Commentary by Sandra Johnson, MD
Life is worth living in Fort Smith. This was the motto of our former mayor Ray Baker. I believe it. I also believe what goes around comes around. After all, 1980’s hair and clothing are hip again. Anyway, in the very distant past, Fort Smith was the mecca for health care. But then, corporate America took hold of health care and that changed….for the worse. Doctors left Fort Smith in record numbers. We don’t need to harp on that era. It was during this dreary period however that my husband wanted to move back home and open a Dermatology practice together. My husband loves his hometown and he was unaware of the downturn in the medical community when he insisted we move to Fort Smith (Greenwood actually) to open our Dermatology practice after his derm surgery fellowship in 2006. After all, he insisted, if there are not many doctors we should be busy. (I love him and how he always look at the bright side.) He was right. Even though Fort Smith was not my hometown, it is now. I love it here. I love the community. I love that it is family oriented and is a great place to raise our children. I love it so much that I love to give back to our community. I love being a part of Leadership Fort Smith, the local Chambers of Commerce and various committees. Life is worth living in Fort Smith (and Greenwood).
Fast forward to present day and Fort Smith is thriving again. Many physicians are moving here and enjoying it. Our Chamber of Commerce even started a New Physician reception a few years ago. In fact, even we were able to recruit a wonderful Dermatologist who joined us last year. For those of you interested, we (Johnson Dermatology) are still recruiting as are the hospitals and other groups in town…for all specialties. There seems to be a new Mercy clinic with new primary care physicians opening every month. There is actually a lot of collaboration occurring between the local hospitals…at least in my opinion. We have an impressive Good Samaritan Clinic. The UAMS West AHEC wins many awards. The residents who rotate at our clinic from UAMS West are the best and brightest. IM Well clinics started in Fort Smith about 10 years ago with forward thinking physicians and has grown tremendously with far reaching benefits for employers, employees and communities. Health and Wellness programs are thriving. We are fighting the good fight and we are winning.
The first class of medical students will start in a few months at our new medical school. I was overwhelmed by the facility, technology, faculty and campus of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. I was told there were thousands of applications for the about 100 positions and the average MCAT score was 3 points higher than the national average. The people behind the medical school are working with other community leaders and have big plans to help our health care system and health care education in many ways to help our community for years to come. I think this collaboration is an important part to the improved health and health care situation of our community. Don’t get me wrong, there are still naysayers and people who belittle and don’t play well in the sandbox. But in general, the situation continues to improve. Our trails continue to lengthen. We have had a marathon for 3 years. We have impressive bike races. Our economy is steadily growing. Physicians are serving on multiple organizations. Our university, UAFS, is thriving in athletics and academics. Health care, education, family values, quality of life—what else does one want or need?
In summary, life is worth living in Fort Smith. If you don’t believe me or would like me to show you, let me know. You can reach me by phone, email, website, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Snapchat, or even snail mail….we have all of those in Fort Smith. Even if you do not make it to Fort Smith, I hope your life is worth living wherever you are. Stay Skintastic.