By Susan Van Dusen
Impacting positive change in the rapidly evolving health care industry may seem like a difficult — if not impossible — challenge. However, at UAMS the overwhelming impact of change-makers is felt every day in the lives of patients and their families.
“UAMS has been successful in capitalizing on the tremendous expertise among our supporters in all areas of the campus,” said Lance Burchett, vice chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs.
This includes the involvement of a wide variety of people on advisory boards and committees where their expertise has helped the university establish and expand countless programs through the years.
It also includes the powerful impact of philanthropy, which has played a large role in transforming UAMS from a charity hospital into the state’s most influential center for health care treatment, education and research.
“Deep down in the heart of every donor is an innate desire to make a difference in the world,” Burchett said. It’s that desire that leads philanthropists to support causes where they believe they can make the most impact. For many people, specialized health care is that area.
At UAMS, four main sources of revenue have historically funded infrastructure: state appropriations, federal funding, patient revenue and tuition from its five colleges and graduate school.
While these sources are essential, it’s philanthropy that has allowed for growth in specialized areas that were previously lacking in Arkansas.
“These four funding sources are certainly appreciated, but they usually don’t provide the margin necessary for areas of excellence to be developed. That’s where the support of donors, alumni, foundations and corporations can really make a difference,” Burchett said.
Thanks to philanthropic support during the past two decades, UAMS has developed seven institutes of excellence and several specialized programs that provide the highest quality health care for Arkansans. These programs also give donors the chance to support causes near to their heart, whether it be cancer, geriatrics, genetics or other areas.
For Kent Westbrook, M.D., it’s the fact that UAMS holds expertise in many areas that makes it stronger as a whole. “By having multiple areas that people can give to, you build those up and the whole becomes more than it would have been otherwise,” he said.
Westbrook is a distinguished professor of surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine. His fundraising experience dates to the 1980s when he and James Y. Suen, M.D., co-founded and secured the initial funding for the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Suen is a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Moving forward, Westbrook sees UAMS focusing on establishing endowments to support intellectual endeavors as opposed to bricks and mortar. “We’ve built many buildings over the past few years. Now it’s time to build endowments to sustain our programs in research, patient care and education,” he said.
These include endowments given to individuals in support of their research activities or to fund program of interest to the donor.
“We want to give our supporters the opportunity to make a meaningful long-term difference,” Burchett said. “Endowments are a tangible way to accomplish this in perpetuity.”