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AHEC Scholars Program Spotlight

Monday, July 20, 2020   (0 Comments)
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Written by: Gloria Burnett, Director of Alaska AHEC Program


This article is a follow-up to the 2018 AHEC Article Series. Click here to read the original article.


The Alaska AHEC (Area Health Education Center) is excited to share how our journey has progressed since the launch of the AHEC Scholars program. Since the program launch, the Alaska AHEC has successfully begun fulfilling the mission to increase the diversity and distribution of the healthcare workforce by providing health program students at Alaska institutions with community based learning experiences in rural and underserved communities. These experiences can include clinicals, job shadows, immunization clinics, community based projects including research, and facilitation of trainings such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), NARCAN, and Maternal Health Education (Premera Baby Box). These experiences are paired with relevant didactic training on six specific core topic areas: behavioral health integration with primary care, cultural competency, interprofessional education, social determinants of health, practice transformation and current and emerging health issues specific to Alaska including COVID-19, geriatrics, trauma informed care, chronic disease, substance use disorders, oral health and suicide.


Since our last article, our first cohort completed the program in addition to our pilot for a total of 46 graduated AHEC Scholars. Students traveled to locations such as Kalskag, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Dillingham, Petersburg, Nome, Juneau, Kenai, Joint Base Elemndorf Richardson, Craig, Sutton, Kodiak, Bethel, Klawock, Skagway, Sitka, Soldotna, Homer, Haines and more. We are continually growing our network of placement sites as well as our network of community partners.


Brianna Gibbs Cooper


The best testimonials of our program’s success live with our participants. Brianna Gibbs Cooper, Occupational Therapy Doctorate, a member of the 2018 cohort, shared her thoughts and experiences as an AHEC Scholar, "AHEC really enhanced my academic program and allowed me to take my learning to a much deeper, place-based level. Alaska's communities, cultures, and healthcare infrastructure are so unique, and I loved the opportunity to live and learn in rural healthcare environments through the community-based learning experience. The didactic learning opportunities allowed me to explore topics not covered in my program, such as trauma informed care, cultural competency, or transgender health issues. The program also helped cultivate connections with peers and providers throughout the state, allowing me to build a strong support network as I navigate entry-level practice."


With the onset of COVID-19, we are looking at ways that we can offer the same great experience while being cognizant of the health of our communities by exploring alternate ways we can deliver training and offer support based on individual community needs. AHEC Scholars are filming educational videos, making personal protective equipment, and serving as mentors to rural students participating in distance learning for the first time.


We have made significant progress but are still focused on growth - growing the number of AHEC Scholars, growing our network of community partners, expanding into smaller communities of Alaska, and fostering partnerships with new and existing academic partnerships. We are still so grateful for the generous support from the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Technical Vocational Education Program for providing students with stipends and travel support for their participation in AHEC Scholars. We would also like to recognize our current community partners and thank them for supporting Alaska’s future healthcare providers in their rural and underserved endeavors.


If you are interested in becoming a community partner, please contact Gloria Burnett gburnett3@alaska.edu or 907-786-6705.







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