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OU-COM Celebrates National Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Week

By Missy Kemper and Kevin M. Sanders
March 21, 2008


The Area Health Education Center (AHEC) at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) will be observing National AHEC Week March 24 to March 28, 2008. National AHEC celebrates the existence and accomplishments of the centers, which were developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health profession workforce committed to providing and improving health care for underserved populations. Today, 50 AHEC programs in more than 200 locations operate in almost every state and the District of Columbia. Approximately 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools work collaboratively with AHECs to provide and improve health care for underserved and underrepresented populations.


OU-COM is one of seven medical colleges in the Ohio Statewide AHEC program. OU-COM’s AHEC, the Consortium for Health Education in Appalachian Ohio (CHEAO), provides programs and services in 21 Appalachian counties. Services provided by CHEAO include the following: education and learning resources for health professionals and students through a resource library located in Grosvenor Hall on the Ohio University campus; service learning activities for medical students; support for the exploration of health careers through programming and premedical clinical shadowing; continuing education programs for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals; an American Heart Association Training Center; and grants for Women’s Health Week activities.


“AHEC reaches individuals and communities in this region through its diverse programming,” says Kathy Trace, R.N., director of AHEC.


“In 2006, AHEC provided resources for more than 160 educational events, coordinated more than 2,500 service learning hours that reached more than 1,650 people in rural areas; assisted with the coordination of health career exploration for more than 40 middle school students in local schools; provided more than $190,000 of free continuing education to physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors and other allied health professionals; and supported the training of more than 600 people in CPR, advanced cardiac life support and pediatric advanced life support.”


AHEC’s mission is accomplished because of its collaboration with academic and community partners, says Trace.


“Over the years, AHEC has improved the availability of health care professionals and access to quality health care in Ohio,” says Trace.


A recent highlight of CHEAO was the inception of the National Student Sight Saver Program (NSSSP). Funded by the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, this outreach effort is staffed by medical student volunteers under the supervision of local optometrists and provides free glaucoma screenings for the community. The program not only assists in the battle against glaucoma — the silent thief of vision — but gives OU-COM medical students opportunities to expand their knowledge while experiencing the joy of volunteering.

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