/////First UAMS Chancellor Led Vision to Serve Entire State
First UAMS Chancellor Led Vision to Serve Entire State 2018-01-05T09:16:49+00:00

JAN. 17, 2006 | James L. Dennis, M.D., the first chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), believed it was the medical center’s responsibility to serve the whole state.

Dennis also believed it was UAMS’ duty to provide the health professionals that Arkansas citizens needed.

Dennis, of North Little Rock, died Jan. 10. He was 92. Funeral services are at 1 p.m. Jan. 20 at St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home of Little Rock.

The Britton, Okla., native was born in 1913. He received his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1940. Dennis worked his way through college singing tenor in a quartet and he learned to play the piano as therapy to strengthen a hand that was injured while serving in World War II.


Dennis, a professor of pediatrics, served in 1963-1964 as associate dean for clinical affairs at UAMS, then known as the University of Arkansas School of Medicine. From 1964 to 1970, Dennis served as the first dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.


In September 1970 he returned to lead the UA School of Medicine through exciting years of growth as vice president for health sciences. He became the first chancellor in 1975, when UAMS was reorganized to make the medical sciences campus a free-standing unit of the University of Arkansas system.


In 1972, Dennis convinced the state Legislature to commit significant new funding to create at least five Area Health Education Centers to spread quality health care services throughout the state. During his years at UAMS he also strengthened the family practice residency program and oversaw construction of the Education II building and an ambulatory teaching center. He also oversaw renovation of University Hospital. He served as chancellor until 1979.


“Chancellor Dennis envisioned a medical sciences institution that served the entire state, and he saw that it became a reality,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “His views about health care in the 1970s took root here at UAMS, and his legacy is firmly established.”


According to the book “Medical Education in Arkansas, 1879-1978,” Dennis was a thoughtful, scholarly man with a reputation as a medical philosopher.


“Unlike some of his peers, he was unafraid of change; indeed he saw it as an opportunity to grow, to improve, to advance,” the book states.


UAMS’ James L. Dennis Developmental Center at its Westside Campus in Little Rock provides clinical services to developmentally disabled children.