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MUSC Bulletin | General Information

South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium

The South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium (South Carolina AHEC) began in 1972 as one of the 11 originally funded projects of the federal AHEC program. The South Carolina AHEC functions as a cooperative effort of the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina, USC-Greenville, Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine- Carolina Campus, South Carolina community teaching hospitals, and regional AHEC Centers. The AHEC System works closely with the state’s institutions of higher education and other partners to educate, recruit, and retain healthcare providers.

 The South Carolina AHEC provides for a continuum of education extending from primary and secondary school, to undergraduate and professional school, then to graduate medical education, and finally to continuing education for practicing healthcare professionals. Specifically, they maintain strong programs designed to: increase the number of young people who aspire to become healthcare professionals, emphasizing underrepresented ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged groups; facilitate clinical rotations for health professions students in rural and underserved communities; increase the physician workforce by sponsoring graduate medical education residency training programs; enhance clinical competence by providing educational programs for healthcare providers at or near their workplace; and increase the healthcare workforce by maintaining programs to recruit and retain primary care providers.

The South Carolina AHEC Program Office is located at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and reports to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

The four AHEC Regional Centers provide programs and services to address the unique healthcare-related educational needs of each of the counties in South Carolina.  Activities include developing and maintaining linkages with local healthcare agencies, providers, institutions, and organizations within each region.

The Regional Centers are located in Florence, Greenville, Lancaster and Walterboro.  Each regional AHEC Center maintains a Health Careers Program designed to increase the number of young people who elect to pursue a health related profession. The program emphasizes the participation of underrepresented ethnic minority and disadvantaged students.  Programmatic content employs individual advising, mentoring, job shadowing and parental involvement as major components.

Regional AHEC Centers also maintain a Health Professions Student Program to facilitate required community-based rotations for health professions students in the fields of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, and the allied health sciences.  Each AHEC regional center employs student coordinators who assist with the identification of preceptors, procure student housing, schedule student rotations, orient students to the community, provide Internet connections, and assist students with their community health improvement projects.  While in the community, students learn clinical skills in a "real world" setting from their preceptors, participate in community outreach activities such as visit the homes of patients, participate in projects targeting major health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and initiate and participate in local community health assessments and wellness programs.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programs are also maintained by each regional AHEC Center.  These programs provide practicing healthcare professionals with affordable continuing education seminars, workshops, lectures, and telecasts in proximity to their workplace.  Each of the four AHEC Centers employs CPD coordinators who work closely with hospital education departments, regional health professionals, associations and agencies, and educational institutions to assess, develop, and present continuing education programs to health professionals in their regions.

These educational offerings enhance the knowledge and skills of healthcare providers and emergency responders.  Enhanced skills increase the quality of care provided resulting in the improvement of inpatient and outpatient healthcare delivery.  Educational offerings allow healthcare providers to meet professional re-licensure and re-certification requirements and reduce professional isolation for providers in rural areas, thereby increasing retention.

In 2015, the South Carolina AHEC, in partnership with the MUSC Center for Telehealth, established the Office for Telehealth Education (OFTE), to expand the reach of continuing professional development programming beyond the walls of the state’s academic medical centers and out into the communities in all areas of the state. The OFTE is charged with educating health professionals about the use and implementation of telehealth services, as well as to conduct educational programs via telehealth technology. In doing so, providers across the state can learn from leading experts in relevant content areas without having to travel across the state to participate.

In order to address the shortage and maldistribution of physicians in our state, the South Carolina AHEC sponsors the Statewide Family Medicine Residency Training Program.  Family Medicine is the medical specialty which provides continuing and comprehensive healthcare for individuals and families.  The family physician typically functions as the patient's means of entry into the healthcare system.  The South Carolina Statewide Family Medicine Residency Training Programs are located in Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, Greenwood, Seneca and Spartanburg. In addition, the South Carolina AHEC administers programs that place and retain quality healthcare professionals in the underserved areas of the state.  The Rural Physician Program was initiated by the SC Legislature in 1989 to address the undersupply and maldistribution of physicians in rural and underserved South Carolina communities.  The program provides incentive grants for primary care physicians and advanced practice professionals (nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician assistants) who commit to practice in medically underserved communities for a minimum of three years.  Once a practice becomes established, healthcare providers are much more likely to remain in areas of need.

The Rural Dentist Program was established by the South Carolina Legislature in July of 2005. This program assists with the repayment of educational loans of dentists who agree to practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or serve as full-time faculty at the MUSC College of Dental Medicine. The expectation is that during their commitment period these dentists will establish viable practices or academic careers in the College of Dental Medicine, become involved in their respective communities and remain after the four-year funding period is over. Priority for this program is given to those demonstrating financial need and expressing the intent to remain in an underserved area or in an area of critical faculty need in the MUSC College of Dental Medicine.

The Office for Healthcare Workforce Analysis and Planning (OHW) was created in 2008 with funding from The Duke Endowment, in response to the need for in-depth, current information about the healthcare workforce in South Carolina. Working in collaboration with the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office of Health and Demographics, and using information published by other state government agencies, the OHW evaluates the current supply of nurses, physicians, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in South Carolina, as well as the demand for such professionals based on the needs of the population.  This information is being used to assess personnel shortages and to build forecasting models of future supply and demand trends.  All OHW research findings are published on-line and are readily available to legislators, educators, and other policy makers to inform discussions and decisions about the healthcare workforce.

The South Carolina AHEC continues to provide innovative services that support the state’s healthcare workforce – connecting students to careers, professionals to communities and communities to better health.

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Last Published with EditsAugust 17, 2016 10:51 AM
Last Comprehensive Review:August 2016

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