A "topping off" ceremony for the proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine was at 7000 Chad Colley Blvd. at Chaffee Crossing.

The Arkansas Colleges of Heath Education is in the process of building the state’s first osteopathic medical college. The ceremony for the new building will mark the completion of the steel construction phase of the $32.4 million project.

Officially announced in February 2014, the college expects to graduate 150 doctors from its first class in 2020. Nearly 80 percent of the graduates are expected to set up shop in western Arkansas and help fill the need for primary care physicians, according to Kyle Parker, CEO and president of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

The college also will have a 28-month program for physician assistants with slots for at least 75 physician students. After four years, the school will support up to 600 medical students.

The current doctor-to-patient ratio in Arkansas is 1 to 1,419, Parker added. Fort Smith needs 160 more doctors to meet demand. About 60 percent of the 70,000-plus practicing osteopathic physicians in the United States work in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.