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Open House at the new Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Open House at the new Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Open house, open invitation to the community to
see the new Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Save the date! On Aug. 21, the community has the opportunity to visit, perhaps for the only time, a new facility that will have a major significance to Fort Smith for years to come. At this time next year, the new Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine will be filled with some 150 students who will begin their four-year work to become doctors.

With the 102,000-square-foot building just completed, administration and faculty, in partnership with all the supporting community stakeholders, can now see their combined efforts made real, according to Dr. Kenneth A. Heiles, dean of the college.

“Since the start, there’s been so much excitement and engagement from the community that this is a way we can say thank you and give back,” Heiles said. “This is a great opportunity to showcase what everyone has been talking about for two and a half years.”

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The creation of ARCOM (its official acronym)has been a notably swiftly moving project since its inception.

Kyle D. Parker, president and CEO of Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, the college’s parent organization, praised the community “parents” of the new medical college in an April press release when the college was given continued pre-accreditation to begin recruiting students.

“In March of 2013 the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation decided to ‘move the needle’ to help alleviate the shortage of physicians and to improve access to care,” Parker said. “From that day forward we received incredible support from the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, the City of Fort Smith, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce and a $14 million anonymous gift. This allowed us to construct and equip one of the finest medical school facilities in the country. Today, we are no longer a ‘proposed’ school, we are now officially the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. This is truly an economic and cultural game changer for the region.”

The college is located at 7000 Chad Colley Boulevard on 200 acres donated by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.

Invitation includes even the youngest aspiring doctors
“If people have children of any age who are interested in becoming doctors, I hope they will bring them – even a kindergartner,” said Dr. Natasha Bray, associate dean of clinical medicine. “I think it will be great for them to come and see that it is real – not some far-off, magical place.”

Visiting a medical school may help young people understand that becoming a doctor can be an attainable goal, here in their own community, she said. Heiles and Bray have practiced in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

At the opening, school bands from Fort Smith Northside and Southside high schools and Greenwood High School will perform, also giving those students the chance to tour the college.

Dr. Benny Gooden, recently retired superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools, has been hired by the medical college to work with Arkansas public schools to create programs aimed to engage school-age children in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As executive director of institutional relations, Gooden will work to educate students about ARCOM and to interest more students in pursuing a healthcare profession.

What’s in a medical school?
Those who attend the open house will be able to see the college’s state-of-the art lecture halls, laboratories and clinical teaching areas where students will learn.

Extensive underlying technology supports each area. The college is comprehensively “wired” from its audio/visual-equipped lecture halls to team conference rooms.

Visitors will encounter simulated, synthetic human patients. These life-like “patients,” too high-tech to be called dummies, are presented in clinical settings to help students practice hands-on medical procedures with digitally produced responses and feedback. The artificial patients include an adult male, a pregnant female, a newborn infant and a child.

Students also will be instructed in a human anatomy lab, a foundational element of medical education, which also is integrated with digital resources.

ARCOM creates a neighborhood
Visitors to the open house will drive to a neighborhood that will look completely different in one year and even more so in a decade. When the college accepted the FCRA land donation, they planned together for zoning that will surround the college with a walkable neighborhood to include walking trails, a dog park, residences and mixed-use commercial development with retail stores and services.

Other developers have sites for residential construction nearby that may be homes for some of the students and faculty.

By 2017, the full faculty and new students will make Fort Smith their home. The aim of osteopathic medicine as a field and ARCOM is to encourage its graduates to practice in the region where they were educated.

This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online