Officials at the Fort Smith-based Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) are in the process of hiring 25 more people, at an average salary of $118,000, to complete faculty and staff needs for the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM).
ACHE President and CEO Kyle Parker told Talk Business & Politics the 25 jobs would be filled by the end of 2018 and would boost employment to 111 at the osteopathic college. The college began its first cohort of 162 students in August 2017, and is now working through applications for the second class.
ACHE and the college was founded with primary support from The Degen Foundation, a Fort Smith-based philanthropy created with some of the revenue from the 2009 sale of Sparks Health System to then Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates. ARCOM is the only Arkansas-based four-year osteopathic college. The New York Institute of Technology operates an osteopathic college on the Jonesboro campus of Arkansas State University.
Work began in February 2015 on the $32.4 million facility in east Fort Smith in the Chaffee Crossing area. The school is housed in the three story, 102,000-square-foot building, and a fully operational osteopathic college is expected to serve about 600 students when all four classes are full.
“These (111) jobs will carry us through all four years,” Parker said in a recent interview, adding that annual payroll began the year at $10.7 million and will end the year at around $14 million.
Parker said the $14 million payroll does not include the 600 adjunct professors – typically doctors – and medical facilities paid to handle clinical rotations. Adjunct professors are paid $500 per month, per student. Hospitals and clinics are each paid $300 per month, per student. ARCOM also supports the salary of a clinical rotation coordinator at each facility.
“We feel they (hospitals) are giving a service to help fix this crisis we have in the state of Arkansas,” Parker said when asked why ARCOM was paying for rotation support. “When you’re 50th in the nation for medically underserved areas, we feel that we all need to work together.”
The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 121,000 physicians by 2030, with rural America being the hardest hit. Between 1987 and 2007 the U.S. population grew by 24%, but the number of trained physicians grew by only 8%. Parker said there is one primary care doctor for every 6,000 Arkansas residents.
Of the 25 jobs, 11 will be faculty and 14 staff, with the jobs ranging from surgery specialists to a security officer, Parker said.
Also, the 25 ARCOM jobs is in addition to the hiring for the planned Arkansas College of Health Sciences to be built adjacent to ARCOM. A groundbreaking is set May 29 for the 66,000-square-foot, three-story building. The $25 million building should open in late 2019 or early 2020. Parker said 30 faculty and staff will be hired between the present and 2020. The average salary for health sciences jobs is around $100,000, Parker said.
He said hiring for both colleges is based on timing to correspond with accreditation requirements. However, sometimes the right talent shows up before the schedule dictates.
“Sometimes you’ll find a superstar … who is going to be available in January that you didn’t have marked to hire until July, but you go ahead and hire in January,” he explained.