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First Cohort of AHEC Scholars Nears Completion

Taking advantage of online courses and creative clinical hours,17 post-secondary students from multiple disciplines and universities in Southeast Alabama are poised to claim official status as AHEC Scholars upon completion of the extracurricular program in May 2020. Since October 2018, the participants who are enrolled in various health professions, nursing, pharmacy, exercise physiology, biochemistry, and social work will book 80 hours in classroom courses and more than 80 individual hours of clinical interprofessional training across the 15-county service area of Southeast Alabama AHEC.

The federal funding agency Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) added the interprofessional program in 2017 as part of the five-year commitment from recipient grantees, non-profit and health care agencies across the nation, to promote career readiness among health professions graduates. The Alabama Statewide AHEC Program implemented the two-year program collectively among the five regional state centers.

Current Southeast Alabama AHEC (SEAAHEC) Executive Director Paula Cheatwood created the SEAAHEC program from scratch during her stint as Programs Manager and continues to manage the popular workforce development program during staff transition at the Center. The long-time higher education professional pulled from her skills as an Education Director to identify and offer creative, clinical experiences to help students better prepare professionally for what they may encounter in the workplace. Some 20 facilities partnered with SEAAHEC to offer students more than 2,000 hours in senior centers, at health fairs, with behavioral health training, food pantries, and basic clinical rotations alongside the brightest and best health care professionals in the Southeast Alabama region.

Student testimonials suggest that the extra time devoted to working AHEC Scholars training into an already packed health professions curriculum was well worth the effort. Harrison School of Pharmacy student James Miracle shared how the program opened his eyes to the need in rural Alabama for more health care providers. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of senior citizens and knowing the impact we made in their lives,” he noted, was one of the reasons he chose to participate in working and learning with a team of other health professions students - during the two-year AHEC Scholars program.

For more information about AHEC Scholars or to find out how to apply for the next cohort in Fall 2020, call 334.676.4180, email or visit

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