North Carolina AHEC Program
spring 2012 newsletter | home

Director's Message

Tom Bacon Recently we completed reviewing the annual reports from the past year for each of the AHECs and for our partner schools and departments. Once again I was struck with the remarkable array of programs and services offered through AHEC, often in partnership with other educational institutions, health care agencies, or community groups. At a time of steep budget cuts, AHEC faculty and staff continue to find ways to stretch our dollars even further to meet the various missions of the AHEC Program.

There are a number of reasons why AHEC continues to succeed in the midst of these lean budget times, including the creativity of our staff and the willingness of partner organizations to collaborate on programs. Another reason is that there are individuals throughout all levels of our programs who are committed to innovation. AHECs are always looking for new and better ways to develop and deliver educational content, use technology to reach new audiences, and improve the quality of what we do.

If we are to continue to thrive in a rapidly changing health care environment, we must continue this tradition of innovation. Several of the articles in this issue of the AHEC Review highlight innovative educational approaches. Area L AHEC is highlighted for their work with the Rural Health Group, a partner FQHC, in implementing shared medical appointments as a means for serving the diabetic population cared for by the community health center. Shared medical appointments have been shown to be highly effective in supporting patients in controlling their diabetes, thus improving health outcomes and lowering costs, and Area L seeks to become a center of excellence in the implementation of shared medical appointments.

In this issue we also welcome Dr. Jeff Heck as the new President and CEO of Mountain AHEC. Dr. Heck has become known in recent years as the brains and energy behind the development of the highly innovative longitudinal curriculum which is now the hallmark of the Asheville campus of the UNC School of Medicine. The longitudinal curriculum has improved student performance, increased the breadth and depth of engagement of students with patients as part of their clinical training, and received high marks from both faculty and students involved in the programs.

Finally, we announce in this issue the recipients of both the Mayer Fellowship and John Payne Fellowship for 2012. Michael Willett, a distance education production coordinator at Greensboro AHEC, will use his Payne Fellowship to develop new products and applications of educational content which can be used on mobile devices in support of the various missions of AHEC. We see this as an opportunity to expand the reach of AHEC programming at a reasonable cost. Dr. Susan Miller, Director of Pharmacotherapy Education at Southern Regional AHEC, will use her Payne Fellowship to develop an interprofessional education experience for students and residents at the Family Medicine Center (FMC) at the AHEC. SR-AHEC is already committed to team-based care within the FMC, and Susan hopes to make it a model teaching site for interprofessional education, an area receiving a great deal of attention nationally and one that we have identified as part of our strategic planning process.

These are but a few examples of the way AHEC faculty and staff are seeking new ways to provide educational programs and services of the highest possible quality to the students, residents and health professionals we serve. We welcome your ideas as we continue to adapt to a rapidly changing health care environment, while remaining true to the mission of AHEC.

Tom Bacon, DrPH
Director, North Carolina AHEC Program