New AHEC Director Visits College

Art Clawson, associate director of a new statewide Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program in Alabama, met recently with faculty and staff of the College’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline to learn about ongoing community-based health education and outreach initiatives in West Alabama.

From left: Irene Wallace, program assistant for the Rural Medical Scholars Program; Art Clawson, director of the Alabama Area Health Education Center program; John Wheat, director of the College’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline; and Cynthia Moore, director of the Rural Health Scholars Program and the Rural Minority Health Scholars Program.

The AHEC program is funded by a federal grant awarded to the Birmingham campus of The University of Alabama School of Medicine. John Wheat, MD, and James Leeper, PhD, professors in the College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine, assisted in writing the grant. The College also serves as the Tuscaloosa branch campus of the School of Medicine.

Wheat is founder and director of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, a sequence of programs designed to find and nurture students from rural areas who wish to eventually return to their hometowns or other rural and underserved communities to practice medicine. The pipeline includes the Rural Health Scholars, Rural Minority Health Scholars and Rural Medical Scholars programs.

Both Wheat and Leeper have worked closely with the Rural Alabama Health Alliance and the West Alabama Rural Medical Care Alliance to plan and conduct community-based health and outreach activities and training programs in West Alabama. Clawson says the new AHEC hopes to build upon activities and programs already in place in the state.

The focus of the AHEC program is to enhance access to high quality, culturally competent health care through community-based interdisciplinary training, continuing education and health career outreach activities. The overall goal of the program is to improve the distribution, diversity and supply of new primary health care professionals to rural and underserved health care delivery sites.