UAMS Expands Psychiatry Training in Northwest Arkansas

Jon Parham

UAMS Northwest Campus

Opening the UAMS Northwest regional campus in 2009 also opened doors of opportunity for medical students and resident physicians in the field of psychiatry.

The campus expanded access to medical and mental health care with newly graduated physicians completing their residencies in the area. By starting their careers in Arkansas — a state with one of the lowest number of physicians per capita in the nation — there was a greater chance of staying in the state to continue their career.

The psychiatry residents and medical students were able to gain valuable clinical experience at clinics, pharmacies and hospitals in northwest Arkansas.

“Our program allows us to educate more psychiatrists, which addresses a need. Arkansas is chronically underserved and we cannot yet graduate enough to replace those who retire, die or move,” said Jon C. Rubenow, D.O.., division director for the Psychiatric Research Institute Northwest.

“We have a smaller program here so our students and residents get an experience more like a psychiatrist in community practice with more interaction with other physicians and other mental professionals at all levels of the treatment process.”

The UAMS College of Medicine has been recognized as one of the top medical schools in the nation for recruiting students to psychiatry.

Medical students get the chance early to interact with practicing psychiatrists at UAMS. That exposure offers an important glimpse into the profession, said John Spollen, M.D., vice chair for education in the college’s Department of Psychiatry.

“Some students will have preconceived incorrect notions about the type of work psychiatrists do or the kind of career you can have through negative stereotypes or the stigma sometimes associated with mental health issues,” Spollen said.

“I think the feedback we get from students and the number of medical students that choose psychiatry show that the experience they get at UAMS is quite positive.”

The first psychiatric resident arrived at UAMS Northwest in 2011, the same year rotations of third- and fourth-year medical students began there. Two physicians are now completing their psychiatry residency in northwest Arkansas. Rubenow said that number will grow to three or four residents in July 2014.

The residents provide care for patients in the Psychiatric Research Institute Northwest Outpatient Clinic. Additionally, they work on a 28-bed inpatient unit that opened in May 2009 in Springdale’s Northwest Medical Center thanks to a community partnership that included the UAMS and the medical center as well as the local community mental health center Ozark Guidance Center.

The three-week medical student rotation covers the UAMS Northwest medical programs in family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and psychiatry. With block schedules, the students spend longer uninterrupted periods with each of the disciplines, giving them a more rounded, in-depth experience, Rubenow said.

Rubenow called it a more community-based experience for students, seeing treatment given to patients in the psychiatric unit of Northwest Medical Center and in local mental health organizations such as Ozark Guidance Center.

“The students witness active treatment of patients — some with very acute mental illness — so they see patients receive treatment and see them get better,” he said. “They are able to sit and talk to a variety of people, giving them a rich opportunity for learning, given the diversity of illnesses they see.”