PRESCRIPTION FOR THE FUTURE UAMS program aims to enhance local health services

Dr. Stephen Shorts of Pine Bluff’s South Arkansas Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic is pushing 70. Dr. James Suen, chairman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Science’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, has already eclipsed that mark.

Neither has any immediate plans for riding off into the sunset, but they do share a concern for the future availability of specialized medical care in Southeast Arkansas.

Shorts is a Louisiana native who is starting his 31st year of practice here, and his clinic is the only one of its kind remaining in the region. As a Dermott native, Suen — an internationally respected medical educator and physician — is especially interested in the area’s health care. Thus, the two are pleased to be working in tandem through the recently established, Little Rock-based UAMS Center for Healthcare Enhancement and Development.

Ear, nose and throat surgeons Dr. Jennings Boyette and Dr. Angela Paddack are each practicing one day a week in Shorts’ clinic, lessening Shorts’ load and helping to ensure expanded patient services. The arrangement is CHED’s first partnership, but only one of many alliances in which the agency intends to be involved, Director Tim Hill said.

Hill pointed out that Boyette and Paddack served residencies at UAMS, where Paddack is completing a one-year fellowship. Boyette did a fellowship at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at Shreveport.

Hill — aided by Pine Bluff native Dr. Justin Hunt and Dr. Mark Jansen — said CHED’s aim is promoting the best health care “closest to home.” Hill said ideas for partnerships exist statewide and include the use of telemedicine to bring specialty care to areas lacking such services.

“The enthusiasm and creativity we’re sensing is awesome,” Hill said. “We are re-thinking both the business model and the health care model. We are coming up with some creative ideas to meet the needs for access to care and improve the health and health care of all Arkansans.

“The need is certainly there,” Hunt continued. “We’re talking to the hospitals and providers across the state to determine what their needs are and eventually try to fill their needs.

Hill foresees future CHED support efforts in the cardiac and urology fields.

“We’ve got a great relationship with most physicians in the area, and Jefferson Regional Medical Center,” he said.

Suen, who described Shorts as a longtime friend and colleague, said JRMC has been trying for some time to recruit another ear, nose and throat specialist. JRMC’s search began after Shorts lost his clinic partner.

Suen said the need for a second such specialist is critical as JRMC, which counts about 200,000 patients in Southeast Arkansas, is in need of support in his field. CHED also will serve UAMS with referrals from this area, Suen expects.

Shorts considers the program “a win” for JRMC as well as his clinic and the facilities’ patients, as his advancing age is beginning to tax his physical abilities as a physician and surgeon.

“My knees and joints are wearing out,” he said with a chuckle.