Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

ACHI announces Dr. Joe Bates inaugural recipient of Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award

Article Date: 11/15/2016

For Immediate Release
November 15, 2016

For more information contact
Mary-Lee Smith
Director of Communications
Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
1401 West Capitol Avenue | Suite 300 - Victory Building | Little Rock, AR  72201
501.526.2248 direct;

ACHI announces Dr. Joe Bates inaugural recipient of
Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) announced today Dr. Joseph H. Bates is the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact Award.

“There are few medical professionals whose life’s work transcends their individual sphere of influence to positively impact society as a whole,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, ACHI Director. “Joe Bates is one of those people. His selfless commitment to the public good and his unyielding advocacy of the poor and vulnerable of Arkansas is the gold standard to which all of us in medicine should aspire.”

Dr. Bates graduated from the University of Arkansas College of Medicine in 1957 and is currently Deputy State Health Officer and Chief Science Officer with the Arkansas Department of Health. He also serves as Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). 

He rose to international prominence in the 1960s when he proved tuberculosis was transmitted by airborne particles and not direct contact as was the prevailing belief. In a second study, he proved that with proper treatment, TB patients could return home in a couple of weeks without fear of spreading the disease. These two studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, radically changed treatment protocols of the day when patients would spend months or years isolated in sanatoriums.

Dr. Bates was also a staunch proponent of public health initiatives and physician training. He was instrumental in the formation of ACHI, a policy research and medical advocacy organization and played a key role in the establishment of the College of Public Health, serving as a member of its faculty and administration.

Nicknamed “Mad Dog” Bates early in his medical career, he showed a tenacity of purpose worthy of the name throughout his career, from providing critical leadership for the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, which protects Arkansans from secondhand smoke, to fighting for fluoridation of Arkansas' drinking water to promote oral health to championing the health needs of more than 6,000 citizens of the Marshall Islands living in Arkansas, resulting in the 2011 construction of the Springdale health clinic named in his honor.

Dr. Bates’ award honors another giant of Arkansas medicine, the late Dr. Thomas Bruce who was dean of the state’s college of medicine for a decade. Known as “the father of public health in Arkansas” by colleagues, Dr. Bruce was also a pioneer in the field of community health and spent the latter half of his life improving access and quality of care for the poor and marginalized throughout Arkansas and the country.

Dr. Bruce is remembered for having improved and expanded the college of medicine and for addressing the lack of physicians in the state’s rural areas through the formation of the Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), which provided physicians in less-populated areas of Arkansas. He, along with his wife Delores, also seeded ACHI with a $100,000 donation, which paved the way for the organization’s formation.

He also launched initiatives through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, provided direction for the national Community-Based Public Health Initiative and along with colleague Richard Norton, published a nationally acclaimed book, Improving Rural Health, detailing innovative UAMS training programs that grew out of rural research studies. He served as dean (pro tem) of both the College of Public Health and Clinton School of Public Service.

Dr. Bates received the award, named in honor of his colleague and medical school classmate, at a special ceremony November 14 at Robinson Center in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst to improve the health of Arkansans.


Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
1401 West Capitol
Suite 300 (Victory Building)
Little Rock, AR 72201