April 15, 2016 | More than 100 business and community leaders from across south central Arkansas gathered to enjoy an evening of food and conversation April 12, kicking off the inaugural Friends of UAMS – Pine Bluff.
The evening event was hosted by George and Debbie Makris at their home in Pine Bluff. George Makris is chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. and a member of the board of Jefferson Regional Medical Center.
State Sen. Stephanie Flowers was in attendance, as was University of Arkansas Board of Trustees Charles “Cliff” Gibson III and Stephen A. Broughton, M.D.; former University of Arkansas Board of Trustees member and Simmons CEO J. Thomas May; and Circuit Judge Earnest Brown, who presides in Jefferson and Lincoln counties.
Others from Jefferson Regional Medical Center were interim CEO Brian Thomas and Marty Casteel, chairman of the board and CEO of Simmons Bank.
Also attending were UAMS Foundation Fund Board members Kevin Crass, Jim Darr and George Dunklin; David Jacks, M.D., chair of the UAMS South Central Advisory Council; Mark Deal, director of UAMS South Central; and Lowry Barnes, chair of the UAMS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the College of Medicine.
The Makrises welcomed guests to their home and introduced UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., to the group.
Rahn recognized those from Jefferson Regional and thanked them for their valued partnership with UAMS. He asked everyone in attendance for their continued support and advocacy on behalf of UAMS, the state’s only academic health sciences center. He said it is vital to have advocates in communities around Arkansas who believe in UAMS’ mission of improving the health and health care of all Arkansans, and mentioned a stronger partnership with Jefferson Regional.
“Fifty-eight percent of the currently practicing physicians in Arkansas went to UAMS,” Rahn said. “Seventy-two percent of the currently licensed pharmacists in Arkansas went to UAMS. Forty-eight percent of rural, primary care physicians did a residency program at UAMS.”
He called UAMS a “safety net” for types of care usually unavailable in other parts of the state.
“Last year we received 2,800 requests for hospital-to-hospital transfers,” he said. “We were able to accept two-thirds of those. On an average day, we have six to 10 patients looking to be transferred to UAMS from outside and around the state.”
Rahn said that significant economic improvement in Arkansas cannot occur without a healthy population, and called UAMS “the state’s best asset” to achieve that goal.
State appropriations account for only 6 percent of the UAMS budget, a figure Rahn called “unrealistically low.”
Eighty percent of the state appropriations UAMS received in 2015 was used on state matching funds for Medicaid, Rahn said. “What’s left to support academics is $21 million of a total budget of $1.4 billion.” By contrast, he said, the University of Mississippi Medical Center received $188 million in state appropriations for 2015, but were not required to use it to match Medicaid funds.
“We need to get a more realistic amount of state support,” he said.
Lance Burchett, UAMS vice chancellor for institutional advancement, asked those in attendance for their ambassadorship, support and advocacy on behalf of UAMS.
Other Friends of UAMS chapters are established in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Monticello and Batesville. More chapters are planned, including ones in Helena-West Helena, Hot Springs and Fort Smith.
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; northwest Arkansas regional campus; statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Myeloma Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,834 students, 822 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 throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.