First National Bank of Fort Smith on Wednesday (Oct. 16) announced a donation of $100,000 to help expand neurological services in the area. Bank CEO Sam Sicard presented the donation to Patrick Pendleton, executive director of Mercy Health Foundation, to help fund the Center for Neurosciences at Mercy Fort Smith.
“We think it’s important for residents of the area to have access to quality healthcare. This certainly helps the need of those facing life-threatening and emergency situations. We think this is an investment in the future healthcare of our great city,” Sicard said. “Neurological care is obviously vital to healthcare in Fort Smith.”
Critically needed care for serious neurological injuries or conditions have been delayed in Fort Smith in recent years because patients have had to be transported to other cities for care, Pendleton said. These delays in treatment during the “golden hour” can result in permanent damage, paralysis or death, he added. A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system including congenital anomalies, trauma, tumors, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke or degenerative diseases of the spine.
This year, Mercy launched “Answering the Call” to support the neurological services in Fort Smith to work to alleviate that issue in the Fort Smith area. The initiative is funded with the help of community supporters, a media release stated.
Mercy Fort Smith launched a $10 million healthcare initiative in January to go toward the Center for Neurosciences. All proceeds from the 2018 Mercy Charity Ball went toward creating the 16,000-square-foot center, part of the Mercy Health Foundation Fort Smith’s campaign to raise a significant portion of the cost of the expansion. More than $1 million was raised for the initiative in the first month.
Mercy Fort Smith also hired two neurosurgeons. The husband-and-wife team of Drs. Kate and Ken Foxx began their practice in Fort Smith on Aug. 1. The two will be supported by the neurosurgery group at Mercy Springfield in Springfield, Mo., allowing for 24-hour neurological care in Fort Smith, Pendleton said. More than 1,500 neurological cases leave Fort Smith annually, Pendleton said.
“Fort Smith had tremendous neurological care in the past. In the past decade it’s probably been one of the biggest gaps we had in healthcare in Fort Smith. To bring this back is tremendous,” Pendleton said.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Arthur Johnson, who is one of two neurosurgeons practicing in Fort Smith in recent years, will continue to work with Mercy, giving patients at the medical center access to three neurosurgeons, Pendleton said. With just over 200 new neurosurgeons entering the medical field each year, hiring a new neurosurgeon is difficult for any city. Hiring two was somewhat of a coup for the medical center, Pendleton said.
“They wanted to go somewhere small where they could practice the full breadth of neurology that they had been trained to do, not just one specialty, and they wanted to go somewhere that desperately needed them. Fort Smith checked all those boxes,” he said.
The education and training needed to specialize in neurosurgery is quite rigorous and requires a four-year degree from a college or university, followed by four years of medical school training resulting in a medical degree or doctor of osteopathy degree, a one-year internship in general surgery and five to seven years in a neurosurgery residency program, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center website.
Dr. Ken Foxx, who graduated from New York University School of Medicine, completed a neurological surgery residency at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital in New York. Dr. Kate Foxx is a graduate of Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Medicum in Krakow, Poland. She also completed a neurological surgery residency at Strong Memorial Hospital.
The couple has been seeing patients in a temporary location at Mercy since Aug. 1. Mercy’s new neurosciences center, which has 17 exam rooms and will open Oct. 28, will serve as the office where both doctors will see patients and evaluate them. The couple operates in Mercy Hospital.
“Mercy has been very supportive of our mission to care for patients and provided us the to deliver high level care right here in Fort Smith, so the patients do not have to be transferred to other facilities away from their home and family,” Dr. Ken Foxx said.
Neurosurgical diseases are quite varied and include brain tumors, brain aneurisms, degenerative spine disease, both brain and spine trauma, nerve disease, such as carpal tunnel, neuropathy, and much more, Dr. Kate Foxx said.
“A lot of things that maybe people either do not associate with neurosurgery or thought if they had those issues they have to travel elsewhere, we can take care of all of that here. That is major impact for the community,” she said.
By being able to treat those patients in Fort Smith as opposed to sending them for neurosurgical care elsewhere, it will ease the “psychological and economic strain on their families,” she added. Dr. Ken Foxx said having access to life-saving care more quickly will make a large impact on a patient’s outcome.
“A city of this size and certainly a region of this size needs to have this kind of care available,” he said. “The level of equipment we have here is truly as good as or better than anywhere in the country.”
Baptist Health in Fort Smith, formerly known as Sparks Health, has two neurology clinics with a neurosurgeon, neurologist and advanced practice nurse for neurology.