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UAMS launches new institute to tackle rural health disparities in underserved areas

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences UAMS

From Talk Business & Politics:

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) announced Tuesday (Feb. 27) the establishment of its eighth institute, the UAMS Institute for Community Health Innovation, effective March 1.

According to a news release, the institute will work with communities across Arkansas to conduct community-based research and deploy community-driven programs to improve health outcomes in the state’s rural and medically underserved regions.

The institute will be based in Northwest Arkansas with staff and offices across the state, including in Batesville, El Dorado, Fort Smith, Helena-West Helena, Jonesboro, Lake Village, Little Rock, Magnolia, Pine Bluff and Texarkana. A UAMS spokesman said the institute has 170 employees.

UAMS is the state’s only academic medical campus. The main campus is in Little Rock, and there is a satellite campus in Fayetteville. Its existing institutes are:

  • Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute
  • Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute
  • Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute
  • Psychiatric Research Institute
  • Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging
  • Translational Research Institute
  • Institute for Digital Health & Innovation

“This landmark designation follows our institution’s tradition of creating institutes as centers of gravity where clinical, academic and research activities are organized around a specific condition or mission, in this case, reducing health disparities through community-driven innovation,” UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson said in a statement.
Pearl McElfish is the institute’s founding director. She has more than 20 years of experience implementing innovative community health programs and community-based research.

“The Institute for Community Health Innovation’s vision is to partner with people and organizations across the state to implement innovative research, clinical care and community-based programs outside the traditional academic walls of UAMS to meet the needs of the state’s most rural and medically underserved communities,” McElfish said. “If we’re going to move the needle and improve health outcomes for all Arkansans, we must have innovative solutions that meet people where they live, work and play.”

McElfish, a highly regarded UAMS College of Medicine professor, has been at UAMS since 2010. According to the release, she has more than 280 peer-reviewed manuscripts and extramural grants totaling more than $200 million. She has led health policy and practice changes, improving health and healthcare for rural and underserved communities.

Her work — and that of the Office of Community Health and Research, where she was director — has integrated translational research, community engagement, clinical care and population health in the areas of maternal and child health and chronic disease prevention and management. McElfish and her team have also been instrumental in training and advocating for community health workers and doulas.

“Achieving status as an institute within UAMS is a testament to the work our team and community partners have accomplished together over the last 10 years,” McElfish said. “We are working to improve health outcomes for all Arkansans, and as an official institute, we look forward to spreading our work even further as we continue our shared mission to create a better state of health for all.”