NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Baptist Health dedicated its new medical office building in North Little Rock on Monday, except what happened was much more than a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The state-of-the-art facility is home to the Baptist Health - UAMS Medical Education program, which is a program that can help solve a nationwide problem. 

Take a moment to dig back in your brain and think about that econ class you had to take in school, we all remember supply and demand. 

Well, nationally the demand for physicians continues to grow faster than the supply and in rural states, like Arkansas, it's even more significant.

This is why Troy Wells, President and CEO of Baptist Health, said this new medical office building made Arkansas' healthcare take a big leap forward. 

"The challenges we face in healthcare today are too big for any one institution to deal with," he said. 

Wells said Baptist Health and UAMS are teaming up, in hopes of combating an issue that affects every Arkansan.

"We send a bunch of kids to medical school here in Arkansas and many of them have to leave the state because there's not enough residency training spots available in our state," he said. 

In the next two years with 439 medical students expected to graduate and only 290 resident slots available, Wells said several other states will reap the benefits of our Arkansas-made doctors.

"When they leave they may never come back, so we're training the students and then they don't have a place to train further and stay," he said. 

To put it into perspective, Arkansas ranks 46 out of 50 in the number of physicians per capita, which is why Dr. Aaron Roberts, an Internal Medicine Resident Physician, said programs like this will help address the critical demand.

"It increases the number of residency spots, the number of physicians in the state and that's kind of what we need," he said. 

The four-story, 160,000-square-foot building is home to the Baptist Health-UAMS Medical Education Program. 

Wells said the program started back in 2019 and already has 24 residents trained. 

He said in about five years this program will dump out 120 more physicians for the state of Arkansas, physicians like Dr. Aaron Roberts.

"I wanted a small town, community-based program and that's exactly what this offers," Roberts said. 

Statistics show that about 75% of residents will stay in 75 miles of where they trained, which Roberts said he agrees with.

This stat being one of the many reasons Roberts said he was attracted to this program because Arkansas is where he wants to plant his roots.

"I get to really be attached to the people in central Arkansas and that's why I love it here," he said. 

Wells said with the partnership bringing a balance of academics and community, the program allows physicians to learn and grow daily to improve the lives of all Arkansans. 

"It makes us a real attractive program, not just for students in Arkansas, but students who apply out of state and want to come here because of this program and partnership," he said. 

In the program's first graduating class, they already have physicians from all over the world ranging from Russia to India to Nigeria. 

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