UAMS Says Second Campus Needed to Meet Demand

by Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 4:10 pm  

The Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

The state's aging population will compound existing health care work force shortages, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock must explore adding a second campus to meet demand, UAMS said Wednesday.

UAMS, the state's only comprehensive academic health sciences campus, said the expansion under way at its Little Rock campus will not meet the rising demand for health care workers in Arkansas, but a satellite campus in another part of Arkansas would allow UAMS to accept more students.

"The population factor and work force shortages will significantly impact our health care system in the next 10 to 20 years," UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson said. "We are already expanding our enrollment and facilities as much as we can and considering what additional changes — such as a second UAMS campus — are necessary to meet our education and work force goals."

On Wednesday, the university released a study backing up its health care work force shortage claims. The report, "Meeting Arkansas' Health Care Work Force Needs," is available here. It says a rising demand for health care and the retirement of baby boomers could overburden a health care system already low on doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals.

The study says that by 2025, Arkansas is expected to have one of the highest percentages of residents 65 or older in the United States.

The study comes as UAMS is involved in a $265 million campus expansion, focusing on an addition to UAMS Medical Center. Meanwhile, a delegation of UAMS and the University of Arkansas System board of trustees representatives this week are visiting the University of Kansas School of Medicine at Wichita, Kan., a satellite campus of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Lawrence, Kan., to explore a working satellite campus system.

On the phone from Kansas, Wilson told that the most likely site for a satellite campus is northwest Arkansas, because it is a fast-growing region that would have enough clinical facilities to accommodate a larger class of medical students, pharmacists, nurses and other health care workers.

Wilson said the university doesn't see a need for an entire medical school in the area. In fact, most satellite operations would take place in hospitals and pharmacies. Students would begin their education at UAMS in Little Rock, possibly going to northwest Arkansas for their third and fourth years.

But Wilson said questions of physical space for the campus would be those that UAMS will explore in the future.

Wilson said UAMS will be at the state Capitol during the next legislative session to talk about the satellite campus and gain more financial support to handle expanded operations and a larger class. Wilson said he hopes students would begin using the satellite program in 2008 and 2009.

Creating a satellite campus is only one way UAMS said it aims to combat the work force shortage. According to Wednesday's report, it also wants to:

• Expand enrollment to produce more health care professionals,

• Recruit more faculty to support increased enrollment,

• Expand facilities to accommodate more students and

• Seek funds to pay for the needed expansions.

More on the Shortage

UAMS also noted that on Monday the Association of American Medical Colleges cited evidence of a physician shortage and recommended a 30 percent increase in enrollment at the country's medical schools by 2015. UAMS said it has planned for a 20.4 percent increase in medical school enrollment from 2005-10.

A 2003 survey of 341 Arkansas health care work force needs by UAMS researchers showed more than 3,300 vacancies in 79 health professions. The number of vacancies is expected to more than double by 2007, the survey said.



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