Unsung Kentucky Program Brings Health Providers to Rural Areas—And Keeps Them

You think people would know more about a successful program that's been operating since the 1970s. Area Health Education Centers, administered by University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, work in rural areas to provide quality health care, educate young people about health careers, and give health-care students the opportunity to practice in a rural area. Offering support services for students who may be apprehensive about rural life has been a crucial component, and the program has seen success, as Kentucky Health News reports:

The main goal remains the same: link students in all types of health professions to rural and underserved training sites, such as clinics, hospitals and physician offices. From 2008 to 2010, student physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and allied health professionals such as physician assistants received training at more than 10,000 AHEC-supported rotations. In 2009-2010, 1,727 students did AHEC rotations representing more than 8,700 student work weeks.

The AHEC education program is also exposing young people to the opportunities of the health-care field, one that will only become more important in Appalachia as the population ages. The program gives students hands-on, real-life experience with a career they might not have considered otherwise. Last year alone, 23,000 K-12 students participated in some component of the program.

Perhaps most importantly, the program is bringing some health care professionals into rural communities for good. As one participant said, "With AHEC going out of their way to make your stay as accommodating as possible, to make you feel comfortable and giving you an opportunity to mesh with a community, that does establish some roots," she said. "You meet people, they befriend you, you keep in touch, you want to come back. And that can lead to future employment."

Read the whole story at Kentucky Health News.