The Louisville Cardinal

U of L Area Health Education Centers make big impact

By Luke Seiner

The Kentucky Area Health Education Centers program is a partnership between the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center and the University of Kentucky Medical Center. The program works to create and develop clinical education throughout Kentucky communities for students seeking health professions, as well as to continue providing education for medical personnel in medically underserved areas

A recent press release from U of L indicated that faculty and students from the U of L Health Sciences Center provided $6.8 million in medical services to the 56 counties that fall under the U of L Area Health Education Centers program, all within the academic year of 2009-2010

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that this program is able to help others and help underserved areas,” said Caysea Etherton, a junior psychology major. “That’s a lot of money and it’s amazing for them to provide such services.”

The program’s main goals are to improve the distribution, quality, utilization and efficiency of health care personnel. The U of L centers cover the four western regions – Jackson Purchase, Western, South Central and Northwest – while the UK centers cover the four eastern regions – North Central, Southern, Northeast and Southeast.

“The primary benefit of the program is found in the services and activities [Area Health Education Centers] provides,” said Dr. V. Faye Jones, the program director and the associate dean of academic affairs for the U of L School of Medicine. “The corresponding dollar value of these services gives us another way to measure the full scope of the good work [Area Health Education Centers] is doing for the people of Kentucky.”

U of L participants work in rotation, which sends them throughout the four regions to provide health care to underserved areas and to provide medical education to community-based organizations.

At the same time, workers further their own education. Students studying in 11 different disciplines in the medical, dental, allied health, public health, pharmacy and social work fields are invited to participate. Their experiences revolve around obtaining useful hands-on training in private and community medical centers, while simultaneously giving back to the community. An estimated 4,470 students obtain clinical learning experience each year in the Area Health Education Centers program.

“U of L is working with local communities to improve the lives of people within the commonwealth,” said James Ramsey, U of L president. “We are partnering with local organizations to provide the people necessary to meet today’s health care needs of underserved areas, while training future health care providers so they remain in these areas.”

The program has benefits for the entire state. It supplies health care where it is needed most, provides medical education to Kentucky communities, gives medical students valuable hands-on training, and grants U of L medical staff the opportunity to move around and share their experience and knowledge.

It is these efforts, completed on behalf of the U of L Health Sciences faculty and students, which facilitated the donation of medical services valued at $6.8 million to the western half of Kentucky over the course of one year.