story by Michael Tilley
Fort Smith attorney Kyle Parker, who has been named president and CEO of the planned Fort Smith-based Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, said Wednesday they “are moving quickly” on what will be a $58 million college that when fully operational will house 600 students.
Parker, as chairman of the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation (FSRHF), has been the lead on pushing for the college that was announced Feb. 18. The media was notified Wednesday (April 9) of Parker’s new role with the college.
“Kyle Parker brings vision, passion and years of business experience and expertise to the role of CEO of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education,” John Taylor, chairman of the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation, said in a statement. “We are very fortunate to have Kyle serve as CEO as we develop a medical campus beginning with a proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. Kyle also served on the board of Sparks Hospital when the hospital was sold. Kyle and the board are committed to reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of community owned Sparks Hospital for the maximum good of our area.”
Parker recently has worked in private banking investments and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to 2011, Parker served as vice chancellor of operations with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, where he was initially responsible for the technology needs of 8,000 students and 1,000 staff and faculty. His role expanded in 2010 to include the strategic direction for growth at UAFS.
“I’m excited to accept the challenge of bringing this community’s vision to life,” Parker said in the statement. “Fort Smith is the perfect home for a school of this caliber and we will focus our efforts on being able to fill gaps in healthcare and provide care for the medically underserved. We’ve said it before; 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.”
A fully operational school is expected to serve about 600 students, and employ around 65 (full-time equivalent jobs) with an average salary of $103,000. That impact does not include adjunct professors that will be needed for the school, he said. The school, to be located on Chaffee Crossing land (200 acres) donated by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, is targeted to accept its first cohort of students in the fall of 2017.
There are 30 colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs), offering instruction at 40 locations in 28 states. There is not an osteopathy school in Arkansas. Should the development of an osteopathic school in Fort Smith happen, it would be a private, non-profit institution and not dependent on continuous public funds from the state.
Parker said Wednesday that the Chaffee Crossing land has been appraised at $5 million, above the initial estimate of $4 million.
“We just continue to be grateful for their (FCRA) gift,” Parker said.
HIRING OTHER KEY PERSONNEL
He also said members of the FSRHF have interviewed seven candidates “with very very strong” medical backgrounds for the chief academic officer job. Filling the job is critical to the process because a detailed feasibility study cannot be submitted to the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation until six months after the CAO is hired. The foundation is set to interview four more candidates, and then narrow the list down and invite the top candidates and their spouse to Fort Smith.
“It’s my plan, at this stage, to get our dean (CAO) hired by May 15 for a start date of July 1,” Parker explained.
He said the FSRHF has hired a consultant who is helping prep for the feasibility study, and he expects the first priority of the new CAO will be to soon hire assistant deans and so they may all work on the feasibility study and develop curriculum.
“This is not a simple report. … This feasibility study will be several hundred pages long when it is finished,” Parker said.
The FSRHF also expects on April 22 to meet with architects for the purpose of selecting a firm to work with the CAO on the design of the new college campus. Parker said the city of Fort Smith has committed $1.8 million for street, water, sewer and other infrastructure work, and Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp. and OG&E are donating a portion of their work to bring utilities to the campus.
“At this stage we see nothing that will slow down our timeline,” Parker told The City Wire during a Wednesday interview. “We’re moving quite quickly. I believe now that we will be able to break ground on the building in late spring of next year.”
COLLEGE, PARKER HISTORY
Revenue from the 2009 purchase of Fort Smith-based Sparks Health System is being used to build and operate the planned college. When Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates (HMA) acquired Sparks in a deal valued at $138 million, part of the money was used to create the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation. Foundation initiatives include supporting scholarships for individuals seeking advanced medical training, the Community Dental Clinic in Fort Smith, health education programs in area schools, and other medical training options.
The new college may help in a small way alleviate the U.S. physician shortage. Parker has said there are about 3,000 applications for every opening in U.S. medical schools. He also said the country will have to produce more doctors to push back against a possible shortage of 140,000 doctors by 2030. That number could rise to 250,000 if the federal Affordable Health Care Act if fully implemented.
Parker earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University and a juris doctorate from Franklin Pierce law Center in New Hampshire. He is married and the father of two children.
During his years as a private practice attorney, Parker wrote the first artificial intelligence software (CLARA) ever granted a registered copyright for the legal profession while in law school. He then created a word search engine, and digitized the Arkansas legal case opinions, statutory and regulatory laws in 1989 to release the first legal CD-ROM in history (CaseBase). In 1994, he conceived and created the first searchable legal information internet site (Loislaw.com) and continued to grow Loislaw.com into a successful publicly traded company. The company was sold Wolters Kluwer in 2001.