Western Arkansas health providers draw medical expertise to the region
While Western Arkansas residents have long had access to high-quality health systems offering a full range of treatments, Fort Smith is now home to two medical colleges that aim to bring more physicians — and care — to the region.
With 50 faculty positions, ARCOM began several research projects upon its opening and the college welcomed its second-year medical students in summer 2018.
College officials say the medical campus is already helping to drive innovation in the region, which is an ideal locale for a medical school.
“Fort Smith is a great community located strategically to serve a large region of Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma,â€ says Benny Gooden, executive director of institutional relations for the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.
Of the 150 first-year med students, Gooden says nearly two-thirds hail from Arkansas and contiguous states and 23 percent are first-generation college graduates.
In spring 2018, construction began on a second medical college at the Chaffee Crossing campus. The Arkansas College of Health Science (ACHS), also operated through ACHE, will offer doctor of physical therapy, doctor of occupational therapy and physician’s assistant programs when it opens in 2020. The health care sector continues to be one of the region’s largest employers. The ACHS is set to open with 30 faculty positions that pay an average annual salary of $100,000.
The 66,000-square foot College of Health Sciences, which will cost around $25 million, including construction, equipment, furniture, technology and accreditation, is just one of several new projects at Chaffee Crossing.
ACHE officials say ARCOM and the College of Health Sciences will be a source for the region to increase physician accessibility.
“Since a high percentage of new physicians enter practice within 100 miles of their medical training sites, the presence of a medical school and an institution concentrating on other health specialties will address the need,” says Gooden.
Care Close to Home
A strong network of hospitals and urgent care facilities give the region a competitive advantage by offering businesses and their employees comprehensive and specialized care close to home.
In 1887, Sparks Regional Medical Center became Arkansas’ first hospital. Today Sparks Health System operates hospitals in Fort Smith and Van Buren and has nearly 50 clinic locations and about 100 providers that offer a wide range of services. The 492-bed acute-care Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith and the 103-bed acute-care Sparks Medical Center in Van Buren both have busy emergency departments and offer intensive care units.
Mena Regional Health System (MRHS) offers inpatient and outpatient services to Polk County, Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Located in the scenic Ouachita Mountains, MRHS facilities include an acute-care physical rehabilitation unit, a six-bed intensive care unit, a 12-bed geriatric psychiatry unit, labor and delivery services, as well as dermatology, cardiology, and ophthalmology and otolaryngology clinics. With state-of-the-art equipment, MRHS has been the recipient of several awards for quality service.