award for Outstanding Community Engagement

By David Wise

The Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Engagement is presented annually to an AAMC-member medical school or teaching hospital with a long-standing, major institutional commitment to partnering with the community it serves to identify and address community needs. The Foreman Award highlights community engagement as an important element of the academic mission and singles out institutions that serve as exemplars of social responsiveness on the part of the academic medical community.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition,” said Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, UAMS chancellor and CEO of UAMS Health. “For more than 140 years, UAMS has promoted a better state of health for all Arkansans. Community engagement is central to our mission of patient- and family-centered care, education and research.”

The Foreman Award honors institutions and their community partners that engage in bidirectional collaboration and shared leadership to advance the health and vitality of the community, its residents and the academic institution.

For its presentation to the AAMC, UAMS demonstrated its commitment to local communities through the development, implementation, evaluation and sustainment of educational, clinical and research programs that go well beyond the traditional service role of academic medicine. Participants in the UAMS presentation included UAMS leaders, faculty, staff and students, as well as representatives from local community organizations, including the consulate general of the Marshall Islands, which represents the largest population of Marshallese outside the Marshall Islands, the Marshallese Educational Initiative, and Rooted NWA.

“How the community experiences our intent is of the utmost importance,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., MBA, vice chancellor of the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville and associate director of community outreach and engagement at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. “We value and rely on the local community’s wisdom and expertise to address community health needs.”

When asked to share his view of UAMS, Eldon Alik, consulate general for the Marshall Islands, remarked, “They don’t tell us what they are going to do; they ask us what they can do to help. UAMS, they’ve got it.”

Culturally diverse, Arkansas is home to many Latino, Marshallese and African-American families. As such, all UAMS programs seek to influence social determinants of health and reduce community-identified health disparities, such as diet and food insecurity. Community members are partners in the research and evaluation of every UAMS program.

In its evaluation of UAMS, the AAMC stated, “the impact of UAMS reverberates throughout its community and beyond.”

A community-based participatory approach is central to helping UAMS establish and maintain trusting relationships with the community. Administrators, faculty, students and community partners are collectively involved in projects to influence greater impact and service. The success of this approach is apparent through initiatives like the Gift of Sight, a student-suggested effort where the UAMS Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and community partners volunteered their time to supply free cataract surgery for members of the Marshallese community affected by diabetes.

To train the next generation of physicians from a community-engaged lens, UAMS requires students to work on interprofessional teams in collaboration with community health workers. Students learn cultural competency and culinary medicine, and they care for patients at free student-led clinics in both Little Rock and Fayetteville. At the eight regional campuses of UAMS, multiple programs aim to meet the diverse needs of its students and communities. These include HBCU Med Track, which supports underrepresented minority students working toward careers in health care and serves to address physician shortages in Arkansas, and CHAMPS and MASH, which provide opportunities to high school and even junior high students to explore mentoring and shadowing experiences in health care while also advising them how to apply to health professional schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified UAMS’ community involvement, particularly as it became apparent that certain populations were disproportionally impacted. UAMS collaborated with multiple agencies to provide multilingual COVID-19 testing and vaccination support, contact tracing, enhanced case management, and culturally appropriate vaccination and health education. Navigators worked with community-based organizations to supply personal protective equipment kits, food boxes and rental assistance to thousands of individuals.

“UAMS’s recognition as the recipient of the Spencer Foreman Award is a tribute to its ongoing commitment to the citizens of Arkansas,” said Brian Gittens, Ed.D., MPA, UAMS vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. “The Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a proud partner and collaborates to inclusively engage all communities across the state.”


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 recognized UAMS Medical Center as a Best Hospital for 2021-22; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide for the third year; and named five areas as high performing — colon cancer surgery, diabetes, hip replacement, knee replacement and stroke. Forbes magazine ranked UAMS as seventh in the nation on its Best Employers for Diversity list. UAMS also ranked in the top 30% nationwide on Forbes’ Best Employers for Women list and was the only Arkansas employer included. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and six 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, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

The UAMS Northwest Regional Campus includes 290 medical, pharmacy, nursing and health professions students, 64 medical and pharmacy residents, two sports medicine fellows, 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.