Medical school expansion in Arkansas

by Gov. Asa Hutchinson ([email protected]) 194 views 

Editor’s note: Commentary from the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
Twenty-three year-old Jackson Bagby from Van Buren grew up with a desire to become a physician. When he graduated from the University of Central Arkansas, he knew he wanted to go into osteopathic medicine.

He began researching osteopathic programs outside of Arkansas, but, when Arkansas State University announced plans for a college of medicine on its campus, Jackson knew exactly where he was meant to be. He was accepted into the school’s first class of students, beginning this fall.

Jackson says he’s “an Arkansan through and through,” and that his love for Arkansas has made him even more committed to learning and practicing medicine in the Delta Region.

The Delta Region isn’t the only portion of Arkansas that will benefit from the educational opportunities of future medical professionals. In April, the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith received pre-accreditation to begin recruiting its first class. The inaugural class of the Fort Smith medical school is predicted to have 150 students and will begin in August of 2017.

According to the U.S. Office of Management & Budget, a rural area is classified as having fewer that 50,000 people in one city. In the United States, 77% of rural counties are facing a shortage of primary-care providers, and 8% don’t even have a single primary-care physician.

With nearly 45 percent of our state’s population residing in rural areas, some Arkansans experience difficulty accessing healthcare due to a shortage of medical health professionals in their region. We are working diligently to ensure that this will soon be a thing of the past. Studies show that eighty percent of medical professionals remain in the region of their first job or residency.

With our state’s flagship medical school, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and with the establishment of two new osteopathic medical schools, Arkansas’ network of medical professionals is growing rapidly.

Last week, I traveled to Jonesboro for the rededication of Arkansas State University’s Wilson Hall, the newly renovated home to our state’s second medical school, the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine. NYIT at Arkansas State will further help meet the health needs of Arkansans by strengthening our state’s ability to train future medical health professionals. Already, the school has accepted 124 students and the current waitlist sits at around 150 applicants. Additionally, 48% of the students accepted to be in the first incoming class are Arkansans.

Together, with UAMS, and the additions of two more medical schools in Jonesboro and Forth Smith, we are providing an excellent opportunity for our state to address a shortage of medical health professionals and become a frontrunner in higher education for medicine and science. Higher education should be in the business of meeting the needs of Arkansas; both new and established institutions for medical education throughout our state are doing just that.

As one of A-State’s newest medical students, Jackson Bagby said, “The thing about medical school is that it’s your first step to pursuing a career in lifelong service. I’m taking step one in learning how to change lives for the better.”

As Governor, I will continue working with our higher education entities to ensure we retain talented medical students, like Jackson, here in the great state of Arkansas.