The Year in Review, 2023: UAMS Opens Several New Buildings, Expands Clinical Programs

By Ben Boulden

Clinical operations and programs at several sites also expanded.

In April, UAMS opened a new, 32,000-square-foot Urology Center in Premier Medical Plaza on Rodney Parham Road just days after opening a new UAMS Health Orthopaedic & Spine Clinic in North Little Rock.

The university in early May next cut the ribbon on The Orthopaedic & Spine Hospital at UAMS, the completed four-story, 158,000-square-foot building to the southwest of the UAMS Medical Center. Dedicated to orthopaedic surgery, spine care and pain management, the hospital has 24 private rooms for overnight observation and inpatient stays and also houses 12 exam rooms, 12 operating rooms and two procedure suites.

Ten days later, UAMS and Baptist Health held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the establishment of a new cancer clinic and infusion center on the campus of Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock.

June was the month for event organizers to catch their breath before another big opening in July — a new 58,000-square-foot Radiation Oncology Center on the east side of the Little Rock campus. The new structure was designed to accommodate three new linear accelerators to customize radiation therapy.

Just after Labor Day, the UAMS Milk Bank opened, the first facility of its kind in the state. Located in the Monroe Building just off the Little Rock campus, the Milk Bank focuses on the health of mothers and newborns in Arkansas through the encouragement and support of breastfeeding. The bank helps ensure a ready supply of donor milk.

The Proton Center of Arkansas in late September became the first proton therapy center in Arkansas and only the 43rd in the nation to provide the most advanced cancer radiation treatment in the world. The center is a collaboration between UAMS, Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International. It is located on the second floor of the new Radiation Oncology Center.

Two weeks earlier in Springdale, the university planted the seeds for continued growth in the years ahead when it broke ground on the UAMS Health Orthopaedics & Sports Performance Center. The 115,000-square-foot center will include 20 exam rooms and up to six operating rooms and eight outpatient recovery beds.


Michelle Krause, M.D., MPH, in January became the senior vice chancellor for UAMS Health and chief executive officer for UAMS Medical Center, and Ahmed Abuabdou, M.D., MBA, became chief clinical officer for the medical center. Both had been in those positions on an interim basis since September 2022.

Clinical programs at UAMS continued to earn praise in 2023. At the start of the year, Healthgrades ranked the university among the top 5% of hospitals nationwide for cranial neurosurgery.

U.S. News & World Report placed the College of Medicine at 17th in primary care overall, up from 36th in 2022. The Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients recognized the UAMS kidney and liver transplant programs among the best in the nation in categories that have the greatest impact on patients’ survival.

UAMS became the first health organization in Arkansas to earn The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Spinal Fusion Treatment.

In November, Healthgrades bestowed its highest rating of five stars on the university’s treatment of heart failure, pneumonia, respiratory failure and again for cranial neurosurgery.

A team of UAMS surgeons implanted an innovative prosthetic hand in the first Arkansas man, who also was only the second person in the world to receive it. The new hand restored a meaningful sense of touch and grip force to the patient.

A neurosurgeon and a radiation oncologist in July performed the 1,000th Gamma Tile brain surgery in the United States. Gamma Tile is a fairly new surgical procedure in which a thin collagen tile infused with radiation is embedded in the tumor cavity immediately after a brain tumor is removed. The tile quickly begins to kill any residual tumor cells that can cause the tumor to grow back.


In late November, the university announced Steven Webber, M.D., would become the new executive vice chancellor and dean of the College of Medicine, effective March 1, 2024. Earlier that month, Sean Taverna, Ph.D., joined UAMS as the new dean of the Graduate School.

Two new nursing education programs reached a milestone in September along with the students in it. The College of Nursing celebrated the first graduating classes from its Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Anesthesia and Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.

The first nine UAMS students to earn Master of Science degrees in dietetics graduated in August. It had been a dietetic internship certificate program in the years before, and eight new courses were created for the new master’s program.

Several grantors in 2023 funded or renewed funding for multiple educational programs and initiatives. Announced in November, the largest was a $17.6 million grant to Regional Campuses continuing funding for another four years of efforts to recruit and train medical students who are from rural or underserved communities and who are interested in practicing in those areas after their residencies.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the money along with another grant in May of $5.5 million to fund training and outreach programs in rural and underserved areas of Arkansas. It also in October selected UAMS to receive a five-year, $3.25 million grant to support the creation of program to help students from 20 underserved counties in southern and eastern Arkansas to pursue careers in health care.

A similar effort garnered $1.6 million in October from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas. The four-year grant will fund the creation of the Pathways to Wellness program, which includes a virtual Wellness Welcome Center for youth and families featuring general resources for mental health.

To train UAMS emergency physicians, advanced practice providers and nurses about pain management strategies that aggressively treat pain more effectively but don’t rely on opioid medications, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration chose UAMS to receive a $1.5 million, three-year grant.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also awarded a five-year, $1 million grant to UAMS to create a statewide program to educate and train health care providers on ways to prevent death in opioid overdose.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and AT&T awarded a two-year, $1 million grant to UAMS to expand digital health education and training for health professionals, K-12 students and the general public.

The university in August accepted a gift from the estate of E. Lee Ronnel to establish the Ronnel Family Endowed Chancellor’s Scholarship. It was the largest gift ever to the College of Medicine’s scholarship program, establishing the first four-year, full-ride scholarship in the college’s history.


Researchers at UAMS received two large, federal grants, one to support a study of prenatal inequities and reduce them ($17.5 million) over and another ($15 million) to examine the best mechanisms for postpartum follow up with new mothers to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.

As the year progressed, the list of research grants awarded grew longer and longer: $1 million for a five-year  physical therapy study into falls of older adults; $3.19 million for advancing therapeutic treatments for certain types of cancer; $11 million for renewed funding of the Center for Musculoskeletal Disease Research; $1.6 million for gaining a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles governing intracellular membrane traffic; $2.26 million to determine the role of osteocytes in the multiple myeloma microenvironment; $1.9 million to study the role of glucose transport in Alzheimer’s disease progression; $1.2 million to research the impact of  nutrition on children’s behavioral and mental health conditions.

In autumn, the harvest of good news continued with $1.8 million to study the prevention of major chemotherapy complications; $3 million to support entrepreneurs from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are looking to develop health technology and health care businesses in Arkansas; and $1.54 million to find better treatments for brittle bone disease.