State of the University Address Spotlights Recent and Expected Future Growth

By Ben Boulden

A five-minute video shown before his address highlighted them as well as other achievements.

“Thanks to all these groundbreaking advancements, we continue to shape the landscape of health care, education and research at UAMS. Together, we have not only broken ground but also paved the way for a brighter, healthier future for all Arkansans,” Patterson said. “I am confident that the best is yet to come for UAMS.”

Some of the groundwork done in 2023 for 2024 included leadership transitions along with the completion of key building projects.

Watch video of the March 19 State of the University Address by Chancellor Cam Patterson.

UAMS in July 2023 opened the Radiation Oncology Center, which is now home to the state’s first proton therapy center. The Proton Center of Arkansas, which opened a few months later on the center’s second floor, is a collaboration with Baptist Health, Proton International and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan ask a question during the Q&A after the chancellor spoke.

College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan ask a question during the Q&A after the chancellor spoke.Image by Evan Lewis

In April 2023, UAMS opened an orthopaedic clinic in North Little Rock and a new Urology Center on Rodney Parham adjacent to space that houses interventional radiology and an advanced imaging center.

A month later, a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the formal opening of The Orthopaedic & Spine Hospital on the north side of the main campus.

Construction of a Child Development Center near the Hillary Rodham Clinton Library in Little Rock recently was completed and is expected to open later this spring. Progress on the building of a new Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center in Springdale also continues.

Additionally, Patterson said, “We have some new faces among our leaders this year as well as some familiar faces who have taken on new challenges in areas where their expertise was needed.”

Among those the chancellor noted were: Steven Webber, M.D., who started as dean of the College of Medicine on March 1; Tammy Jones, Ph.D., RN, the new chief nursing officer and associate vice chancellor for patient care services; Sean Taverna, Ph.D., who succeeded Bobby McGhee as dean of the Graduate School; Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., MBA, founding director of the new Institute for Community Health Innovation; and Dan Voth, Ph.D., the new senior associate vice chancellor for research.

The State of the University event was co-sponsored by the Academic Senate and House of Delegates.

Tiffany Huitt, Ph.D., president of the Academic Senate, opened the event, and after the video was shown, Tyrun Haynie, chair of the House of Delegates, introduced the chancellor and noted the presentation would be Patterson’s sixth State of the University address. He joined UAMS on June 1, 2018.

Ty Haynie, left, and Tiffany Huitt introduced Chancellor Patterson at the State of the University presentation.

Ty Haynie, left, and Tiffany Huitt introduced Chancellor Patterson at the State of the University presentation.Image by Evan Lewis

The chancellor also briefly described many of the accomplishments in the last year in the university’s central mission areas of health care, education and research.

Looking at how those accomplishments have been measured in 2023 and will guide operations and planning in 2024, Patterson said substantial progress has been made in working toward the goals of the Vision 2029 10-year strategic plan.

“I am proud of all the work that has been accomplished already on this plan and the fact that you are the ones driving our progress. We owe a big debt of gratitude to our provost and Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Stephanie Gardner for leading our efforts,” he said.

Of the 305 goals or items to be achieved in the strategic plan, 265 are on track or achieved. The number on track has increased 8% in the past year, too.

“Current challenges to the plan are mostly due to finances, but remediation strategies have been developed for all off-track items,” Patterson said.

Rising costs coupled with inadequate increases in reimbursement from insurance payers have increased financial pressure on UAMS and other hospitals and health systems across the nation, he said.

“In January, we received a one-time $33 million payment related to a multiyear underpayment on drug reimbursement,” Patterson said. “The receipt of this payment wiped out our year-to-date losses. We should finish the year in a good position.”

Even with the payment removed from the financial picture, he said UAMS still is performing $16 million better than it did last year. Investment income also has helped.

“I’m proud of the steps Team UAMS has already implemented. I believe we are on the right track to turn the corner financially,” he said.

The university’s digital health programs are among the best in the nation and virtual patient volumes continue to increase, Patterson said. UAMS is collaborating with other health systems to take its academic medical center care to Arkansas communities to deliver to them unique programs like proton therapy.

Despite its achievements, the university will not rest, the chancellor said. UAMS will continue to work to National Cancer Institute Designation for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Magnet Designation for nursing and expanding its regional campuses.

“We are laser focused on our patients, adding programs like hospital at home and specialty centers at locations out in the community that provide easier access and front door parking,” Patterson said. “While these changes may not bring an immediate substantial increase in revenue, we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”