Since 1998, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has had the opportunity to administer the Head Start/Early Head Start Program in Pulaski County, Arkansas.

The UAMS Department of Pediatrics became the grantee for the Pulaski County Head Start program in November of that year and today enrolls approximately 1000 Head Start and Early Head Start children and serves the interests of many more in the community.

The primary purpose of the national Head Start and Early Head Start programs – to increase the school readiness of low-income children – is a perfect match for the three missions of UAMS: to teach, to search, and to serve. UAMS accomplishes both by offering more than the traditional Head Start services. The UAMS Head Start program is highly successful at helping its students prepare for school.

In addition to educating children, the UAMS Head Start program provides educational opportunities to many others. The program provides service-learning opportunities to students enrolled in the UAMS Colleges of Nursing, Medicine, Health Related Professions and Public Health. These graduate level students work with Head Start and Early Head Start children and as a result gain valuable experience with children. Their involvement provides hands on experience and prepares them for the challenges they may face in their medical practice. UAMS also provides tuition discounts to help Head Start employees (and their family members) continue their education at UAMS affiliated higher education institutions. Children enrolled in the program and their parents have access to education, health, nutrition, dental, disabilities, oral health and mental health services from UAMS and other sources. The services provided by UAMS students and faculty range from basic medical screening services to consultations with medical specialists.

Since its inception, UAMS has provided free medical services to hundreds of students and families. UAMS staff has performed numerous health care screenings on students without access to primary care; assisted children without dental insurance to have received dental checkups from UAMS dentists; and referred children to UAMS physicians for comprehensive specialty pediatric services. In all these cases, the services provided would not have otherwise been available to the students because of gaps in, or lack of, health insurance.