Nov. 10, 2016 | A spirited crowd of 125 business and community leaders filled the home of Chris and Margo Weiser on Nov. 3 for the inaugural Friends of UAMS – South.
A last gasp of summer heat and humidity lingered throughout the evening, although the assembled guests didn’t seem to mind. An evening of conversation about UAMS, the state’s only academic health sciences center, featured chilled drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres. The Weisers opened their home, entertaining from their spacious, art-filled living room and spilling outside to a backyard patio and swimming pool.
Chris Weiser is president of Weiser-Brown Oil Company. He is a commissioner for the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, which oversees and regulates the oil and gas industry in the state.
State Sen. Bruce Maloch, of Magnolia, was in attendance, as was Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann. Representing Magnolia Regional Medical Center were Margaret West, CEO; Steve Nipper, board chair; and board members Barbara Beene, Dr. Paula Boaz, Molly Burns, Brenda Langford, John Morgan, Deborah Nipper, Brad Smith, Jan and Therrel Story, and Tonya Watson. Also attending was Katherine Berry, Ed.D., wife of Southern Arkansas University (SAU) President Trey Berry, Ph.D. Seven SAU students attended as guests of Dennis Cooper, pre-health recruiter for UAMS South in Magnolia.
Chris Weiser welcomed guests before turning things over to James Gooch, director of UAMS South, who thanked those in attendance and spoke about the role of UAMS in Magnolia. He then introduced Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.
Rahn recognized Vann and Maloch for their support of UAMS, and thanked West for her long service to Magnolia Regional Medical Center.
“To lead a hospital the size of the one in Magnolia is a real challenge,” he said. “I really want to give credit to Margaret for the leadership she provides, and the importance of the medical center here.”
He also recognized Katherine Berry and noted SAU’s impact on the area. “Communities the size of Magnolia that have thriving colleges do well,” Rahn said.
Rahn spoke on the importance of UAMS across the state, as well as its focus in Magnolia. “UAMS was founded in 1879, but despite the fact that it’s a relatively old institution, it’s pretty poorly understood around the state,” Rahn said. “We’re often seen as a Little Rock entity and a Little Rock asset, but we’ve got a statewide responsibility and a statewide mission.”
The statewide reach and influence of UAMS’ medical residents is a point of pride, Rahn said. “We have about 800 residents at UAMS,” he said. “The Veterans’ Administration hospital has our residents, Arkansas Children’s Hospital has our residents, UAMS Regional Programs has our residents, and now we have residents in northwest Arkansas, too.”
Rahn cited UAMS’ record of graduating and placing health care professionals in a position to serve Arkansans.
“Seventy-two percent of the pharmacists, 58 percent of licensed physicians, and over half the family physicians in Arkansas either graduated from or did a residency at UAMS,” Rahn said. “Think about what happens when that’s not here.”
As many people work at UAMS – approximately 10,000 – as his hometown of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and its surrounding township, Rahn said. He lauded UAMS employees for their dedication.
“The thing that’s been amazing to me, in the last seven years that I’ve had the privilege to lead this institution,” Rahn said, “is the extent to which the people of UAMS get up in the morning, and with a singular focus, come to work and do so many things to improve the people of Arkansas.”
That focus, Rahn said, is why UAMS educates the health professionals of the future, provides care and conducts research. “It has no other purpose than improving the health care of Arkansas,” he said. “Thomas Jefferson once said that without health, there is no happiness.”
Misconceptions about UAMS’ funding leads Arkansans into a false sense of security about the financial state of the institution, Rahn said.
Rahn noted that the state appropriations UAMS receives are “not insignificant,” but stressed that they are quickly absorbed into the budget. “What we receive is more than $100 million a year, and that’s a significant number, but the budget of the institution is $1.5 billion,” he said.
“These are really challenging times,” Rahn said. “We’ve got a responsibility as a public organization to help Arkansas deal with inadequately controlled increases in health care costs, but health care costs are our revenue. It creates a conflict.”
Rahn said that systemic change is needed to resolve the conflict. “The goal is to get to a system that uniformly provides higher quality, better experience, and to control costs,” he said. The advocacy and support from Friends of UAMS encourages Arkansans “to recognize that UAMS is an important agent of change, but also an important organization for the future of Arkansas.”
Lance Burchett, UAMS vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, thanked guests for their support, and asked for their friendship with and advocacy for UAMS.
The event marked the 10th chapter for Friends of UAMS, and was the sixth chapter begun in 2016. Other Friends of UAMS chapters are established in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Monticello, Batesville, Pine Bluff, Helena-West Helena, Hot Springs, Fort Smith, and northwest Arkansas.
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.