Fort Chaffee Donates Land to Osteopathic Medical School in Fort Smith

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday donated 200 acres to a project that aims to open an osteopathic medical school there by fall 2017.

The Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation said its board of trustees had voted to move ahead with plans for the school at the Chaffee Crossing development in southeast Fort Smith. The proposed name of the school is the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

The foundation board approved more than $58 million to the project. It also voted to create positions for a college CEO and dean.

"Our mission clearly states that we have a responsibility to fill gaps in health care and provide care for the medically underserved," said Kyle parker, board chairman, in a news release. "We've been working on the feasibility and relationships necessary to make this health care solution a reality for more than a year. It's not about building a school, it's about recognizing needs in our area, in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and across the U.S., and using our resources to fulfill that need."

Arkansas is ranked 48th among states in physicians per capita based on a 2010 study by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Center for Rural Health. There are 30 osteopathic medical colleges in the country.

The Arkansas Osteopathic Medical Association is supporting the project. Osteopathic medicine encompasses the entire scope of modern medicine, according to the AOMA, and focuses on a holistic, hands-on approach to providing health care.

"The AOMA is extremely excited about the development of the proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine to be located in Fort Smith," said AOMA president James Baker. "We will continue to develop, partner with and support those providing state-wide resources to help advance the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation's mission of establishing the school."

Partnerships for clinical rotations and residency education have been made between the foundation and local health-care providers Mercy Health System, Sparks Regional Medical Center, Cooper Clinic, the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority and Community Health Centers of Arkansas.

Arkansas State University is also considering creating its own osteopathic medical school in Jonesboro. Earlier this month, the school released a study it commissioned that found that an osteopathic medical school in Jonesboro would help meet a demand for primary-care physicians in the Delta and inject $70 million into the region.