March 28-April 1 is National Area Health Education Center Week
AHEC, created by Congress more than 50 years ago to improve U.S. health care availability and delivery, is an important part of the nation’s health workforce development infrastructure. There are about 300 AHECs in the United States, in nearly every state and multiple U.S. territories. Approximately 120 medical schools, including the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, and 600 nursing and allied health schools work collaboratively with AHECs to improve health for underserved and under-represented populations.
Established in 2009, South Dakota’s program office for AHEC is housed within the Department of Family Medicine at the USD Sanford School of Medicine. Its three AHEC centers, located in Rapid City, Yankton and Aberdeen, foster a continuum of interdisciplinary health professions education focusing on the health care needs of the most underserved in the state.
SD AHEC sponsors and supports numerous opportunities to engage students from kindergarten to college:
- South Dakota HOSA: organization that connects and engages high school students to health care career experiences
- Scrubs Camp: a free, one-day hands-on opportunity to explore health careers, held at locations throughout the state
- Camp Med: a free, one-day hands-on experience for middle schoolers
- Various research and job shadow opportunities
- Farm And Rural Medicine (FARM): Sanford School of Medicine program for medical students
- Medical student partnership program: Sanford School of Medicine students interact with high school students
- Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students (REHPS): a four-week summer program for health professions college students, held at locations throughout the state
Dr. Susan Anderson, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Sanford School of Medicine and the SD AHEC director, said that the organization is a vital catalyst for growing health care workers in South Dakota. “AHECs are well known for connecting communities and engaging future health professionals through our programming. We make connections between communities and health care careers to develop and train a diverse, much-needed workforce prepared to deliver primary care for rural and underserved populations in South Dakota.”
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