UAMS Gets Grants for Cancer Research and NWA Residency Program

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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced two grants within a 24-hour period this week.

The largest of the two is a five-year $11.4 million grant to continue research into the side effects of cancer therapies, including radiation and chemotherapies, and develop prevention strategies. The Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), a program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, awarded the grant.

The second is a $750,000 grant that will allow UAMS and local hospitals to develop a rural training track for its family medicine residency program in northwest Arkansas so that up to four more medical residents can graduate every year from that program. This Rural Residency Planning and Development Grant was awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The cancer research grant project will be led by Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., director of the Center for Studies of Host Response to Cancer Therapy at UAMS, where the research team is housed. She is also director of the Division of Radiation Health in the College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The center was established in 2015 with a $10.5 million COBRE grant.

“We are grateful for the renewed funding from COBRE at a higher level than even five years ago,” UAMS College of Pharmacy Dean Cindy Stowe said in a news release. “The center still is one of the very few research centers studying the side effects of cancer therapies like chemo and radiation and looking for ways to minimize or eliminate those side effects. This grant is confirmation to us that NIH also sees the value in the work being done by the center.”

The recent grant funds Phase II of the center’s research.

The center will also integrate its research efforts into other programs on campus, including programs at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Translational Research Institute and other COBRE centers.

The first two years of the residency program grant project will be spent designing the rural training track and obtaining accreditation. The first group of residents is expected to start it in July 2023.

They will complete their first year at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville and spend the majority of years two and three in Carroll County at Mercy-Berryville Hospital and rural Washington Regional and Mercy family practice clinics.

Dr. Ronald Brimberry will serve as the program’s director.

“This program is to help recruit and retain well-trained family physicians who will understand the needs of people in rural Arkansas communities and encourage these new family physicians to stay and practice in those rural communities,” Brimberry said in a news release.

Due to a long-standing federal cap on funding to add resident training slots, the UAMS family medicine residency program has not been able to increase enrollment, but the grant will help it do so.

“This program will not only increase the number of residents in the state overall, it will increase the number of doctors in rural areas of the state,” said David Ratcliff, chief medical officer at Washington Regional. “This will reduce workforce shortages overall and increase access to care for all Arkansans.”