November 17, 2017

UAMS Northwest Regional Campus Marks 10 Years of Academic Medicine

FAYETTEVILLE — Celebrating 10 years as northwest Arkansas’ home to academic
medicine, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Northwest Regional
Campus hosted community leaders, friends, faculty and staff today for a timeline
unveiling and open house.

“We are happy to host the community on campus today to celebrate how far we’ve come
with the Northwest Regional Campus in the last 10 years,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D.,
M.B.A, associate vice chancellor of the Northwest Regional Campus. “It’s a great
opportunity for reflection on the past and to look forward to a future of continued
partnerships that will advance academic medicine in northwest Arkansas.”

About 150 members of the public joined McElfish, community leaders, former faculty
and other campus leadership in the lobby of the Fayetteville building for the event.
“A lot of you in the audience today – from both on campus and off – played a key role in
making this a success,” McElfish said. “Your hard work and collaborative spirit have
been vital. As we grow, we look forward to that continued support.”

The timeline is located in the Fayetteville building, near the Regional Campus
Conference Room. It starts in 2007 and includes key dates in campus history extending
to the present day.

Campus History
In 2007, UAMS made a commitment to academic medicine in northwest Arkansas with
the introduction of a regional campus. Peter O. Kohler, M.D., was named vice chancellor
and set about building an interprofessional medical education opportunity that also
supports the community through research and clinical services.

“We worked hard to get the funding from the state to get started and worked with the
county to secure the building,” said Kohler. “It was a big win for us, for the county and
the region. We’ve come a long way in that time.”

The UAMS College of Pharmacy appointed Eric Schneider, Pharm.D., associate dean of
the Northwest Regional Campus in 2009. Six third-year medical students came to
campus that summer, starting their time on campus with a wall-breaking ceremony to
acknowledge the major renovations to come. They graduated in May 2011.

Chris Smith, M.D., was appointed the first regional dean for the UAMS College of
Medicine that year. The College of Pharmacy also welcomed its first class of third-year
students in 2011. The Northwest Regional Campus housed 107 students and 30
postgraduate medical residents at that time.

“The region’s growth really started to take off and lots of amazing things were
happening,” said Kohler. “Health care has been coming more into focus as the
population rapidly expands.”

In 2012, Bill Buron, Ph.D., R.N.C., was appointed the first assistant dean for the UAMS
College of Nursing in the northwest region. The Pat and Willard Walker Student Clinical
Education Center, where students simulate patient interactions, opened in 2013.

In 2014, there was a flurry of activity. John Jefferson, Ph.D., began as inaugural director
of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which was championed by area leaders. The
Northwest Regional Campus is the sole home of the UAMS Physical Therapy program.
The Outpatient Therapy Clinic, offering physical, occupational and speech therapy
services to the public, opened in the fall.

The North Street Clinic opened in late 2014, offering diabetes care to the local
Marshallese community. Marshallese have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the
world. Almost 200 students have worked in the clinic, learning about effective culturally
appropriate patient care.

The first internal medicine residents came to campus in 2015, bringing future medical
professionals specializing in comprehensive adult primary care to the area. Inaugural
doctor of physical therapy students arrived on campus that year as well. In late 2015,
McElfish and Nia Aitaoto, Ph.D., M.P.H., founded the Center for Pacific Islander Health
on campus to focus on health studies within the underrepresented population. It is the
first in the continental United States to do so.

Sheldon Riklon, M.D., one of two practicing Marshallese physicians in the country,
joined the staff and was invested as the first Peter O. Kohler, M.D., Distinguished
Professorship in Health Disparities in 2016. At the end of that year, McElfish was
appointed associate vice chancellor of the Northwest Regional Campus, succeeding

The Future
“As Dr. Kohler said, we have come a long way since those early days,” said McElfish,
who succeeded Kohler as associate vice chancellor upon his retirement at the end of
2016. “We have graduated 336, we opened the student-led North Street Clinic, and we
launched the Department of Physical Therapy.”

According to the Northwest Arkansas Council, 27 people have moved to the region each
day since 2010.

“We are uniquely poised to advance northwest Arkansas through community-based
health care and by developing the next generation of leaders in the field,” said McElfish.

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 or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.