UAMS Turns 140 with Renewed Energy, Vigor on All Fronts

By BEN BOULDEN


LITTLE ROCK - On December 20, 2019 University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) celebrated its 140th birthday in a dynamically changing year shaped by leadership changes, the passing of a UAMS civil rights pioneer and the start of a $150 million energy project.

UAMS also organized all of its clinical enterprises in Little Rock and around the state under the UAMS Health umbrella to consolidate programs and realize greater efficiencies in patient care.

In February, UAMS promoted two financial officers. Amanda George, CPA, became vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer of UAMS. Jake Stover took on the role of chief administrative officer and associate vice chancellor for clinical finance with UAMS Health.

Angela Wimmer, M.Ed., who has more than 19 years of fundraising experience, joined UAMS as vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

Along with notable changes in leadership came positive changes for UAMS hourly workers and others. Chancellor Cam Patterson spearheaded the establishment of a $14 minimum wage for hourly employees.

On a sadder note, Edith Irby Jones, M.D., passed away July 15. She was 91. Jones became a pioneer when she enrolled at UAMS in 1948 as the first African American to enroll in an all-white medical school in the South, and who went on to a distinguished career as a doctor, educator and philanthropist.

Because 2019 was such a year of energetic change on all fronts at UAMS, it was fitting that nearing the year's end the university embarked on a three-year energy project,

The energy project will enable UAMS to address $101 million in maintenance needs, energy efficiency measures and reroute Cedar Street onto a multilane expansion of Pine Street. A new $49 million electrical power plant between those two streets is part of the larger, $150 million, three-year project. Once completed UAMS' energy efficiency ranking will be in the top 1 percent of all academic medical centers in the United States.

Other major developments and accomplishments include:


Patient Care

U.S. News & World Report in July recognized UAMS as having the best hospital in the state, and its ear, nose and throat department was ranked among the top 50 nationwide.

The university in February established the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, and named Curtis Lowery, M.D., as its director.

The Digital Health Stroke Program achieved a long-sought-after goal -- getting more than 50% of stroke patients from hospital arrival to treatment in 60 minutes or less.

A university search committee in September selected internationally recognized medical oncologist Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., as the new director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Birrer specializes in gynecologic cancers joined UAMS in December.


Education

Two new deans joined UAMS. Mark Williams, Ph.D., in July became dean of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. Also in July, Cindy Stowe, Pharm. D., started as dean of the College of Pharmacy.

Michelle Gonzalez, Ph.D., CRNA, in January joined the College of Nursing to guide the formation and accreditation of a new nurse anesthesia educational program. By July, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education had given the program its OK.


Research

Internationally renowned scientist Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., joined UAMS as vice chancellor for research and a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

UAMS' Teresita Bellido, Ph.D., an internationally known leader in bone research, was named an Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) Scholar at a news conference in December.

The UAMS Translational Research Institute in July announced five years of federal funding totaling $24.2 million to accelerate research that addresses Arkansas' biggest health challenges.