Counties short on healthcare professionals

Published 3:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2015

Members of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce gathered for their quarterly meeting Wednesday and heard from Glenda Stanley, associate director with Area Health Education Center Network, or AHEC.

AHEC is a national organization that works to improve health by leading the nation in recruitment, training and retention of a diverse health workforce for underserved communities. Stanley, who is originally from Appalachia, Kent., said many areas and regions are underserved as far as healthcare is concerned and many lack a proper amount of physicians to serve the communities they provide for.

“AHEC program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to serve underserved populations,” Stanley said. “With the idea that if you get physicians out into the rural communities you have more of a chance for recruiting. Almost every state had an AHEC program.”

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And, since 1971, more centers have opened in hopes to continue better serving the communities they are established in; however, Stanley said the centers had to become self-sustainable in order to keep functioning.

“Troy has been operational about a year,” Stanley said. “Marty Vines is the director there. Since January we’ve brought on three more centers. There is a center in Brewten that stared Jan. 1. We have a center in Gadsden she came on March 2nd. I just came from Huntsville Tuesday, and I’m proud to say we have the Huntsville office open. The way that the funding works is that it is incremental at first and then it is detrimental. You are expected, as you get your centers established, to look for funding somewhere else.”

Stanley said the organization often uses pipeline methods to get students who are interested in the medical field a chance early on to pursue their interests and find out what they truly like about the medical field.

“We’re trying to level the playing field,” Stanley said. “We have kids going into medical schools or are applying for medical school and their mother is a physician.

We have a lot of materials that we give that are in writing, but also we want to gather physicians that are already teaching with physicians that want to be teaching so we get a network established. We are really trying. You have seven family medicine programs in Alabama, and they’re having a hard time filling up. There enough need for all of us.”

Stanley took questions at the end of her program, and spoke more on the fact that many of Alabama’s counties are underserved in terms of numbers of physicians available to the community.

“Sixty-two out of the 67 counties are health professional shortage areas,” Stanley said. “We don’t need more physicians in Birmingham we don’t need to supply extra physicians to Mobile but many areas across the state are in dire need of physicians. We’re trying to bring the resources of the colleges and other resources to meet the community health needs.”

And, before she left, Stanley asked something of those in attendance as well.

“One of the things I am asking from you is that we don’t have housing money either,” Stanley said. “These students need places to live. When they come they don’t party, they’re not allowed to bring pets, and if should happen, you could also report them to somebody so it gets back to the dean of the medical school or dean of the nursing school they are from. It’s really a good way to invest in your community.”