North Carolina AHEC Program
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John Payne Fellows Train to Improve Health Care in North Carolina

Each year, the NC AHEC Program awards two John Payne Fellowships to enable non-medical faculty to further their professional interests and explore innovative educational efforts. The 2014 Fellows are Ruby Brown-Herring, BSW, MEd, associate director, mental health and public health education at Wake AHEC, and R. Evan Richardson, MSN, CNM, quality improvement consultant at Mountain AHEC (MAHEC).

Ruby Brown-HerringBrown-Herring (photo right) will attend a five-day mental health first aid instructor training designed to introduce the eight-hour course, provide an overview on adult learning styles and teaching strategies, and present in-depth instruction on implementing and managing the program in diverse communities. Mental Health First Aid USA has trained and certified instructors from community mental health and addictions treatment organizations, state departments of health, universities, hospitals, federally-qualified health centers, faith-based organizations, police and criminal justice, developmental disability centers, mental health authorities, other mental health advocacy organizations including Mental Health America and National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliates, and independent trainers.

Due to the current state of mental health reform, there is considerable need for additional non-mental health professionals to be trained to recognize someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Just as CPR training helps a layperson without medical training assist an individual following a heart attack, mental health first aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Brown-Herring has been involved in conducting trainings for direct care staff at the state-operated health care facilities across the state since March 2011. She has also conducted similar trainings for certified nursing assistants in the Wake AHEC region. Future potential partners may include local churches, schools, public health department, and local colleges and universities. This training will allow Brown-Herring to represent Wake AHEC and the NC AHEC Program throughout the state as we work to improve population health by addressing mental health needs.

Evan RichardsonRichardson (photo right) will learn more about practice innovation through human-centered design to enhance her skills and knowledge in this area. Richardson joined MAHEC in November 2010 as a quality improvement and design consultant on the AHEC Regional Extension Center team after working for nine years as a certified nurse midwife and three years as manager of an internal medicine practice.

“Richardson is considered an expert in practice quality improvement in the region, and played a critical role in MAHEC’s negotiation with Mission Health System to finalize a primary care practice management services agreement,” said Jeffrey E. Heck, MD, president and CEO of MAHEC. “She is widely regarded among key opinion leaders in the western North Carolina health region as being an expert in quality improvement. As we manage Mission’s primary care practices, Richardson will play a key role – her leadership will be vital to our success.”

Richardson will also play a key role in the local consortium of hospitals, independent practices and employed practices to develop an accountable care organization in western North Carolina.

For more information about the John Payne Fellowship, please visit