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Centers for Children in Northwest Arkansas Expanding to Add Primary Care Clinic and Additional Pediatric Subspecialty Services

LOWELL, Ark. (Dec. 1, 2010) -- The demand for pediatric subspecialty care in northwest Arkansas exceeds the available services, but this week's expansion of the UAMS/ ACH Centers for Children in Lowell may help meet part of that need. The Centers for Children, located at 519 Latham Drive, opened in May 2007 and is a collaborative project of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH). Physicians affiliated with both the UAMS College of Medicine and ACH provide pediatric subspecialty care in 15 areas. The center also houses the Schmieding Developmental Center and the Schmieding KIDS FIRST program.

On Dec. 2, the two-story, 40,000-square-foot center will open a Primary Care Clinic on its first floor for sick and well-child visits. The clinic includes 12 examination 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. Upstairs houses space for an expanded pediatric neurology clinic, attracting patients from as far as northeast Arkansas and around the region. The second-floor clinics 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 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.

"The northwest Arkansas community has responded very positively to our services," said UAMS chancellor Dan Rahn, MD. "Physicians have staffed these weekly clinics for years - cardiology for 20 years - so it's very rewarding to have an expanding operation in such a well-equipped facility."

Remodeling of the existing space began in July, with almost half of the space for the KIDS FIRST program on the first floor being reconfigured for the primary care clinic. Reconfiguration of clinic space on the second floor provided more appropriately proportioned space for the expanding clinics. The exterior of the property is also being modified, with the addition of 65 parking spaces. Appointments for the primary care clinic and the subspecialty clinics may be made by calling the Centers for Children directly at (479) 750-0125, option 0.

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 received his medical degree from Lyceum-Northwestern in Pangasinan, Philippines, and completed his residency in pediatric neurology at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Balmakund is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, with a special qualification in pediatric neurology. 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 received her medical degree from Universidad Central Del Caribe School of Medicine in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and completed her pediatric residency program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. 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 Arkansas Children's Hospital includes 24 existing clinics throughout the state where services are provided by the UAMS Department of Pediatrics or Arkansas Children's Hospital. The collaborative 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.

In support of the collaborative, physicians from the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics who practice at Arkansas Children's Hospital commuted weekly to the Centers for Children to conduct regional clinics. As more specialty physicians are hired locally, the weekly clinics will become daily clinics, and physicians who commute from Little Rock will no longer attend the regional clinics.

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.

The KIDS FIRST program is located on the first floor of the Centers for Children, with the developmental center and regional clinics housed on the second floor. ACH and UAMS share equally the expenses of the 10-year lease of the building, owned by The Pinnacle Group of Rogers.

The UAMS ACH Centers for Children in Lowell is part of a statewide working collaborative between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Arkansas Children's Hospital(ACH) to enhance and expand regional pediatric subspecialty clinics across Arkansas. The Center houses the Schmieding Developmental Center and Schmieding KIDS FIRST programs. For more information, visit

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. The campus spans 28 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. It is the state's only Level 1 pediatric trauma center. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. ACH recently ranked No. 85 on FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit .

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state's only Level 1 trauma center. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS' Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or .


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