Plans for new medical school underway in Fort Smith

 Construction is planned to begin in March on the multi-million dollar Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine at Chaffey Crossing.  The private medical school will hold its first classes in the fall of 2016, when 150 regular medical students and 75 physician assistant students start the 28-month program.  This is very good news for the Fort Smith region.

Not only will the college provide a slew of jobs to the local workforce, it will also help area hospitals fill many open slots for doctors.  Kyle Parker, CEO of Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, said in The Times Record that he anticipates the school to bring $100 million to the local economy each year.

Two-year residencies are slated to begin in 2018, sending students for training to area hospitals and clinics with Mercy Health, Sparks Health System, the Choctaw Nation and others.

It seems that osteopathy is a popular practice.  Across the U.S. there are about 6,100 medical school slots open for this discipline, and by year-end 2014, some 155,000 applications had already been submitted.

Osteopathic physicians are titled D.O., rather than M.D.  D.O. means doctor of osteopathy.  Those in this field practice “a form of drug-free, non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine.”

All together, $106.9 million has been raised to help build the school.  The Fort Smith Regional Health Foundation through the Degen Foundation contributed $60 million to the effort.  Land valued at $5 million was donated by the Fort Chaffey Redevelopment Authority.

Site prep and dirt work will be handled by Fort Smith’s Forsgren Inc.  The master plan for the college is being created by Tim A. Risley & Associates, an architecture firm in Fort Smith, in conjunction with Cromwell Architects Engineers, based in Little Rock.

According to the Times Record article, the price of land in the vicinity of the college has already increased by 60 percent in anticipation of the new facility.

This is an awesome economical opportunity for residents in and around Fort Smith.  The additional jobs in both direct and support services for the college will help our economy in countless ways.  And if the school is successful – which we know it will be – we can only imagine the other industries and institutions Fort Smith may attract in the coming years.

Nick & Ellie