May 5, 2016 | Business and community leaders from across eastern Arkansas gathered to enjoy an evening of food and conversation May 2 for the inaugural Friends of UAMS – Helena-West Helena. Overcast skies and wet weather did little to dampen the reception.
Vic and Janet Juengel hosted the event at their home in Helena-West Helena. Vic Juengel is president of Juengel & Associates Financial Security Services and chairman of the Helena Health Foundation.
In 2006, the Helena Health Foundation dedicated a $4.2 million, 31,000-square-foot Wellness Center in Helena-West Helena. The facility is leased to UAMS East under a long-term agreement to administer health, wellness and fitness programs in Phillips County.
Attending were state Rep. Chris Richey and his wife, Holly, Marvell Mayor and former State Rep. Clark Hall and his wife, Becky Hall, Ed.D., director of UAMS East. Others from Helena Health Foundation were Executive Director P. Vasudevan, M.D., Vice Chair Bettye Hendrix and board members Joe Howe and Suzann McCommon.
Several UAMS East board members were in attendance including Jill Lawrence, Lynn Hawkins, Kimberly Clement, Vance St. Columbia, Marvell School Superintendent Joyce Cottoms, and Helena Regional Medical Center CEO Leah Osbahr.
Also attending were Helen Halbert, representing Helena Mayor Jay Hollowell; and UAMS Foundation Fund board member Charlene Reed.
Mr. Juengel welcomed guests and talked about the importance of UAMS, the state’s only academic health sciences center, to the region and the state. Juengel recognized several community leaders and introduced UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.
Rahn recognized the Helena Health Foundation for its joint endeavor with UAMS. He also thanked partners Helena Regional Medical Center, Phillips County Community College the Cooperative Extension Service and Farm Bureau. He thanked those in attendance and asked for their support and advocacy for UAMS’ mission of improving the health and health care of all Arkansans, especially in the Delta region.
“Some of the most challenging health statistics, in individuals and communities and the country, exist in the Delta,” Rahn said.
“The difference between life expectancy for an individual in Phillips County and an individual in Benton County is 10 years,” he said. “We really are in a state where ZIP code is a better predictor of opportunity for a healthy life than genetic code.”
Rahn said that UAMS is crucial to addressing “the profound interaction between social disadvantage and health disadvantage” in Arkansas through patient care and public education.
“Health care is everybody’s issue,” said Rahn. “The real solution to our health care cost in the long run is to need less of it – it’s to be healthier.”
Rahn praised the state Legislature for approving Arkansas Works, the extension of the state’s Medicaid expansion, to applause from the audience. “If we had not approved Arkansas Works, those individuals and their needs would still be there,” he said.
UAMS remains “profoundly underfunded” by the state, Rahn said. Because it must use $85 million of its $106 million state appropriation as matching funds for Medicaid programs, UAMS’ net state appropriation is only $21 million or 1.5 percent of its budget.
“We’re doing a lot of great things, but we need a plan for sustainable funding,” Rahn said.
Lance Burchett, UAMS vice chancellor for institutional advancement, wrapped up the evening and asked those in attendance for their ambassadorship, support and advocacy for UAMS.
Other Friends of UAMS chapters are established in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Monticello, Batesville, and Pine Bluff. More chapters are planned, including ones in Hot Springs and Fort Smith.
For more photos from the event, visit the UAMS Flickr page.
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.