The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is a vital partner in improving access and efficiency in our health-care system. However, its impact on our State extends far beyond medical care. Recently, the world's largest nonprofit independent research and development organization released findings measuring UAMS's economic impact on the State. The report confirms that the expansion of quality medical care and health research is a critical component of Arkansas's economic growth.
UAMS is Arkansas's largest public employer, with more than 10,000 doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians on its payroll. These high-skill, high-wage jobs provide a rewarding standard of living for thousands of Arkansas families whose spending power is felt throughout our state's economy.
Those employees not only provide medical care to Arkansans, they also conduct research to develop new and innovative technologies and treatments. And they educate the next generation of health-care workers. As a Level 1 Trauma Center, UAMS is at the heart of Arkansas's coordinated initiative to prevent deaths from injuries. The biomedical business incubator, UAMS BioVentures, has produced start-up companies, which last year had a combined payroll of more than $26 million. With nearly 3,000 students, UAMS awards degrees and certificates to students from every county in Arkansas.
UAMS also serves the needs of the un-served and underserved populations in our State. Through regional Area Health Education Centers, UAMS provides access to medical services for rural residents. And it brings education to health professionals and students. UAMS has received a $102 million grant to connect hundreds of community institutions to broadband Internet access to deliver health care and education to our citizens. This will vastly improve telemedicine, expand education, and help rural businesses grow.
While many sectors of the U.S. economy have contracted in recent times, the biomedical sector has continued to expand and add jobs. In the last four years, we saw a 58% increase in degrees and certificates awarded in the health-care fields and related sciences in Arkansas. Arkansas's aging population will require more care in the future, and by 2018, we expect the health-care industry to create 35,000 new jobs for Arkansans.
As the industry grows, we must be aware that the state's responsibilities and costs will also grow. Health-care costs continue to outpace economic growth, and so it is imperative that we make changes to the way we pay for medical services, rewarding results and not just treatment. Arkansas is positioned to lead the nation in providing solutions to these challenges.
UAMS and other health-care providers in our State are important partners in controlling costs and improving the quality and accessibility of health care to all of our citizens. Working together, our mission is to improve the quality of life for all Arkansans and create the opportunities they want and deserve.