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Centers for Children in Northwest Arkansas Adds Primary Care Clinic

Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are working to meet the incredible demand for primary and sub-specialty pediatric health care in northwest Arkansas with the debut of a new clinic and expanded services at the Centers for Children in Lowell.

In December, the two-story, 40,000-square-foot center opened a new Primary Care Clinic on its first floor for sick and well-child visits. The clinic includes 12 exam rooms that will be staffed by four physicians. Clinic space for physical, occupational and speech therapy, and language development is located adjacent to the Primary Care Clinic; all are new services.

The facility's second story houses space for an expanded pediatric neurology clinic, attracting patients from as far as northeast Arkansas and around the region. The second-floor clinics also serve patients and families in the pediatric subspecialties of cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, neuromuscular pulmonology, asthma, endocrinology, gastroenterology, genetics, hematology, hemophilia, nephrology, immunology, rheumatology, rehabilitative medicine and developmental pediatrics.

"We are working to meet the needs of approximately 7,000 children in northwest Arkansas who don't have a primary care physician," said Astryd Menendez, MD, medical director of the Centers for Children and an associate professor of Pulmonology at UAMS. "Currently, those families have to seek medical care in an emergency room, which can be time-consuming and often is a greater level of care than the child's illness requires."

During its first year, the center's goal was to treat 1,000 patients but it exceeded that expectation, seeing 4,000. Between 2008 and 2009, some 8,000 patients benefitted from the center's services. Menendez says there are plans to bring additional subspecialty services to the center within the next five years.

"This is a significant expansion after only three years," said Jonathan Bates, MD, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Supporting families and physicians in this region is the reason this center was created, and we couldn't be more pleased that we're now able to help them on an even larger scale." Center administrators anticipate they will schedule 11,000 visits during the next year.

Physicians who will be joining the Centers for Children include:

  • Chris Smith, MD, regional associate dean for the College of Medicine at UAMS Northwest - Smith is a professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and most recently was associate medical director at Arkansas Children's Hospital. He also will practice at the Centers' new primary care clinic one day a week.

  • Jhablall Balmakund, MD - Balmakund is one of two pediatric neurologists who will practice at the Centers for Children. Balmakund practices part-time at Mercy Medical Specialties in Rogers and part-time at the Centers for Children, until he makes the transition to a full-time position at the center July 1. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the Child Neurology Society and the Southern Pediatric Neurology Society.
  • Jessica Tufino, MD, FAAP - Tufino is a bilingual pediatrician who will practice in the Centers for Children Primary Care Clinic. She comes to Lowell after working in private practice in New Jersey. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The statewide collaborative between UAMS and ACH was formed to improve access to pediatric subspecialty care, support education and training of UAMS medical students, and strengthen and expand the current regional clinics located in El Dorado, Fort Smith, Harrison, Jonesboro, Mountain View and Texarkana.

The Centers for Children also offers ancillary services including X-Ray, ECG, EEG, ECHO, laboratory services, pulmonary function tests and nutrition services.

Schmieding KIDS FIRST is a comprehensive, early-intervention program for infants and young children with medical conditions and developmental delays. UAMS operates 11 KIDS FIRST centers across the state. The Schmieding Developmental Center provides medical and neuropsychological assessments for children with developmental disorders.

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