May 30, 2018

On the Shoulders of Giants: College of Medicine Honors Academic House Namesakes

UAMS College of Medicine students, faculty and leaders paid homage to the namesakes of the college’s seven Academic Houses at a recent dinner for family members of the iconic educators, alumni and other groundbreakers whose legacies live on through their impact on health care in Arkansas.

“It is an understatement to say that our Academic Houses are named after some of the giants in medicine in Arkansas,” Interim Dean Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., told guests at the May 17 dinner.

Doctor and nurse examine a baby

Academic House namesake George William Stanley Ish, M.D., cared for generations of families in Little Rock and founded hospitals and a tuberculosis sanatorium to provide groundbreaking care for African-American patients during the long era of segregation. (Photo courtesy of the Persistence of the Spirit Collection, PS11.03A, Arkansas State Archives)

“Abernathy, Beall, Bruce, Compton, Ish, Lowe, and Tank …” he said, reciting the house names.

“With names like these, the Academic Houses are providing our students with powerful inspiration for the physicians that they – and all of us in the College of Medicine – hope they will become.”

Students echoed Westfall’s words of gratitude in presentations about each house and the namesakes (all deceased) that members chose for inspiration when the houses were launched two years ago. They gave family members or a representative a framed copy of their house’s student-designed crest and explained the symbolism they had incorporated.

11 people flank a poster on an easel

Eight family members of George William Stanley Ish, M.D., join students of the Ish House for a photo with the house’s crest at the dinner celebrating the legacy of the academic house namesakes.

“We chose a lion as our house symbol,” said Chase Wingfield, a junior in the house named after Betty Lowe, M.D., a 1956 UAMS graduate who became a nationally prominent pediatrician, transformative medical director at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), and beloved faculty member and mentor for generations of students, trainees and colleagues at UAMS and ACH.

“Just as Dr. Lowe was steadfast in her resolve to advance medicine in Arkansas, seeing that every child has not only an opportunity to receive health care, but also the most up-to-date, advanced treatments at their fingertips, we want to continue that resolve into the future,” Wingfield said.

The houses are structured learning communities, not physical residences. Each house includes students from all four class years along with specially trained physician and basic sciences faculty advisors. The houses provide extensive academic and career counseling, foster peer mentoring, and host wellness-focused events.

Scientist-educator with two students

Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D., pictured here with students in 2009, taught gross anatomy to more than 4,000 medical students during his 34 years on the faculty

Many house activities focus on academic success and preparation for crucial milestones such as national exams and the increasingly competitive National Resident Matching Program, which determines where medical school graduates will train in their specialty before becoming fully licensed physicians. For the past two years, UAMS’ graduating seniors achieved their highest residency match rates in over a decade, and the academic houses are credited as a factor.

The dinner welcomed namesakes’ family members from around the country, including eight family members of the late George William Stanley Ish, M.D., a Harvard-trained African-American physician who cared for citizens in his hometown of Little Rock from the 1920s through 1960s. Among many accomplishments, Ish established hospitals and the state’s McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which cared for black patients during the long era of segregated facilities. It was the first institution in Arkansas and one of the first in the nation to use isoniazid and streptomycin to treat the disease, according to the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Man sitting by a canoe

Neil E. Compton, M.D., a 1939 UAMS graduate, practiced obstetrics and gynecology in northwest Arkansas for decades. He gained acclaim as a conservationist and champion of the Buffalo River. (Photo by Debra Billingsby, 1992, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.)

“We are proud and so happy that the college is honoring our grandfather,” said Marye Ish of Fort Washington, Maryland, who attended with her sister, Lynette Ish-Greene, of Novi, Michigan, and six other family members. “We can’t tell you how much that means to us. Even as children, we knew our grandfather was doing special work, even if we didn’t fully understand it.”

Emily Holthoff, a graduating senior and student leader in the Ish House, expressed gratitude to the family for expanding her understanding of Dr. Ish’s legacy while they enjoyed dinner together. She explained for other guests how the phoenix rising from ashes on her house’s crest represents renewal and overcoming adversity. “We felt like that is exactly what Dr. Ish did,” Holthoff said. “And that is something that we hope we can do as physicians throughout our careers. We hope to overcome the obstacles we face, for the betterment of our patients.”


Robert Abernathy, M.D., Ph.D., served on the faculty from 1957-2002 and chaired the Department of Internal Medicine from 1967-1977.

Colleen Flanagan, a junior, spoke on behalf of the Tank House, whose namesake, Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D., helped more than 4,000 medical students learn the complexities of the human body during his 34 years on the faculty, including 27 as director of the gross anatomy course for freshmen. Tank died in 2012. Today, medical students at UAMS continue to be guided by “Grant’s Dissector,” a manual that was edited by Tank for three of its editions and is used at medical schools around the world. His name is also on UAMS’ state-of-the-art gross anatomy lab.

“The name Tank is most likely the first distinguished name a medical student learns upon starting at UAMS,” Flanagan said.

nine people next to easel

Family members of academic house namesake Robert Abernathy, M.D., Ph.D., pose with students and faculty representatives of the Abernathy House and the house’s crest.

“Dr. Tank’s time at UAMS came before my classmates’ arrival. However, looking back at all of his accomplishments, three things are obvious. Dr. Tank devoted his life to his profession; his students cherished him; and UAMS would not be what it is today without Dr. Tank’s work.”

Students shared many other stories of gratitude about their house namesakes:

  • Robert Abernathy, M.D., Ph.D.
    Internal Medicine Chair 1967-77, infectious diseases leader
  • Ruth Olive Beall
    Early ACH leader
  • Thomas A. Bruce, M.D. ’55
    College of Medicine Dean 1974-85, College of Public Health, Clinton School of Public Service cofounder
  • Neil E. Compton, M.D. ’39
    Northwest Arkansas obstetrician/gynecologist and nationally lauded conservationist
  • George William Stanley Ish, M.D.
    Prominent black Little Rock physician 1920s-60s, tuberculosis sanatorium founder
  • Betty A. Lowe, M.D. ’56
    Pediatrician, ACH medical leader, mentor to many medical students, residents, faculty
  • Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D.
    Longtime UAMS gross anatomy educator

For more information on these namesakes and the College of Medicine’s learning communities, visit the Academic Houses website.

Woman looking up from desk

As the second superintendent of what was then known as the Arkansas Children's Hospital and Home, Ruth Olive Beall steered the hospital through the Great Depression and oversaw its growth in subsequent decades. (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Children's Hospital)


Thomas A. Bruce, M.D., was a 1955 graduate who served as College of Medicine Dean from 1974-1985. He was later instrumental in founding the UAMS College of Public Health and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.