To address the decline in primary care physicians and health-related professionals during the 1950s-60s, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) began the Arkansas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program in 1973, through the combined efforts of then-governor Dale Bumpers and the state Legislature. As the state’s only comprehensive academic health sciences campus, UAMS sought to expand its education outreach efforts by decentralizing medical and health-related professions education through the AHEC program. Six AHECs were established between 1973-1976 across the state, including the one in Texarkana. The AHEC program focused on training more primary care physicians and retaining more graduates of health-related professions to practice throughout the state.
UAMS AHEC Southwest was established in July 1976 in collaboration with the Sisters of Charity St. Michael Hospital. UAMS AHEC Southwest opened as a medical library on the fifth floor of St. Michael Hospital, providing access to medical monographs and journals for physicians and other health professionals. In 1982, the medical library moved to the adjacent Michael Meagher Building to expand its services. As more programs were added, more space was needed. In 1992, several programs relocated to the current campus (the historic Southern Clinic building), leaving the medical library and cancer registry at the Michael Meagher building. UAMS AHEC Southwest and Southern Clinic operated jointly from the 300 East Sixth Street building until 1995, at which time, Southern Clinic relocated to the new St. Michael campus north of Interstate 30. Renovations began on the old Southern Clinic facility, allowing all UAMS AHEC Southwest programs to relocate to the current campus. Today, UAMS Southwest serves as an Area Health Education Center and is home to three UAMS colleges, two primary care clinics, a family medicine residency program, a regional cancer registry, community education programs, and a comprehensive medical library. UAMS Southwest operates under the UAMS Regional Programs to further the efforts of expanding medical and health care education.