UAMS Extends Reach in 2012

 A four-floor expansion to the Reynolds Institute on Aging opened in 2012.
A four-floor expansion to the Reynolds Institute
on Aging opened in 2012.

Dec. 21, 2012 | Resources and programs for older Arkansans at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) expanded in 2012 with more space and a wider reach.

The Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging in June opened a four-floor, 55,000-square-foot expansion, bringing the institute to eight floors. The expansion was made possible by $30.4 million of a $33.4 million Reynolds Foundation gift in 2009. The expansion added more basic and clinical research laboratories, classrooms and office space to the award-winning facility that already housed a primary care clinic (Thomas and Lyon Longevity Clinic), a fitness center with a therapy pool (Ottenheimer Fitness Center) and a beautiful and spacious multi-purpose auditorium (Jo Ellen Ford Auditorium).

“We are extremely grateful to the Reynolds Foundation for making this expansion possible and for believing in what UAMS is doing to help meet the needs of the state’s aging population,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.

Two months earlier, UAMS dedicated two bronze outdoor sculptures and a 396-foot pedestrian bridge connecting the Reynolds Institute with the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. The bridge was named for John V. Schlereth, of Little Rock, a former Reynolds Foundation trustee and a past chair of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board, and was funded by the same gift that built the expansion.

The geriatrics program in the UAMS College of Medicine, one of the country’s few academic medical departments dedicated to the care of senior citizens, placed in the top 10 geriatrics programs in the nation in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Graduate Schools” ranking. The Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics had ranked in the top 10 programs seven of the last 10 years, moving up to seventh from its previous ranking of 11th.

The Arkansas Aging Initiative in the Institute on Aging got a boost in July with announcement of a $7.9 million gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to provide new opportunities for the elderly to stay in their homes. The grant is allowing expansion of the Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program to four more Arkansas cities – Fort Smith, Little Rock, Hot Springs and El Dorado.

The program, developed at the UAMS Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale, already is in Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Texarkana and West Memphis thanks to a 2009 Reynolds Foundation grant. The program offers educational opportunities for those who want to care for older adults preferring to stay in their own homes.

“Elder care touches everyone, and it will become more critical as our baby boomers grow older and as an increasing number of aging adults opt for living at home rather than a long-term care facility,” said Jeanne Y. Wei, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Reynolds Institute on Aging and chair of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, when the gift was announced.

Also in July, UAMS opened its new Radiation Oncology Center, a component of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, to be the exclusive provider of radiation oncology services on its campus for adult and pediatric patients. Radiation treatment was previously provided at UAMS through a partnership with CARTI.

In research, UAMS was awarded about $10 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its microbiology and immunology research program. The five-year grant worth more than $10.03 million established a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at the university and supported the work of four young investigators focused on studying how microbial pathogens interact with the human body to cause disease.

Other 2012 accomplishments across the UAMS missions included:

Patient Care
• UAMS opened a west Little Rock clinic in January that housed an Internal Medicine Clinic, an Obstetrics/Gynecology Clinic and a sleep lab.
• Roxane A. Townsend, M.D., was named chief executive officer of UAMS Medical Center and vice chancellor for clinical programs at UAMS in November, and will begin Feb. 1. Townsend, an experienced hospital administrator, previously served as assistant vice president for health systems at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge.
• UAMS began routine screenings for critical congenital heart defects in newborns and was leading an effort to teach other hospitals the screening method via telehealth.
• The tiniest patients treated at UAMS were celebrated in May when the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) held its first on-campus reunion in 10 years for babies and their families.
• UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in September opened the Centers for Children in Jonesboro, which initially offered neurology and cardiology clinics. Additional services will follow, expanding access to subspecialty care to children and families in northeast Arkansas.
• In November, seven regional family medical centers of UAMS earned national recognition as patient-centered medical homes, where a patient’s care is personalized and health professionals work as a team to address chronic conditions.

• In January, Patricia J. Kelly, Ph.D., a certified physician assistant (PA) with experience in both the clinical and academic sides of the profession, was named to direct a PA program under development in the UAMS College of Health Professions.
• A $1.5 million gift announced in January from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation will allow students at the UAMS Northwest campus to gain experience with real and simulated patients at a Student Clinical Education Center to be built on the regional campus.
• A new UAMS Office of Global Health established in January serves as a resource for international education, service and research opportunities for UAMS employees and students. Don Simpson, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the Department of Laboratory Sciences in the UAMS College of Health Professions, was named director of the new office.
• UAMS awarded certificates and degrees to 906 graduates of its five colleges and graduate school during its May commencement ceremony at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

• U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman were on hand in August for the unveiling of new cancer research labs at UAMS. Located on the ninth and 11th floors of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the space features research labs designed with an open floor plan to promote collaboration and interaction among scientists. The floors added an additional 33,660 net square feet of research space.
• The Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases at UAMS in May received a five-year competitive award of $8 million from the NIH, extending the center’s largest NIH research grant to 20 years and a total funding of $33 million.
• The Arkansas Center for Health Disparities at UAMS was awarded a five-year grant extension in October from the NIH worth more than $5.5 million. Established by an original five-year NIH grant in 2007 within the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, the center aimed to develop research for improving access to quality prevention and health care programs for racial and ethnic minorities with the goal of reducing health disparities.
• Gathering nanomedicine efforts and resources from within UAMS and statewide collaborators under one umbrella, UAMS announced the creation in January of the Arkansas Nanomedicine Center (ANC) in the College of Medicine.
• Researchers at UAMS showed for the first time that boosting a protein pathway in the body’s circulatory system can act as protection against potentially fatal radiation poisoning. The research breakthrough was published online June 24 in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine, and holds the potential for new treatments against radiation toxicity during cancer treatment or environmental exposures, such as a nuclear explosion or accident.
• Better care and more effective services for young children exposed to trauma will be available through a $1.6 million federal grant awarded in October to a UAMS researcher. The four-year grant to principal investigator Benjamin Sigel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine, will fund the Arkansas Network for Early Stress and Trauma (NEST), a collaborative effort of UAMS, Mid-South Health Systems in Jonesboro and Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale.
• In November, the UAMS Center for Rural Health released the first comprehensive report on rural health in Arkansas, which identified the health care needs, disparities and adversities in rural areas and recommended a proven action model for meeting those challenges.
• Nalini Bora, Ph.D., director of research for the Pat & Willard Walker Eye Research Center, was awarded a three-year, $1.1 million National Institutes of Health grant in November to study an inflammatory disease of the eye that causes 20 percent of all blindness. Bora, also vice chair for research in the College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, and her research team also will use the grant to work toward an effective and safe treatment for idiopathic anterior uveitis (IAU).

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