From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Two years ago the legislature made a commitment to help the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences achieve a designation as a National Cancer Institute.
More than $10 million a year is dedicated to UAMS for patient care, clinical trials, outreach and education.
To supplement the ongoing financial support approved by the legislature, UAMS has set its own fundraising goal of $30 million.
Thanks to a generous donation of $1 million from Chris and Kim Fowler of Jonesboro, UAMS is now halfway toward its fundraising goal.
Within two or three years, UAMS should be ready to submit its application to be recognized as a National Cancer Institute.
There are only 71 in the United States, and currently the closest ones to Arkansas are in Memphis, Dallas and Oklahoma City.
Cancer patients do better when they receive treatment closer to home. The emotional and financial stress on their families is much less when they don’t have to leave the state.
A national cancer institute designation would guarantee that UAMS is able to provide cutting edge treatment.
The benefits go beyond better treatment for cancer patients. Expanded clinical trials and research would bring more donations and grants.
Already UAMS has hired 16 additional staff for its research laboratories. The medical school has also hired 22 additional technicians to run clinical trials.
By the time UAMS applies for designation as a national cancer institute, it will have hired 300 additional people for expanded clinical trials.
The economic benefits are remarkable – an estimated $70 million in new dollars every year going into the Arkansas economy and the creation of more than 600 good jobs.
That’s quite a return on the state’s investment of $10.5 million a year, coming from taxes on cigarette papers and additional revenue from sales taxes resulting from an increase in maximum prices allowed on cigarettes.
Also, some of the money comes from revenue transferred from taxes on medical marijuana.
This is good news, and not only for people who live in Arkansas. Already, UAMS treats people from 50 countries worldwide.
But the designation as a national cancer institute will provide the greatest benefits to residents of Arkansas’ 75 counties, because community outreach is a key component of the UAMS application.
UAMS must prove to the National Cancer Institute that it serves people in all 75 counties. In fact, UAMS officials say that community outreach will account for about 35 percent of its score when the medical school’s application is considered.
It’s no wonder that the legislature approved the UAMS cancer institute bill by a unanimous vote of both House and Senate.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.