The Blue & You Foundation of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield awarded $117,000 to the PA program in the UAMS College of Health Professions to raise awareness of the program among Arkansas physicians and prepare physicians to host PA students while they gain further clinical experience. A $98,000 grant was awarded to UAMS Northwest and hospitals in northwest Arkansas that are creating an internal medicine residency program to expand the number of resident physicians trained in that part of the state.
"Physician assistants will become increasingly important with expected increases in patient volume and demand for care in the future," said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn. "The residency program will mean more physicians starting their careers in Arkansas - and hopefully remaining."
The PA program is expected to enroll its first students in May 2013. It is in the accreditation process. Identifying physicians who will provide training and clinical experience for PA students is critical to the program's development.
Patrick O'Sullivan, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation, joined UAMS officials to announce the grant to the Northwest Arkansas Graduate Medical Education Consortium.
"The Blue & You Foundation is pleased to award these grants to further plans to educate new physicians and physician assistants in Arkansas," Sullivan said.
"Expanding access to primary care was a goal in creating our physician assistant program and this grant provides needed support to carry it forward," said CHP Dean Douglas Murphy, Ph.D.
Physician assistants conduct physical exams, diagnose, order diagnostic tests, write prescriptions and manage acute illness and chronic disease with the supervision of a physician. The program will be a full-time, 28-month master's degree program where students will receive classroom instruction and gain experience treating real patients in clinics and hospitals.
The internal medicine residency program in northwest Arkansas, which hopes to admit its first group of eight physicians in July 2014, is moving through the accreditation process. The three-year program will have a total of 24 residents, admitting eight each year.
The internal medicine program in northwest Arkansas also will need to prepare clinical partners for hosting resident physicians. Five hospital systems in the region - Mercy Rogers, Mercy Fort Smith, the Springdale-based Northwest Health System, the Sparks Health System in Fort Smith and the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks - will host resident physicians for their first three years of post-medical school experience.
"This effort brings together five hospitals for training in a specialty - internal medicine - that is in great demand so this grant is a critical step in getting the program started," said Peter O. Kohler, M.D., vice chancellor for UAMS Northwest.
Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield established the Blue & You Foundation in 2001 as a charitable foundation to promote better health in Arkansas. The Blue & You Foundation awards grants annually to non-profit or governmental organizations and programs that positively affect the health of Arkansans. The foundation announced Thursday a total of $2,237,910 in grants to 33 health improvement programs in Arkansas.