The Northwest Arkansas regional campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will soon see some high-level leadership changes.
Peter Kohler announced Friday he will retire as vice chancellor of the Fayetteville campus, effective Dec. 31. In a related organizational change, Pearl McElfish, director of the Office of Community Health and Research and co-director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health, will become associate vice chancellor, leading the university and its regional programs.
McElfish will report to Tim Hill, vice chancellor for regional programs, and continue her work in her existing positions, including as an assistant professor in the College of Medicine.
“I am very excited that Pearl has accepted this leadership role for the UAMS Northwest regional campus,” Hill said in a news release. “I look forward to working closely with her and am confident that she will do an outstanding job in her new position, just as she has done in every other role.”
As the associate vice chancellor for the Northwest Arkansas regional campus, McElfish will provide leadership to ensure coordination across UAMS’ programs in the region, and work closely with area partners.
“UAMS is extremely fortunate to have Pearl McElfish in a leadership role,” Kohler said. “She built the Center for Pacific Islander Health from scratch by evaluating the needs of the community and obtaining federal grant support to fund the activity. She has assembled an excellent research team, including many Marshallese, to work with this underserved population.”
In 2015, she founded the Center for Pacific Islander Health, the first center in the United States that focuses solely on Pacific Islander health issues. She leads the center with Nia Aitaoto.
After retiring, according to the release, Kohler will continue to work on a part-time basis, see patients and conduct research in the Center for Pacific Islander Health.
“Pete has been an invaluable adviser to me as he led our Northwest Arkansas campus these past nine years,” Chancellor Dan Rahn said. “While it is difficult to imagine the [Fayetteville] campus without him at the helm, he has earned his retirement, and we wish him and Judy the best.”
In 2007, Kohler was hired to lead efforts to open UAMS’ Northwest Arkansas campus. His previous experience at UAMS includes chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine and interim dean of the medical school. In 1994, he was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine and is the only person in Arkansas with this appointment.
“I consider myself fortunate to have served twice at UAMS over the course of my career,” Kohler said. “I am proud to have overseen the development of the Northwest Arkansas campus, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for UAMS.”
McElfish joined UAMS in 2010 as the study director of the National Children’s Study for the Department of Pediatrics. In 2012, she was named the director of the Office of Community Health and Research. Before UAMS, she worked for community health clinics, improving efficiency and quality of care and developing strong, sustainability research and community health programs.
“Pearl has a unique combination of experience in health care administration, business development and community engagement that makes her incredibly well suited to serve as associate vice chancellor,” Rahn said. “UAMS is deeply committed to advancing health care in Northwest Arkansas and educating the next generation of health professionals in the region, and Pearl is an ideal candidate to lead that next chapter of UAMS’ in the northwest Arkansas region.”