Benefit Bank of Fort Smith has provided two gifts totaling $300,000 to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, with university officials saying the gifts will have a positive impact on UAFS students and the community.
A $250,000 professorship – titled the Benefit Bank Endowed Professor of Nursing – will provide a perpetual source of support outside the scope of the University’s regular budget, while a $50,000 gift will fund the Benefit Bank Adult High-Fidelity Simulator, called a “sim-man,” which will be the second such simulator for the UAFS College of Health Sciences.
Bank officials cited a nursing faculty shortage, a shortage of nurses in Arkansas and UAFS nursing laboratory needs in making the gift to UAFS.
Rod Coleman, chair of the Benefit Bank Board of Directors, said the bank plans to be active partners with the College of Health Sciences.
“We congratulate UAFS on what they have done in the past and what they will do in the future to advance health care in the region,” Coleman said in a UAFS-released statement. “We prayerfully hope lives will be changed by our involvement.”
Coleman said UAFS officials have said they find it difficult to find qualified nursing professionals in the region who have the credentials to instruct in a university setting.
“The Benefit Bank Endowed Professor of Nursing will allow the University to recruit and retain faculty that they might not have been able to pursue,” said Coleman. “We are pleased to help UAFS and our community with this gift and with the gift to purchase a sim-man.”
UAFS administrators said having a second sim-man will be a plus for the University. Nursing students currently have a 10:1 ratio of students to in the current “sim man” lab. The new simulator will result in a 5-to-1 ratio.
The Benefit Bank gifts were announced at a recent meeting of the UAFS Foundation Board by Coleman and other Benefit Bank board members, including John Taylor, Rusty Jacobs, Keith Gibson, Dr. Carl Friddle, Leo Anhalt and Benefit Bank president Joe Edwards.
UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul B. Beran said UAFS considers Benefit Bank’s gift to have major impact on the University.
“This gift will help the University increase the number of students accepted into the nursing program by 20 per year and provide the faculty necessary for the program,” Beran said. “The Benefit Bank endowed professorship will not only help us increase the number of nursing faculty, but it will help our recruiting efforts for hiring qualified nursing faculty members.”
Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the gift will be a step toward providing additional registered nurses into healthcare settings in Arkansas.
“Arkansas currently ranks below the national average of registered nurses per 100,000 population,” said Mosley. “Of the six surrounding states, only two have lower percentages of nurses than Arkansas. The nursing shortage is national and worldwide, therefore, Arkansas nursing programs must educate a greater number of nurses to address the state’s current shortages.”
Mosley said UAFS graduates have a 100% employment rate and have an “excellent reputation.”
The Pendergraft Health Sciences Center opened in 2004 and houses programs in nursing, dental hygiene, imaging sciences and surgical technology, as well as the Powell Student Health Clinic and the Counseling Clinic.