- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - A proposed medical school in western Arkansas would require three years before becoming financially self-supporting, according to the chairman of the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation board that backs the project.

Following a more than yearlong study, the foundation revealed plans last week for what it calls the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine on 200 acres of donated land located in Fort Smith and Barling at Chafee Crossing.

“To that end, the board has committed funds in excess of $58 million,” board chairman Kyle Parker told the Times Record (https://bit.ly/Np5ylt ) for a story published Sunday.

The money is from the 2009 sale of Sparks Health System to Health Management Associates for $138 million.

“For the last 4 1/2 years, we’ve gone through the process of unwinding that hospital sale. We accumulated a substantial amount of funds,” the foundation’s executive director, Tom Webb, said.

Parker said the $58 million will cover anticipated revenue losses during the college’s first three years. After that, he said, enough students should be enrolled at an annual $45,000 tuition rate to support the college.

The proposed college will enroll 150 students per year for a total of 600 students, Parker said, with current plans calling for the first students to begin class by August 2017.

For more than a year, the foundation has been studying the feasibility of establishing an osteopathic medical school in the region.

“This involved the study of medically underserved areas in Arkansas and Oklahoma,” Parker said. “What we discovered was that while Arkansas and Oklahoma are right at the bottom of physician accessibility in the United States . both the western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma regions are the most underserved areas.”

In northeastern Arkansas, Arkansas State University has hired a health care and economic development consulting firm to study the feasibility of developing an osteopathic medical school in Jonesboro.

Results of the study, according to ASU, indicate an osteopathic medical school in Jonesboro “would help meet the demand for more primary care physicians in the Delta” and “have an initial $70 million economic impact” on northeast Arkansas.

In a news release, ASU Chancellor Tim Hudson said that a proposal based on the study’s findings is expected on the ASU Board of Trustees Feb. 28 meeting agenda.


Information from: Southwest Times Record, https://www.swtimes.com/

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