APRIL 17, 2006 | The Arkansas Legislature has put construction of a new University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) cancer research center a step closer to reality.
With Gov. Mike Huckabee’s signature April 7 on House Bill 1021, UAMS now has authority to borrow up to $40 million, using bonds to support construction of the research, clinical and teaching facility.
UAMS now must raise $25 million to $30 million to pay the $60 million – $70 million cost of a 200,000 square-foot building.
Sen. Steve Faris of Malvern and Rep. Daryl Pace of Siloam Springs, the bill’s two chief sponsors, hailed the bill’s passage.
“We definitely need more cancer research and treatment available in Arkansas,” Faris said. “I can’t think of a better use of tobacco money than to spend it on a cause such as this.”
“The Arkansas Cancer Research Center of UAMS will be at the forefront of cancer research and patient treatment for our nation and the world,” Pace said. “Thank you to my colleagues in the 85th General Assembly for their support of UAMS’ excellent work and vision for a better future.”
The bonds will be paid with a portion of the state’s share of the 1998 multi-state legal settlement with the tobacco industry. Payments will come from annual tobacco funds dedicated to such construction projects. The state’s tobacco settlement money, which totals between $50 million and $60 million a year, has supported construction of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS as well as biomedical research facilities at UAMS and at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
The new cancer treatment and research facility would sit adjacent to the existing Arkansas Cancer Research Center. UAMS already has a $1 million federal grant that it will use to develop architectural plans for the new facility. Construction is expected to be completed in about three years.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.