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AHEC Scholars Program Spotlight

Monday, December 17, 2018   (0 Comments)
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   Gloria Burnett, Director of Alaska AHEC Program



Continuing with the recent NW Pulse theme of debuting regional AHEC (Area Health Education Center) Scholars Programs, the Alaska AHEC is proud to share our journey to create a brand new program aligned with and dedicated to the AHEC mission to increase student interest and commitment to rural and underserved healthcare practice in the Last Frontier. The AHEC Scholars Program is a new initiative AHECs across the nation were tasked with launching upon renewal of our competitive continuation cooperative agreement funding. The vision for this national program is to increase the diversity and distribution of the healthcare workforce by providing health program students with community based learning experiences in rural and underserved communities. Experiences can be purely clinical or can be public health oriented activities such as health fairs, community screenings, or immunization clinics. These experiences are paired with relevant didactic training on specific core topic areas such as interprofessional education, behavioral health integration with primary care, social determinants of health, practice transformation and cultural competency. Each state also had the opportunity to include additional topics of specific interest to their stakeholders. Here in Alaska, additional topics such as geriatrics, trauma informed care, chronic disease, substance use disorders, oral health and suicide prevention were also approved.

The Alaska AHEC worked diligently with stakeholders including students, faculty, and health professionals to develop the Alaska AHEC Scholars Program. The program planning began with focus groups and needs assessments aligning the goals and requirements set forth by the Health Service and Resources Administration (HRSA), federal funders for the AHEC Program, and the unique needs and circumstances of the state. The planning year culminated with a summer pilot including 25 students and provided an opportunity to test processes, didactic content and potential placement sites. Students were placed in communities such as Glennallen, Bethel, Utqiagvik, Juneau, Skagway, Hooper Bay, Dillingham and Tanana.


Angelica Noa, BSN student, shared her thoughts regarding her experience with the summer pilot didactic content, “ One of the many highlights [of the AHEC Scholars Program] for me is the requirement to learn about the different concepts of care. I would not have explored it otherwise… I learned quite a bit and appreciate having that knowledge.”

Another pilot participant, Raini Dey Tanori, BSN student, expressed the value of the AHEC Scholars Program in shaping her skillsets, “The highlight of my experience so far has been my community-based learning experience. I loved having the freedom to choose my clinical site, and the amount of confidence AHEC had in me to be independent and productive. It motivated me to seek out new experiences and put my best effort in to the experience.”


The Alaska AHEC Scholars Program launched in August, 2018 with a total of 75 participants from 18 different majors including nursing, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, pharmacy, social work and human services (to name a few). Participants include both UAA Main Campus students and rural campus students from Fairbanks, Petersburg, Ketchikan and Juneau. The AHEC Scholars kickoff event took place in early September, which included a keynote by Andy Jones, Director of the Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention who also certified all attendees to dispense Narcan. 


Thanks to generous support from the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Technical Vocational Education Program, students are supported with stipends and travel support for their participation in the program. Thank you for supporting our future healthcare providers in their exploration of rural and underserved practice!


If you are interested in serving as a preceptor or you have any ideas for potential community based experiential learning opportunities, please contact Gloria Burnett gburnett3@alaska.edu




NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.


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