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Professional Training

Area Health Education Centers (AHEC)

The Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train, and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The AHEC program helps bring the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs. The strength of the AHEC network is its ability to creatively adapt national initiatives to address local and regional healthcare issues.

The AHEC mission is to enhance access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals via strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations. In turn, these partnerships and networks support strategic priorities to increase diversity and distribution among healthcare professionals, enhance health care quality, and improve health care delivery to rural and underserved areas and populations.

In September 2007, Cherokee Health Systems (CHS) entered into a partnership with Meharry Medical College to serve as East Tennessee’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC).  In 2017, Cherokee Health Systems expanded its role and currently serves as the AHEC regional center in both east and west Tennessee. 

The spotlight initiative of the current AHEC program is the AHEC Scholars Program, a unique interprofessional training opportunity designed to prepare a diverse, culturally competent health care workforce that is representative of the communities it serves. The program includes 40 hours of team-based, interprofessional clinical experience and a 40-hour didactic program that addresses six core topics: Patient-Centered Clinical Practice Transformation; Interprofessional Education, Cultural Competence, Social Determinants of Health, Behavioral Health Integration, and Current/Emerging Health Issues. At least 15 Scholars will be selected each year, and Scholars will commit to completing the two-year program.

Interested in becoming an AHEC Scholar? 
Students in the last two years of a healthcare professions educational program are eligible to apply to join the AHEC Scholars Program.  Please click here for the AHEC Scholars Program Brochure, which includes more information about the program and applicant eligibility.  To apply, complete the Application linked here and submit as indicated.  Click here for the Letter of Recommendation Form (East Tennessee and West Tennessee).

Other AHEC initiatives include:

Workforce Development and Distribution: CHS will contribute to a statewide workforce development plan designed to recruit and retain health professionals in practice in rural and urban medically underserved areas (RUMUAs) and will participate in at least two health workforce events per year to recruit and place health professionals in RUMUAs in east and west Tennessee.

High School (Middle School) to Practice Pathways (HSPP) will be created to promote awareness of health professions careers among middle school, high school, and college undergraduate students. Each pathway (middle school to high school to college) will pave a smooth “hop on, hop off” [if needed] educational trajectory for students interested in healthcare professions. CHS will establish at least one HSPP per year in east and in west Tennessee until 2022.

Continuing Education on cutting-edge topics will be sponsored to ensure that the health care workforce is prepared to deliver high quality care in a transforming health care delivery system with an emphasis on rural and underserved areas and communities.

AHEC Program Resources: