Critical Infrastructure Improvements Help Open New Medical School, Increase Physician Access in Rural Arkansas

To improve access to doctors in an area that ranked 48th in physician accessibility in the nation, the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas developed a strategy to establish a new medical school. As a result of this local initiative, the Arkansas Osteopathic Medical School was built and became Arkansas’ first college of osteopathic medicine. To finance the project, city leaders reached out to the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD) – an EDA-designated Economic Development District (PDF) working across six counties in Arkansas – to explore available funding. Through the WAPDD, Fort Smith pursued funding through EDA to help them make the critical infrastructure improvements they needed to build the new school. In September of 2014, EDA awarded a $1.2 million grant to the city. Construction began shortly after. EDA’s investment helped the city improve roads and sidewalks leading to the school and extended utility services to the building. Parking lots for patients, students, and staff were also completed. The project has brought tremendous benefits to Arkansas and the entire region, including parts of Oklahoma. While improving physician accessibility, the project also created 75 faculty and staff positions and now trains 150 students a year, increasing the number of health care workers and creating job opportunities in the region. See more at