Suen rises from humble beginnings


Some might say that James Y. Suen started life as a “commoner,” a son of a Chinese immigrant who came to America as a farm worker in Dermott nearly a century ago. But from his humble Southeast Arkansas beginnings, the younger Suen has risen to achieve uncommon success as a physician, educator, author and community servant.

“He is absolutely amazing,” University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center for Healthcare Research and Development Director Tim Hill said of Suen, who was among President Bill Clinton’s personal physicians during the former Arkansas governor’s eight-year White House stay.

Hill pointed out that in addition to being the only doctor to hail from Dermott, Suen is also the nation’s longest-tenured chair in his field. Along with practicing medicine, Suen is a professor at and chairman of the UAMS Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Suen works about 60 hours each week.

“I’m busier than ever,” he said, noting that he’s energized by educating future doctors.

Having grown up in Southeast Arkansas, Suen is familiar with the region’s history, its people and their strengths and weaknesses. He has no intentions of disrespecting Pine Bluff when he relates the reality that the city usually isn’t as desirable to young doctors as Little Rock, Jonesboro or Bentonville.

Suen views CHED as an opportunity for him to aid his birthplace’s region. His many accomplishments indicate the area can expect good things from Suen’s leadership.

A former Air Force captain who received his medical degree from UAMS in 1966, he has won numerous professional recognitions and awards for his volunteerism. Named in 1995 as one of the top 400 cancer specialists in the U.S., he has since been listed in all editions of “Good Housekeeping’s Best Doctors in America.”

He is a co-founder of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center and has written and edited six medical textbooks.