Pearl McElfish Honored for Work to Advance Health Care in Northwest Arkansas

Pearl McElfish was recognized by the Northwest Arkansas Council for her work to advance health care in the region and to protect vulnerable populations.

McElfish was presented with the Council’s Community Service Award at the organization’s Winter Meeting on Friday, Feb. 25 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

McElfish, who has lived in Northwest Arkansas for 15 years, is the executive director of community health and research at the Northwest Regional campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She had been the top administrator on the campus until recently returning to her roots in research.

After receiving the award, McElfish said she loves the region and is “proud to be part of such a vibrant community.” She said the time she’d invested in the community has been “about having it so every person in Northwest Arkansas has an opportunity to live a healthy life.”

McElfish’s work has been invaluable in a variety of ways, said Nelson Peacock, the Council’s president and CEO. “This award is indicative of the impact of Pearl’s work throughout her career.”

She has been critical to the success of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Health Care Transformation Division, a consortium of providers working together to pursue regionwide health care goals and objectives.

It was McElfish who led an effort to obtain $7 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding that led to enhanced testing and an effective contact tracing program specifically designed for the Hispanic and Marshallese communities in Arkansas.

She was central to a $10 million grant that helped UAMS expand community-based outreach efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.

Right now, McElfish and a regional team are just days from submitting an application in pursuit of $75 million Build Back Better federal grant to support training the region’s health care workforce while advancing the health care economy. Led by McElfish, the team was among 60 first-round winners from a field of more than 500 applications. The winners are pursuing the larger second-round award.