West Texas Area Health Education Center Program
The conventional wisdom in the Texas State Capitol was that establishing a medical school in West Texas would generate doctors for West Texas. The same wisdom followed with the other schools of TTUHSC. To some extent, the vision has been realized. But what has also become clear is that the healthcare providers most likely to practice in rural West Texas come from rural West Texas.
A critical component of impacting the healthcare needs of rural West Texas includes a focused approach to generating interest in health careers very early in a child's life. Young West Texans have to be encouraged to consider the possibility of a career in healthcare.
Developing a "pipeline" of young people into health careers is crucial to ensuring the future healthcare workforce of the region. The national model of Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) has been demonstrated to be an effective way to reach these young students.
In early 2002, the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health opened its first AHEC center in Plainview, Texas through a partnership with the Hale County Hospital Authority. Since that time, the Institute has received two 3-year HRSA grants for $5.5 million to expand the West Texas AHEC program.
Two centers opened in early Summer 2004 in Amarillo and Midland through partnerships with West Texas A&M University (Panhandle AHEC) and the Permian Basin Workforce Development Board (Permian Basin AHEC). A fourth center in Abilene, through a partnership with the West Central Texas Council of Governments, opened in early 2005. A fifth center in El Paso, opened in 2008
The mission of the West Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is to address the health care provider shortage and improve health care access in West Texas through education and development of the healthcare workforce.
It is a coordinated effort between the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, healthcare providers, communities and counties across West Texas. The collaborative program focuses on developing the healthcare providers of the future as well as supporting current health professionals in West Texas.
To accomplish its mission, the West Texas AHEC focuses on the following strategies:
- Introduce youth, K-12, to health careers
- Support rural clinical training for students who are in the health professions
- Provide practice support to existing healthcare professionals
- Promote healthy living
For more information, visit www.WestTexasAHEC.org.