UAMS Earns $750K to Relaunch Family Medicine Residency Program

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has earned a $750,000 federal grant to help reestablish a family medicine residency program in El Dorado.

The grant was awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. UAMS is one of just 15 organizations nationwide to receive funding from an $11 million effort to launch medical residency programs in rural communities.

UAMS will use the grant for curriculum development, recruiting and training faculty and staff, and other costs associated with achieving accreditation and sustainability.

“The establishment of a family medicine residency program in El Dorado will provide a framework to help address the workforce shortage that rural areas across Arkansas are facing,” said Donya Watson, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. “We would like to recruit and train graduates from Arkansas medical schools who will hopefully stay in Arkansas to practice.”

The goal of the El Dorado residency program is to improve and expand access to healthcare in rural areas while also strengthening the physician workforce in underserved south Arkansas communities. The program will be a partnership between UAMS and South Arkansas Regional Hospital and will establish a rural track family medicine program with a focus on maternal health and obstetrics.

Watson will be the program director of the El Dorado residency program, which will serve as a full-circle moment for her.

“For me personally, as a graduate of the program here in 1997, I am very excited about the opportunity to help train the next generation of the health care workforce for El Dorado and south Arkansas,” Watson said.

The program aims to earn accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in 2025 and enroll its first residents in the summer of 2026. The trainees will complete part of their residency in Little Rock at UAMS and Arkansas Children's Hospital, though the majority of their training will be spent immersed in El Dorado and south Arkansas-based rural clinical settings.