Conway Regional Health System

Founded in 1921, Conway Regional Health System (CRHS), anchored by Conway Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Conway (Faulkner County), serves Faulkner, Cleburne, Conway, Perry, Pope, Van Buren, and Yell counties. CRHS’s mission is to provide high-quality healthcare services for the region.

During a meeting of the Conway Rotary Club in 1921, Dr. Cecil H. Dickerson, a local physician and club member, proposed building a hospital in the town. (The Rotary Club is an international community service organization for business and professional leaders.) During 1922 and 1923, Dickerson, joined by community leaders and activists, launched a bond drive to fund the new hospital’s construction. Local women organized the Faulkner County Hospital Auxiliary to raise funds. John E. Little, a Conway banker and landowner, donated the land. Opened in 1925 as a two-story brick building, the Faulkner County Hospital (FCHP) offered twenty-five patient beds.

In 1937, the City of Conway purchased the FCHP, which was in foreclosure. That same year, Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds and labor were used to renovate the hospital, increasing its capacity to thirty-three beds. As she dedicated the newly remodeled hospital in July 1938, Senator Hattie Wyatt Caraway praised “measure[s] [designed] for the relief of human suffering.” Congressman David D. Terry and state WPA administrator Floyd Sharp spoke at the dedication ceremony. In September 1938, the hospital was renamed Conway Memorial Hospital (CMH).

In the early 1950s, CMH resolved its staffing and financial struggles of the 1930s and 1940s. CMH administrators used federal funding from the Hill-Burton Act (a.k.a. the Hospital Survey and Construction Act) of 1946 to replace the old hospital building. Opened in 1957, the new sixty-two-bed CMH was located at College and Western Avenues. In 1958, administrator Noble H. Smith reported that the new CMH had “[cared] for more patients than ever were registered in the former building.”

Use of federal funding in the 1960s forced many southern hospitals, including CMH, to address the legal segregation of African Americans into separate and unequal facilities. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and federal court rulings in Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital (1963) and Cypress v. Newport News Hospital Association (1967) compelled hospitals, including CMH, to desegregate.

During the 1960s and 1970s, CMH grew to accommodate 116 beds and opened a new intensive care unit. A 1980 expansion provided additional space for CMH’s emergency, laboratory, and other departments. In 1986, a change of name to Conway Regional Hospital (CRH) reflected the institution’s continuing growth.

During the 1990s, CRH, which became Conway Regional Medical Center in 1993, built what it called “a system of health care for Central Arkansas”—termed Conway Regional Health System. By the decade’s end, Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center, a Conway branch of the cancer-treatment organization CARTI, and seven affiliated community clinics were fully operational.

CRMC’s facility in Conway continued to advance, beginning with the addition of the Conway Regional Medical Park medical offices in 2000. Completed in 2001, the Women’s Center housed the hospital’s new obstetrics and gynecology department. A $32 million state-of-the-art surgical center and expansion of the Women’s Center opened in 2012.

In August 2015, CRMC signed a five-year management agreement with CHI St. Vincent; the two institutions retained their own boards of directors. In 2016, Matt Troup became CRHS’s chief executive officer.

By 2022, CRHS operated the 150-bed CRMC, eleven primary care and after-hours clinics, and ten specialty clinics; it employed more than 225 physicians and 1,700 staff members, providing comprehensive care, including cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, obstetrics and gynecology, and surgery.

For additional information:
Beardsley, E. H. “Good-Bye to Jim Crow: The Desegregation of Southern Hospitals, 1945–70.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 60 (Fall 1986): 367–386.

“Campaign Begins Today.” Arkansas Gazette, October 29, 1923, p. 1.

“Conway Hospital Changes Name.” Arkansas Gazette, June 7, 1986, p. 18A.

“Conway Hospital Load Up.” Arkansas Democrat, January 30, 1958, p. 20.

Conway Regional Health System. (accessed November 15, 2022).

“Conway’s New 62-Bed Memorial Hospital in Use.” Arkansas Gazette, July 21, 1957, p. 12C.

Donald, Leroy. “Medical Complex in Conway.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 11, 1999, p. 103.

Faris, Ann. “Memorial Hospital at Conway Operates on a Painless Basis.” Arkansas Gazette, November 28, 1954, p. 9E.

“Growth Gives Conway a Bright Outlook.” Arkansas Gazette, January 20, 1980, p. 19G.

“Hospitals Told to Integrate for Federal Aid.” Arkansas Gazette, May 28, 1965, p. 1B.

“Interesting Talks at the Rotary Meeting.” Log Cabin Democrat, December 22, 1921, p. 2.

Keith, Tammy. “Conway Regional Ready to Open $32 Million Addition.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 8, 2012, p. 135.

Meisel, Jay. “Hospital Tries to Heal Growing Pains.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 31, 1996, pp. 1B, 7B.

“New Hospital at Conway Dedicated.” Arkansas Gazette, July 25, 1938, p. 2.

“Outgrown Our Name.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 31, 1993, p. 39.

Reynolds, P. Preston. “Professional and Hospital Discrimination and the US Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit 1956–1967.” American Journal of Public Health 94 (May 2004): 710–720.

Rosenberg, Charles E. The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America’s Hospital System. New York: Basic Books, 1987.

Melanie K. Welch
Mayflower, Arkansas


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