UAFS, Arkansas Colleges of Health Education announce research partnership

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 212 views 

Advanced medical research is just one potential benefit of a partnership announced Monday (June 13) between the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

The two institutions say the partnership, to be effective July 1, will “establish a mechanism for the parties to plan and initiative cooperative research activities.”

UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran said the partnership will help both parties and benefit the region.

“We are excited to partner with the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education in this worthwhile endeavor,” Beran said in the statement. “Teaming up to conduct research is but one piece in a larger collaboration effort between the two institutions. It’s important for UAFS and ACHE to partner to improve the health and well-being of our residents, whether it be through research or exploring ways to further prepare our students for post-graduate success.”

Work began in February 2015 on the $32.4 million Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine located in the Chaffee Crossing area. The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) is the parent organizations for the new college. The school will be housed in a three story, 102,000-square-foot building, and a fully operational osteopathic college is expected to serve about 600 students. Each class will have 150 students. Initial planning estimated that the new college would employ around 92 (full-time equivalent jobs) with an average salary of $116,000 – not including adjunct professors and other part-time support.

College officials plan a community open house on Aug. 21, and the first cohort of students is set for fall 2017. The ACHE recently began to add staff and faculty to prepare for the fall 2017 opening.

According to the UAFS statement, the two institutions will partner on research projects housed in UAFS’ College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and future projects planned at the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine within ACHE. Those projects include combining nanomaterials – materials that are one-billionth of a meter in size – with biological molecules for medical purposes, as well as studying the potential of different chemotherapeutic drugs.

Dr. Kenneth Heiles, vice president and chief academic officer of ACHE, said a goal of the effort is to improve healthcare.

“The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, and in particular the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine within the ACHE, are in a unique position to collaborate and promote each other’s missions through appropriate cooperation and the shared values of service to Arkansas through growing higher education and increasing opportunity for healthcare,” Heiles said in the UAFS statement.

UAFS faculty members involved in the research include Dr. Brandy Ree, assistant professor of biological science; Dr. Jen Jamison, assistant professor of chemistry; and Dr. David McClellan, professor and department head of biological sciences. ACHE faculty include Dr. Lance Bridges, chair of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology; and Ross Longley, associate dean of biological sciences and research.

In addition to research, the partnership could also include mentoring and other non-research activities, according to Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of STEM. Darbeau said future collaboration could include tours of ACHE campus for students and the use of its facilities, while also receiving “mentorship in preparing students for postgraduate education.”

“It’s a mutually beneficial partnership in which we can work with ACHE and ARCOM to help prepare students for entrance into medical school,” Darbeau said. “While exposing students to ACHE campus and its facilities helps the college recruit our graduates, it also enhances the educational experience for our students.”

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