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Over 30 years ago, South Dakota had an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) with five offices statewide. This original AHEC was supported by grant funding until programmatic changes at the federal level altered the funding mechanism. This left South Dakota's original program with little monetary support, although the Yankton Rural AHEC remained a viable organization.

Following a statewide summit of stakeholders in 2008, work began on securing a grant to reestablish an AHEC in South Dakota, which was submitted in January 2009. Notification of the initial three-year award was received in August 2009.

The South Dakota AHEC program office was established in September 2009, within the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine's Department of Family Medicine. An advisory board and advisory panel were named. The board meets quarterly and the panel meets once per year. The Yankton Rural AHEC was re-established as an officially recognized center at this time, with its own advisory board and advisory panel in place.

In the fall of 2010, the program office made the decision to use a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in naming the second AHEC. The RFP was distributed widely, resulting in four applications with the South Dakota AHEC Advisory Board awarding the grant to the Collaborative for a Northeast South Dakota AHEC following a lengthy proposal review and site visit process. An advisory board and advisory panel were subsequently named.

A five-year competitive continuation grant was submitted to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in February 2012. The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine was notified by HRSA in August 2012 that the South Dakota AHEC had been awarded a five year continuation to further the valuable work of developing and supporting the state's health care workforce.

The South Dakota Area Health Education Center is funded by Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce cooperative agreement #U77HP26850 through Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. Additional funding to support South Dakota AHEC is made possible through the contributions of its academic and community partners.