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Area Hospitals Partner To Train and Keep Doctors In Northwest Arkansas

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Health care is a big part of the economy in Northwest Arkansas, from employment to quality of life. The Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce is exploring the challenges businesses face through an event called focus on the economy: healthcare in Northwest Arkansas.

5NEWS is partnering with the Chamber and bringing you a series of health care stories. Now thanks to the Northwest Arkansas Graduate Medical Education Consortium more doctors can help with the growing population in Northwest Arkansas.

From Mercy Medical in Rogers to Sparks Health System in Fort Smith; six hospitals in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley coming together with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The goal is to train more doctors, and hopefully, keep them in our area.  Scott Street, CEO of Mercy Medical in Rogers, says such collaborations are rare.

"It's just not something you see happen in a lot of environments,” Street says. “Sometimes it's so competitive in some environments that health care institutions don't come together and I think it’s too bad."

The program is called the Northwest Arkansas Graduate Medical Education Consortium. It's slated to last for three years and will include eight residents each year. They'll focus on internal medicine, which all hospital says is a desperate need. As the population in Northwest Arkansas grows and ages there may not be enough doctors to take care of everyone.

"For us to even think about we're not in a crisis I think we're foolish,” Street says. “We need to act like we're in a crisis and create residency programs, create opportunities to get the kind of physicians we need in Northwest Arkansas."

The man behind the consortium, Dr. Peter Kohler, is Vice Chancellor at UAMS Northwest. He says the goal is retention, keeping residents in Northwest Arkansas after med school. Dr. Kohler says it will help not only the community, but also the local economy.

“In order to really build destination medical care you`ve got to have the specialists there,” Dr. Kohler says. “And this will allow the hospitals here to all elevate their level of care.”

And everyone participating agrees  it's a task more easily accomplished together.

"We couldn't pull it off if we were going to do it alone,” says Northwest Health System CEO Dan McKay. “It's expensive; it's a long difficult process. It makes it a lot easier that were all sitting at the table working together."

If you want to attend focus on the economy event with the Rogers-Lowell Chamber Of Commerce, it will be this Thursday, April 5th, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at Embassy Suites in Rogers. The cost is $10 for lunch.