NAO President Overfelt Requests $690 Million to Train Health Professionals

Paula Overfelt, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut, and Mindy Bateman, President Elect

Paula Overfelt, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut, and Mindy Bateman, President Elect. Photo courtesy of the National AHEC Organization

“Every doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, physician assistant, technician, and physical therapists start as students somewhere,” NAO President Paula Overfelt told House Appropriations Committee members earlier this spring when she made a funding request of $40.145 million in FY 2019 for the Area Health Education Center program on behalf of the National AHEC Organization (NAO.) She recommended a total of “$690 million for health professions training programs under Title VII and VIII of the Public Health Service Act that are administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).”

“AHECs hope [AHEC alumni] will return to serve in their communities, at least in their states,” this is what Overfelt called “full circle retention,” AHEC’s key strategy for building a culturally competent workforce in underserved communities.

As an example, she highlighted the career of Dr. Ben Reine, a family physician who she met when he was a junior in high school. “By that time, he was already known as the Youth Volunteer of the Year in our local hospital. Ben became an active participant in our high school program and our relationship continued through college as he sought resources and experiences like his internship at a community health center that helped him prepare for admission to medical school. He completed his community-based clinical rotations in our AHEC region and has since returned to practice in his hometown where he now teaches medical students in his practice as well as serves as medical director for the AHEC. Because of these earlier experiences, he also assists AHEC at workshops and provides job shadowing experiences for high school and undergraduate students.”

“It is very rewarding to be part of this national effort and to see local impact on our own southern Arizona health workforce,” said SEAHEC Executive Director, Gail Emrick. “While we are a stand-alone nonprofit agency, SEAHEC is part of the national AHEC program, consisting of 300 or so regional centers, serving our rural medically underserved communities.  Just this last year alone, SEAHEC provided clinical and community training opportunities to over 200 health professions students, improving their clinical skills and understanding of local health issues, while at the same time, deepening their commitment to come back and serve as health professionals. Here at SEAHEC, we have former students who were part of our high school health career clubs years ago, now serving as doctors, nurses and university faculty teaching others.  It is so exciting knowing that our efforts contribute to improving health services in our local communities.”

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