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Idaho State University awarded AHEC grant to improve primary care services in rural communities

August 24, 2017

POCATELLO—Idaho State University has been awarded a $386,250 grant to establish an area health education center or AHEC to improve access to primary care in underserved and rural communities of southeast Idaho.

The AHEC will be housed in the university’s Institute of Rural Health and provide interdisciplinary training for ISU nursing, pharmacy and physician assistant studies students, said Dr. Elizabeth Fore, IRH interim director and an assistant professor of public health.

The center will also provide continuing education for working health practitioners and serve as a pipeline to recruit high school students to careers in the health professions.

The ISU award begins Sept. 1 and will run through Aug. 31, 2022. Fore says funds will be used to hire a center director, develop curriculum, coordinate continuing education activities and establish field sites for student rotations. The director will also oversee implementation of an AHEC Scholars Program, which will provide advanced health professions training for up to 15 ISU students a year.

The center’s interdisciplinary focus will encourage health professions students and practitioners to work as a team, sharing knowledge, expertise and resources unique to their disciplines—an approach designed to improve access to primary care in rural communities facing a shortage of health care providers.

 “Our students are going to get a lot of hands-on education, especially in the rural areas. If we can get them used to working in rural communities, they are going to be more likely to work in those communities or similar ones after they graduate,” Fore said.

The ISU award is part of a $3 million grant awarded to the University of Washington’s WWAMI program by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. WWAMI is a regional medical education partnership established in the 1970s to train primary care physicians in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.