June 17, 2016 | A lively crowd of close to 100 business and community leaders from around western Arkansas filled the home of Drs. Terry and David Hunton on June 9 to kick off the inaugural Friends of UAMS – Fort Smith.
David Hunton is chief medical officer for Mercy Hospital Fort Smith and a member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board. His wife, Terry, is physician liaison for Mercy Health Foundation Fort Smith. The gracious hosts engaged and entertained guests, who gathered together for an evening of food and conversation about UAMS.
Attending were Ryan Gehrig, CEO of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith; Sam Sicard, president and CEO of First National Bank; and Don Heard, Ed.D., director of UAMS West.
David Hunton welcomed guests and spoke of the relationship between UAMS, the state’s only academic health center, and his family. Tory Hunton, M.D., daughter of David and Terry, received her medical degree from the UAMS College of Medicine in May. She is the sixth Hunton to graduate from UAMS, along with her parents and siblings.
“It’s hard to deny the ties that we at Mercy have to UAMS,” David Hunton said. “Forty percent of our neurosurgery goes to UAMS, and we thank them for helping us out there.”
He then introduced UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.
Rahn thanked the Huntons for opening their home, and noted that this was the eighth Friends of UAMS chapter established in the state. “Our goal is to engage you all, here in Fort Smith, as partners in furthering the mission of UAMS,” he said. “It’s about advocacy.”
UAMS is frequently seen “as a Little Rock asset,” Rahn said, but it has students and employees from every county in the state. “We have a statewide purpose and a statewide presence,” he said.
Of the 1,002 health care professionals who graduated from UAMS this year, 21 were from Sebastian County, he said. Of the 229 residents who over the years have graduated from family medicine program at UAMS West in Fort Smith, 150 will be or are practicing in state, 98 of those in in western Arkansas. Of these practitioners, each brings an average of $845,000 in direct economic impact “not counting the health impact from the care they provide,” Rahn said, adding that economic impact includes the people they employ, taxes paid, and value added back to the community.
“It’s like that all over the state,” Rahn said.
Calling UAMS “a public asset for health,” Rahn said that public health and education, which UAMS provides, are crucial to economic development. “If we don’t have a healthy, well-educated population, we can build roads – but they’re roads to nowhere,” he said.
Rahn detailed problems that UAMS is facing over the next decade, using its $1.4 billion budget as an example. Currently, 75 percent of UAMS’ revenue comes from patient care, he said. This is due in part because though UAMS gets $106 million in appropriations, $85 million of that must be redirected for the state’s portion of Medicaid matching funds, leaving only $21 million in “unfettered support” for UAMS as a public university.
“We have to get to the point where there is a sustainable business model for UAMS over time that is not so reliant on patient care revenue,” Rahn said. “It’s hard to generate revenue in excess of what is needed to run the patient care program and maintain the capital, the equipment, the investments you need to make to maintain excellence on the clinical side while also relying on it to subsidize education. That’s not going to work in the long run.”
Rahn asked those in attendance for their support and advocacy on behalf of UAMS. “The wheels aren’t falling off. We’re not failing educationally. We’re not failing to invest in people, but we have to manage the balance sheet of the institution,” he said. “This is why we need advocacy.”
Lance Burchett, UAMS vice chancellor for institutional advancement, thanked those in attendance for their continued support of the community, and encouraged them to become friends and ambassadors for UAMS and its mission.
Other Friends of UAMS chapters are established in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Monticello, Batesville, Pine Bluff, Helena-West Helena and Hot Springs. More chapters are planned for the fall, including Fayetteville, Magnolia and Mountain Home.
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; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,870 students, 799 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS and 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.