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Area Health Education Centers Program

The Saint Louis University Area Health Education Center program office was established in 2001. Its primary goal is to enhance access to quality healthcare through community-academic educational partnerships focusing on the healthcare needs of the underserved in the St. Louis area.

Area Health Education Centers were developed in the early 1970s as a means to address the maldistribution of health professionals in urban and rural medically underserved areas throughout the nation. There are more than 40 AHEC programs active in the network. 

SLU's AHEC  program office works in conjunction with the Missouri AHEC Network (MAHEC), which consists of seven regional centers and three program offices. We also work directly with the East Central Missouri Area Health Education Center (ECMO AHEC) providing services in the St. Louis region and within SLU's health professions programs.

The SLU AHEC program office is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Health Professions and administers a multidisciplinary academic consortium at SLU that includes representatives from the cooperating schools.

Vision Statement

The SLU AHEC program office envisions a society where all members have access to quality healthcare, where there is a plentiful supply of culturally competent health professionals representative of the urban populations they serve.

Mission Statement

The SLU AHEC program office will promote access to quality interprofessional health care in the metropolitan St. Louis area and throughout the state of Missouri, particularly focusing on the underserved urban areas by:

  • Recruiting underrepresented minorities to health professions schools.
  • Encouraging and supporting completion of health professions schools by underrepresented minorities.
  • Encouraging careers in primary care and primary care-related disciplines and practice in underserved areas.
  • Improving the retention of health professionals practicing in underserved areas.

Value Statements

The SLU AHEC program office will achieve its mission and vision through the core values of:

Diversity

We value the diversity of cultures and backgrounds of people who live in our community. We support activities and policies that eliminate health disparity inequities in our primary health care system.

Community Service

We recognize that the strength, focus and ultimate mission of the AHEC Program rests on its service to the community. We are actively working in partnership with community health agencies and advisory boards to achieve our mission.

Collaboration

We embrace involvement with participants who can inform program activities. We will develop and strengthen multidisciplinary partnerships through interprofessional, collaborative approaches.

Advocacy

We advocate for comprehensive strategies to positively impact a more diverse health care professional workforce.

SLU Area Health Education Center Objectives

  • Develop recruitment programs throughout the region, with a focus on medically underserved urban areas, which enhance understanding of health careers and provide academic and skills programs for underrepresented populations entering health professions training programs.
  • Support academic and community-based multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary training for primary care health profession students, residents and physicians who develop the understanding and skills to eliminate health disparities and serve culturally diverse populations.
  • Provide educational support, information dissemination and technical assistance to reduce professional isolation, increase retention and enhance the practice environment of physicians practicing in underserved areas.

Educational Interventions

In addition to family medicine residency training and continuing medical education, SLU's AHEC program office offers the following: 

Preceptorships

We place medical, nursing and allied health professions students in urban, underserved settings (e.g., community health centers, federally qualified health centers and hospitals) for clinical experiences. These sites promote interesting places to establish professional careers.

Coursework

Students in health professions are provided coursework specific to addressing culturally-related needs and serving the underserved. This includes curriculum during a four-week family medicine clerkship required of all medical students.

Pipeline Programs

Technical Assistance

To reduce professional isolation, increase retention and enhance the practice environment in underserved areas.

AHEC Scholars

Missouri AHEC scholars is a pipeline which is focused on training health professionals to be more prepared to work in rural and/or underserved urban settings. The training supplements existing training offered in health professional programs. AHEC scholars complete a total of 40 hours of community-based, experiential, or clinical training in the following topics: Interprofessional education, behavioral health integration, social determinants of health, cultural competency, practice transformation, and current and emergency health issues. They also have the opportunity to network across the state with other regional cohorts out of St. Joseph, Kirksville, Rolla, Kansas City, Springfield and Poplar Bluff, and earn AHEC national certifications for serving the underserved.

Junior Scholars

SLU AHEC works closely with the East Central Missouri AHEC program to provide programs for middle and high school students living in medically underserved areas, to learn more about the health professions. The ACES program(AHEC Career Enhancement Scholars program) is a 2-3 year program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in health care. Students in the ACES program participate in college-credit courses, online modules, hands-on workshops, community service/volunteerism, and job shadowing. ECMO AHEC and SLU AHEC also provide summer programs for high school students interested in pursuing health careers, such as Camp Scrubs and Summer Scholars Camp and SLU. ECMO AHEC also provides a program called, Health Careers 101. This is a 3-day workshop providing educators; (administrators, teachers and counselors) with information, activities and resources that will assist with introducing the profession of healthcare careers to students.

Participating SLU Schools and Colleges