Things are looking up in this Arkansas Delta community. Lots of good things are happening right here in HelenaWest Helena and Phillips County. The latest bright ray of hope is the announcement of plans for the construction of a brand new UAMS Family Medical Center.

Things are looking up in this Arkansas Delta community. Lots of good things are happening right here in HelenaWest Helena and Phillips County. The latest bright ray of hope is the announcement of plans for the construction of a brand new UAMS Family Medical Center.

The formal announcement and the groundbreaking ceremony for the event took place in the David Solomon Auditorium on the UAMS East campus in Helena Thursday afternoon. Local dignitaries, elected officials and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences representatives were on hand for the announcement and celebration.

“This is a 25-year dream come true,” commented Dr. Becky Hall, UAMS director in her welcoming remarks.

Hall briefly recalled UAMS East's humble beginnings back in the early 1990s as Delta AHEC, which at the time was housed in a trailer near the Helena Regional Medical Center with only a handful of employees. Following the tobacco settlement, the Wellness Center, library and auditorium were constructed. Today, UAMS employs 56 workers.

The latest addition will be a 5,400 square-foot family medical clinic. The new $650,000 state-of-the art facility will house eight exam rooms and will support a full-time family practice physician and staff led by Dr. Thomas Bailey.

“The family medicine clinic will be a first for UAMS in the Helena-West Helena region and will complement the longtime health education and education programs provided by the UAMS East Regional Campus,” stated Tim Hill, UAMS vice chancellor of regional programs.

UAMS East serves a 7-county region in the Arkansas Delta with offices in Helena, West Memphis and Lake Village. Its goal is to strive to meet the health education and wellness needs of its clients through needs assessments and focus groups.

“Typically,” said Hill, “family clinics such as this bring as many as 100 additional jobs into the community. It also means providing medical technology and services that are not currently available there. ”

Hall said the new family medicine clinic will target obesity and diabetes, two serious medical maladies in the impoverished Delta region. Hopefully, she said, the clinic will help increase the number of family practitioners in Phillips County.

“The work here,” said Hall, “is more a calling than an occupation.”

“I want to personally thank UAMS for the time, effort and money it has invested to help the people of this region, community and county,” commented Clark Hall, Phillips County judge and mayor of Marvell.

“UAMS has had a major impact on our region,” added State Representative Chris Richey. “Now, they are providing yet another opportunity to make an even larger impact with this latest addition.”

UAMS is the state's only academic health center. It consists of a statewide network of postsecondary educational institutions governed by a 10-member board of trustees.

Before the official groundbreaking ceremony, Hall recognized several special guests in attendance.