Proposed Fort Smith Osteopathic School Gets Anonymous $14M Donation

The osteopathic medical school proposed in Fort Smith recently received a sizable, surprise financial gift from an anonymous donor.

Kyle Parker, president and CEO of Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, said the school was recently the beneficiary of a $14 million donation, which pushes the cash available for the proposed school at Chaffee Crossing to $80 million including $58 million approved for the project by the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation.

"Anytime you have that kind of capital, it eases some of the choices in regard to expenditures and the timing of those expenditures," Parker said.

The proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine recently named Kenneth A. Heiles, D.O., as its dean. Heiles was also named ACHE dean.

Parker said the hire of Heiles, who he says has national acceptance and recognition in the medical field, has allowed the school to move quicker into the accreditation process, which in turn, has moved up the proposed opening date, by a year, to August 2016.

"Everything is still proposed in nature," Parker said. "We still have to achieve accreditation."

Right now, the medical school is in the applicant status and has notified the national accreditation agency and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Parker said the school anticipates filing for pre-accreditation, or a feasibility study, with the ADHE in June and the national agency in August. 

Unlike a feasibility study that defines a need for a medical school in the area, Parker says this type includes plans for admission, academics, size of the building, number of classes and students, and other items.

"It's an extensive report," he said.

Parker said the school anticipates receiving pre-accreditation status at the end of July from the state and the end of December from the national agency, at which time it will move forward with construction. 

The medical school is set to decide upon its architect May 28.

While the actual cost and size of the building are "still up in the air," Parker said the current idea is for an 80,000 to 100,000-SF building. The school hopes for 150 students in its first year.