Published on Talk Business & Politics on April 29, 2020
Written by Tina Avery Dale

The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) will on May 16 virtually graduate 40 students from its biomedical studies program.

Graduation for students earning their master’s degree in biomedicine was scheduled for May 16 at Stubblefield Center at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Because of safety precautions in place throughout the state to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the virtual video ceremony will now be available on YouTube at 10 a.m. May 16.  Students will receive the link via email and the link will also be made available for family and friends on the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education Facebook page, a news release from the college said.

“We are going to celebrate these students. In light of COVID-19, we will proceed with the celebration in a ceremony that falls under the safety guidelines as required by this national pandemic,” said Kyle Parker, CEO of ACHE. “I am disappointed that we will not be able to recognize their achievements in a traditional face-to-face ceremony, but the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are at the forefront of every decision.”

The ceremony will highlight the 40 students graduating from master program in biomedicine that began in July 2019 at ACHE. The one-year program is designed to prepare students for a career in the medical and health profession or for a related field that requires a graduate level biomedical sciences degree, said Susan Devero, executive director of communications and community relations at ACHE. The majority of the students will use the program to prepare them for medical school, Devero said.

Of the 40, 16 have been accepted to the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2024.

Fort Smith Mayor George McGill will give the keynote address for the graduation ceremony. His address as well as speeches from Parker; Brian Kim, ACHE president; John Taylor, board of trustees chair; and Dr. Kenneth Hensley, MSB program director Kenneth Hensley were recorded in advance for the video program.

“It is an honor to have Mayor George McGill as the keynote speaker,” Kim said. “(He) has a long history of public service and volunteer work, and the way he has led our community with both resilience and passion makes him the perfect person to address our first graduates. We are honored that he was willing to present his address to the students through our virtual ceremony.”

Each graduate will be recognized with a slide of their photo and future plans and the official reading of their name. The ceremony will conclude with a photo montage to highlight their year-long work as MSB students. Following the ceremony, graduates will receive a “graduation box” with the commemorative program, diploma cover and a gift from the ACHE Alumni Association.

While the 40 students are the first to graduate from ACHE, the first class from the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM) will graduate on May 15, 2021. There are 450 enrolled at ARCOM, 150 of each first, second and third years.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic caused changes in classes this spring, it did not delay classes or hinder students from finishing the year.

“Fortunately, the leadership at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education designed our technology infrastructure to have online learning capabilities. Our students have continued without disruption to their studies,” Devero said.

ACHE is a private, non-profit institution located in Chaffee Crossing. The first class of students at ARCOM started in August 2017. Construction is now complete on the new 66,000-square-foot facility that will be the home to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant degree programs.