Published to pressargus.com on March 8. 2020
Written by Ivy Owen

I was very happy to see that the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education and Degen Foundation have awarded the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, a grant of $1.3 million. The grant will be used to create 48 new residency slots at a Mercy health care facility here in Fort Smith. The impact of these new residency slots will have an impact of $1.8 million per physician that stays in the Fort Smith area to practice.

Obviously, the value of this grant is far reaching by creating these new residency slots. Statistics indicate that about 70% of the physicians trained in Fort Smith will set up a permanent office here in the River Valley and employ local residents. The overall economic impact of this grant on the local community is substantial and long term.

Thanks to the efforts of Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Fort Smith and Kyle Parker, chief executive officer of ACHE, this partnership will have a long term impact on our economy by enabling the creation of about 35 new physician offices that will offer local professional and clerical jobs in the River Valley.

Going back to the beginning of the new medical school and its impact, it was in 2013/14 that the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority(FCRA) and the Degen Foundation announced the agreement that ultimately led to the creation of ACHE and ARCOM and provided the foundation for the construction of the new school. The FCRA Board agreed to donate 200 acres of prime real estate for the new project that began debates from both sides of the coin. Some local folks thought this was a “folly” and was a waste of taxpayers money but on the other hand there were equally as many folks in favor of the donation of the property. I was fortunate to be the CEO for FCRA and worked with Kyle Parker, along with Gary Edwards and Frazier Edwards, who represented the two entities that nurtured this project.

It was an honor to represent Chaffee Crossing during these exciting times for Fort Smith and the River Valley. Looking at the results of these first negotiations, it is obvious now that this was the right position to take by three of the entities. Aside from the potential economic impact resulting from all these talks, the long-term association of the FCRA, ACHE, and the Degen Foundation will be enjoyed for years to come. Just think of the economic results of this projects now and in years to come. Thanks to the three organizations that kept the faith and did not falter when it would have been very easy to say “we tried.” I wish success for these partnerships and want to thank Kyle Parker, Dr. Gary Edwards and Frazier Edwards for their friendship and support during this project’s trying times and am proud to have been the executive director for Chaffee Crossing. The 12 years I spent at Chaffee Crossing were very rewarding but the announcement of the medical school was one of the top projects of on my list of these accomplishments.