UAMS awarded $5.5M grant to fund programs for rural hospitals

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Little Rock campus is shown in this file photo.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has been awarded a supplemental federal grant to fund training and outreach programs in rural and underserved areas of Arkansas.

According to a press release from the school, UAMS received $5.5 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services. The funding is part of the Value-Based Medical Student Education Grant.

The supplemental grant brings UAMS’ fiscal-year award to $6.6 million and raises the overall grant award to nearly $19.6 million over four years.

The school's goal with the funding is to increase the number of primary care physicians practicing in rural and medically underserved communities in Arkansas.

Programs the funding will go to include the:

— Renovation of training facilities for a primary care accelerated medical school track and four-year traditional medical school track at the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville.

— Expansion of point-of-care ultrasound training for medical students with new equipment and fellowship programs for faculty members in six of the eight Regional Campuses and the Family Medical Clinic in Little Rock.

— Medical Scholars in Public Health Postbaccalaureate Program for Arkansans from socially, economically or geographically disadvantaged backgrounds.

— Medical-student rotations in rural and underserved communities.

— Partnership programs from the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Arkansas’ historically Black colleges and universities.

— Expansion of medical-school courses in primary care, behavioral health and lifestyle medicine in rural and underserved areas.

— Workforce mapping for rural primary care physicians — a new program that aims to improve training and care in rural communities.

— Upgrades to facilities and simulation equipment for the UAMS Simulation Center and the Northwest Regional Campus Simulation Center.

“These programs provide support for students as they choose residencies and careers in rural and underserved areas of the state,” said Dr. Richard Turnage, vice chancellor for Regional Campuses, in a press release. “This will help us increase access to primary care and address the specific health issues that affect these communities.”

According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, between 2012 and 2021, a total of 59 rural hospitals in Arkansas and neighboring states closed.

As of September 2022, there were 52 rural hospitals throughout Arkansas.