County, JDCC chosen to host AHEC

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

State health care leaders were in Brewton last week to help local professionals form the state’s newest location of the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) programs.
With only five potential locations in the state, Brewton was chosen as the third location for a center, which will be housed on the campus of Jefferson Davis Community College.
Dr. Daniel Bain, JDCC president, said the opportunity to be a host location is a testimony to the open doors of the community.
“We embraced the invitation to serve as the host location for this part of the state,” Bain said. “This will be wonderful for this community and will be a wonderful opportunity for our citizens by allowing new ways for us to show our support, care and love for our citizens.”
The AHEC program became a reality in Alabama after the University of Alabama At Birmingham’s School of Medicine received a five-year, $5.25 million dollar grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to create the statewide program.
AHEC’s purpose is to reduce health disparities by improving the quantity, diversity, distribution and quality of Alabama’s healthcare workforce.
Ruth Harrell, director of the Coalition for a Healthy Escambia County and a 53-year veteran of healthcare work, said the establishment of an AHEC office here will be a far-reaching benefit for the area.
“I can remember the dark years after AHEC lost funding in Alabama,” Harrell said. “I am grateful for the resurrection of AHEC for Alabama and grateful that Escambia County has been selected to become the AHEC center for this region.”
Harrell said one of the plans for those involved in the AHEC organization for the 10-county region it will serve will be to focus on re-introducing the possibility of careers for youth in the communities served.
“We will have someone in our schools to say ‘you can do this’ to the students,” Harrell said. “If children don’t have the feeling that something is possible, they will never try.”
Under the direction of Art Clawson, associate director for the Alabama’s AHEC program, UAB is working to establish five regional offices around the state that will address the AHEC goal by undertaking a number of initiatives to increase the number of students who enter healthcare programs.
“To have the opportunity to build the program from the ground up is exciting,” Clawson said. “We will be working with partners to determine what is needed and bring resources to health centers to meet local health needs. We want to introduce students to health careers.”
Clawson said providing AHEC benefits to residents and professionals in all 67 Alabama counties is the target for the UAB group.
“Our goal is to develop a sustainable AHEC program that covers all of Alabama’s counties with five community-based centers with dozens of statewide and community partners,” Clawson said. “We will implement programs, services and activities that target underrepresented minority, rural and other disadvantaged Alabamians for careers in health professions. We will work to influence the training of health profession students and residents toward primary care through rotations with Alabama’s medically needy populations, and work to improve the health and quality of care provided to medically needy residents by providing continuing education and support for targeted healthcare providers.”
Bain will also serve on the state AHEC executive counsel in addition to overseeing some of the AHEC activities on the JDCC campus as host location for the center. The Brewton location will serve a 10-county region including Escambia, Baldwin, Mobile, Covington, Washington, Clarke, Monroe, Conecuh, Butler and Crenshaw counties.
The group continues the formation process by working to adopt by-laws and selection of members for a board of directors, executive committee and recruitment team.
Locations for two locaiotns already established in the AHEC program are in Tuskegee and in West Centeral Alabama. Escambia’s location marks the third center named and formed. Two other centers will be named in the near futre and will be located in east-central Alabama in Etowah County and in north Alabama in Madison County.