1.800.ARKANSAS

Arkansas Inc. Podcast: UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson

 November 18, 2021

In this episode of the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, AEDC Deputy Director Clint O'Neal talks with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson about economic development, healthcare, and talent recruitment in the Natural State.

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TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Hi, I'm Cam Patterson. I'm the chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and you are listening to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Narrator:

Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, where we discuss the latest topics and trends in economic development with subject matter experts and influencers from across the nation and around the world.

Clint O'Neal:

Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. This is Clint O'Neal. I serve as deputy director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. On the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, we have the opportunity to talk to a wide range of leaders, including startup founders, economic development leaders, and even our governor. Our guest today is Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. With more than 10,000 employees, the organization that Dr. Patterson leads is complex, innovative, and plays a critical role in Arkansas' economy and healthcare.

Clint O'Neal:

Dr. Patterson has served as the UAMS chancellor since June 1st, 2018. As chancellor Dr. Patterson leads Arkansas's only health sciences university with a mission to educate tomorrow's healthcare professionals, perform research that leads to new treatments and deliver patient care around Arkansas. A renowned cardiologist, Dr. Patterson has served as the principal investigator or co-investigator on projects that have received more than $60 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has been published in 323 peer reviewed publications, and he plays guitar for his band Fox Green. Dr. Patterson, welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Clint, it's great to have a chance to chat with you today.

Clint O'Neal:

Dr. Patterson, you're a chancellor, you're a physician, researcher, family man, fisherman, and a rock star. Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, Clint, I was born in Mobile, Alabama, Roll Tide. I grew up paying a lot of attention to sports, but also being outdoors a lot, learned how to fish down on the Gulf Coast and that's been a lifelong passion for me, so living here in Arkansas is the best of all possible worlds in that regard. Two of the best trout fisheries in the world are right here in Arkansas, the White River and the Little Red River. I went to college at Vanderbilt and went to medical school at Emory. And when I was at Emory, I met a physician assistant named Kristine Blair. She and I fell in love on the wards at Grady Memorial Hospital. And we are now proud parents of three young Arkansans who are enjoying the benefits of education and lifestyle here in Arkansas. And yeah, I do have a band, it's called Fox Green. We played at the Arkansas State Fair, a couple weeks ago. We're going to be playing at the White Water Tavern, January 23rd and we've got an album out on Bandcamp.

Clint O'Neal:

Great. Well, Dr. Patterson, I don't know how popular your Roll Tide comment is going to be with our listening audience, but we’re happy to have you in Arkansas.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, I can still call the Hogs too.

Clint O'Neal:

That's right. UAMS and its employees, along with so many other healthcare institutions and professionals across Arkansas, have been at the very epicenter of the COVID pandemic. On behalf of all Arkansans, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to healthcare workers around the state for their tireless work, including the many healthcare and supporting staff at UAMS. Dr. Patterson, can you give us an update on how your team is doing and what kind of encouragement would you pass along to healthcare workers around the state during this time?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, Clint, this has obviously been not business as usual. COVID-19 is something that none of us were completely be prepared for. And yeah, it's been a challenge. It's been a challenge for healthcare providers. It's been tough to see so many people ill in the hospital with what is now a preventable problem. We've had almost 200 of our patients die from COVID-19. We've had to open up additional wards to provide care for patients. And what we're doing is what every other healthcare system across the state is doing, expanding capacity to meet an acute need. The real challenge has been, it's not that we need more beds, it's we need more healthcare providers and that's been our major limitation. And that's put a strain on everybody. The wear and tear on our frontline caregivers is noticeable. We've seen people who have decided to step away from their professions for a while.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

I hope that they are just on the sidelines and they come back in the game later on, because we need them. But we've also seen the healthcare at its best. I can't be more proud of team at UAMS and the work that we have done to get PPE available for people in the state when that was a crisis. To make testing available for people in the state of Arkansas, when that was a crisis. To distribute vaccines, when they became available and to provide great healthcare, holding hands, comfort, for families, patients who are in need, I'll tell you the most gratifying thing that has happened in the course of all, this is what you just said, people saying, "Thank you." And I've heard so many times people in our state say, "Now I understand what UAMS does. Now I understand why UAMS is so important for the state of our Arkansas." We need to make sure that we continue to perform at a high level so that 3 million people in our state remain proud of what we are able to do as the state's only academic medical center.

Clint O'Neal:

Well, the topic of employee engagement, talent retention is so important. Let's talk about that for a minute. Starting with the decision you made in 2018 to move you and your family to Arkansas, can you give us the background of that and how you and your wife and your children have enjoyed Arkansas so far?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

We moved here from New York. I was the chief operating officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. That was actually the first job that I had ever taken in a hospital that was not a state institution. And I learned a tremendous amount. Our kids got exposed to culture, great opportunities in New York, but we knew that we wanted to get back down south. And when the opportunity to come to UAMS presented itself, we jumped at the opportunity. And it was probably not the best time in the history of UAMS from a financial standpoint, but it was a great opportunity and our kids have enjoyed the transition. We've been very impressed with the educational opportunities here in the state of Arkansas. I've looked at jobs and Clint, maybe you have too where you say, well, what's it like living in the city?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

And people will go, "Well, you could live here or here or here or here, but actually everybody lives here because it's the only school district that's any good." We've got good public schools. The Catholic school system is excellent. We've got great private schools, so you've got educational options. You don't have to choose where you live based on school. You can choose your school based on where you live. And that's, I think something that's really healthy here. Also, the friendliness in Little Rock, we met more of our neighbors in the first month of living here in Little Rock than we did in five years in New York. So we feel at home here.

Clint O'Neal:

Very good. Good to know that the reputation we have of Southern hospitality has not let you down. The UAMS mission is to improve the health and healthcare of Arkansans. Why is this important from an economic development perspective?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, it is important because healthcare is expensive and taking care of healthcare problems is much more expensive than preventing healthcare problems. I mean, you can just look at COVID-19, the cost of vaccination is trivial compared to the cost of taking care of just one inpatient who has complications from COVID-19. And the same is true for diabetes. The same is true for obesity. These are issues that are profoundly important here in the state of Arkansas. If you're thinking about moving a company and you've got a hundred or a thousand employees, you want to make sure that a, that they have access to good healthcare and b, that the employees that you're recruiting are going to be able to work every day, that they're not going to be incurring additional healthcare costs being 46 in terms of healthcare outcomes is not good enough. If we're going to be a truly attractive state for people who are looking to create great businesses.

Clint O'Neal:

Dr. Patterson, what are some of UAMS's successes that you are most proud of?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, there've been a lot, Clint. I think the financial turnaround that we maneuvered put us in the position of moving forward rather than moving backwards. Sometimes when you go through those types of changes, feathers get ruffled and people get unhappy. It turned out to be just the opposite and if I think of things that stand out, it's what our employees and the people who know UAMS said about UAMS as a workplace.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

We are one of the top 100 employers in the country's workplace for women. We are the number seven workplace in the country for diversity issues. And the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said that UAMS is the best place to work in state of Arkansas this year. I think that that says a lot about what we are, who we are, our commitment to our mission and the fact that commitment resonates with the people who consider themselves members of team UAMS. And that is far and away the accomplishment that I'm most proud of and the three and a half years that in here.

Clint O'Neal:

That's great. When economic development prospects ask us about Arkansas and we're describing the assets, we talk about real estate, we talk about business climate, but most of all, we talk about the people and we say that we'll put the workforce of Arkansas up against any other state. So it's very encouraging to hear you say those things about the workforce of UAMS and your team.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Yeah. I've worked in New York, I've worked in North Carolina, I've worked in Georgia. I've worked in Texas and I've been all over the country. Yeah. I put our healthcare workers up against anybody else's.

Clint O'Neal:

As I noted earlier, UAMS employees, more than 10,000 people in the state. Here's another impressive fact that may surprise our listeners. UAMS has employees in 73 of Arkansas's 75 counties. Can you give us an overview of UAMS's services throughout the state, particularly in rural areas?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Sure. That's a great question. And when I talk to people about UAMS they often think of one component of UAMS as being the whole thing. Well, UAMS is the hospital in Little Rock or UAMS is the medical school. Well, UAMS is much more than that. We are all across the state. We've got eight regional campuses across the state, we're about to add a ninth in El Dorado, we're very excited about that. We provide primary care services across the state. We educate over 70% of care professionals who practice here in the state of Arkansas. So those missions touch really everybody here in our state. And we feel that if there is some community, some person who has difficulty in accessing healthcare, that's our responsibility. It's not the county's responsibility.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

It's not the city's responsibility, we're state entity. So we are looking at what are the ways that we can make sure that everyone is connected to the healthcare system, and everyone has equal access to the healthcare system. A big component of this is granted, a big component is bricks and mortar having more clinics. But another big component is digital health. That's a way that we can shrink the size of our state and make it easier for people to access UAMS healthcare options and our state's initiative to improve broadband access. We're glad that we're health to participate in that, but that's going to help kids in schools and that's going to help businesses. That's also going to help people who need access to healthcare.

Clint O'Neal:

So how does UAMS attract and recruit the best medical talent?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

I'm very proud of the fact that we have been able to recruit at an extraordinarily high level since I've been here. Our two most recent chair candidates, chair recruits for pediatrics is coming from Duke and for psychiatry coming from Stanford. Those are the top of the top institutions in the country. What we find is that if we can convince people to come here and see the state, get them to come to Little Rock, get them to see Northwest Arkansas and all the great things that are going there to appreciate the fact that you can be in any part of the state from Little Rock within about three hours. And that there's so much to do, especially in terms of outdoor activities. It becomes a much easier sell than I thought it was going to be.

Clint O'Neal:

So how does the medical school impact attracting workers? Do you find that a lot of people come here to UAMS for school and love Arkansas and stick around for employment opportunities?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, they do actually. And we always like to brag on those areas where we are at the very top and UAMS is the number two medical school in the country in retaining medical students to continue to practice in state. So if a student comes to Arkansas, comes to UAMS and goes through medical school, they're more likely to stay in state and to provide care for people in state than almost any other medical school in the country. And I think that says a lot about the state of Arkansas.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

It says that UAMS is fulfilling our mission to populate the state with more healthcare professionals. And I think it says a lot about our community, that people feel that this is a place that they want to set down roots in. They want to raise a family. They want to join church. They want to be a part of the community. And that's why we consider our medical school and in fact, all of our training programs to be sticky, sticky in a good way.

Clint O'Neal:

Sure. That's great. It's very encouraging. Is there an area or specialty that UAMS is focusing on now for talent recruitment?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well we always have recruitment going on. We are growing very fast in Northwest Arkansas. We've got a sports medicine program up there. We now take care of all the Razorback athletes. So that's a growth area for us. Our research programs are growing substantially. We've increased our research funding by about 75% over the past three years, which is pretty remarkable. So there's a lot of growth in those areas. Our digital health programs are growing rapidly, and we're continuing to look for more opportunities to partner with healthcare facilities across the state to improve access to services. We're building a new cancer center in collaboration with Baptist Health and El Dorado right next to the Medical Center for South Arkansas. For example, you're going to see a lot more of that across the state.

Clint O'Neal:

Let's talk a little bit more about the economic development impact that UAMS has on the state of Arkansas. Can you talk about UAMS's BioVentures business incubator?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, research is a great thing. It helps us to understand mechanisms of disease, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure that the research that we do gets to the bedside and BioVentures is the mechanism that we use to make that happen. I came here with the commitment that we were going to expand BioVentures. Kevin Sexton is our new director of BioVentures. He's innovative, outside the box thinker, a guy who already has experience in spinning off his own companies. We need to create a richer pipeline. We've got all kinds of financial startups downtown here in Little Rock. I'd like to see Little Rock known just as much for biomedical startups as well.

Clint O'Neal:

That's excellent. And for our listening audience, that's a different Kevin Sexton than the one that used to work for AEDC and now plays a lot of golf at Hot Springs Village.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Our Kevin Sexton is not allowed to play golf right now. He's got too much to do.

Clint O'Neal:

In 2019 under your leadership, UAMS unveiled its 10 year strategic plan Vision 2029, expand on this plan and the impact that it will have for UAMS and Arkansas.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, first of all, I'd say I've participated in a lot of strategic planning processes in the course of my career. And usually once they're done, somebody prints off a copy and puts it on a shelf somewhere, and that's where it sits. Our strategic plan Vision 2029 is a living, breathing document. The other challenge that I've seen with strategic plans in the past is that they are uncoupled from the resources that you actually have. So they're grandiose and often impractical. We intentionally put together three different processes and sequence, first was creating a strategic plan. The second was a facilities master plan to create the bricks and mortar that are needed to implement the strategic plan. And then finally, a capital campaign. And we're beginning to put together our plans for our next capital campaign under the guidance of our new vice chancellor for institutional advancement, John Erck.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Because we have lined up our strategy with our facilities and then with our, our capital needs, we've been able to stay pretty much on pace with our strategic plan. We keep track of our progress in all areas, everybody reports their successes and areas where they have been less than successful in meeting our timelines for the strategic plan. And even in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've been able to stay on pace with our strategic plan.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

You can see it with your eyes. We've got lots of construction going on here in Little Rock. We're going to be beginning construction of our sports medicine facility in Springdale next year. And the people that we bring on board from across the country are people who we train and who are staying on board to be a part of Vision 2029. Our goal for vision 2029 is that by 2029, Arkansas will be the healthiest state in this region. I think that that's an attainable goal, but to get there, we've got a lot of hard work to do and we're ready to do it.

Clint O'Neal:

Well, Dr. Patterson, thank you for your leadership, your vision that you bring to the state of Arkansas. For visitors to the state of Arkansas, whether it be talent recruitment, or just somebody coming in for the holidays, what are maybe two or three things that you would recommend for people to get out and do and see in Arkansas?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, first of all, make sure you set aside enough time, because there's a lot to do here. If you're interested in the outdoors, the state park system across Arkansas is exceptional. You can go in pretty much any direction and find something that will be amazing. This is a foodie place too. And I think people forget you get some New Orleans influence coming all the way up here. You got the barbecue coming from the Delta. Make sure that you avail yourselves to that. And just spend some time with people who live here. That's going to be probably the thing that you'll enjoy the most.

Clint O'Neal:

Dr. Patterson, tells a little bit more about your band, Fox Green. How did it get started and where can listeners find your music?

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Well, when I moved to Little Rock, there was an article in the Democrat-Gazette about myself, my family, my interests. I talked about playing in a band up in New York and I got an email from a social worker at the VA who's on faculty at UA Little Rock, who said, "Hey I like music too. You want to get together and let's chat." I met with this guy, his name, Dave Hoffpauir, great guy. He played in Ho-Hum, an Arkansas band that toured internationally back in the day. And he said he has this guy who lives near Hot Springs who writes songs. And he thought would be great if I had a little bit of bandwidth, if we could try to get together and turned into a band that we call Fox Green, we released our first album last year, it was called The Longest April.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

Guess what that is about? And because COVID-19, we've had limited chances to play out until more recently. I would say it's Americana somewhere in that neighborhood. It's not too loud and raucous, but it's not too tame either. And you can find our CD on Bandcamp, if you just search Fox Green Bandcamp or Fox Green, The Longest April Bandcamp, you can get a copy of the CD for yourself. And we're about to head back into the studio with Jason Weinheimer to start recording our second record. It's all written.

Clint O'Neal:

Great. Our guest today has been Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr. Patterson, thank you for joining us today. It's been a pleasure.

Dr. Cam Patterson:

It's been my pleasure, Clint. Thank you so much.

Clint O'Neal:

You've been listening to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. This is Clint O'Neal, deputy director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information about AEDC, visit arkansasedc.com and connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Thanks for tuning in.