Northeast Kentucky AHEC wins Center of Excellence award at National AHEC Organization Conference
The Northeast Kentucky Area Health Education Center (NE KY AHEC) was presented with the Center of Excellence Award in Distribution at the National AHEC Organization’s biennial conference, held July 8-11 in Arlington, Va.
The Distribution award recognizes an AHEC program that is improving health care workforce distribution throughout the nation, particularly among rural and underserved areas and populations. Other Center of Excellence awards were given in Diversity and Practice Transformation.
The NE KY AHEC was nominated in the Distribution category because of its STEPS program. STEPS, or Successfully Training and Educating Pre-medical Students, was created in 2013 in an attempt to level the playing field for local students interested in applying to medical school. Appalachian Kentucky, including most of the NE KY AHEC’s service region, has a long standing shortage of physicians. Studies have shown these physician shortages to be partially attributable to factors including Appalachian students’ inadequate academic preparation, limited exposure to health care occupations, low self-confidence, and financial considerations.
STEPS helps northeast Kentucky students overcome these barriers by providing participants with Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) preparatory courses as well as mock interviews, application process and personal statement tutorials, physician shadowing, and other activities aimed at better preparing them for the process of applying to medical school.
“It’s quite an honor to be chosen by our peers for one of only three Center of Excellence awards among the nation’s nearly 250 regional AHECs,” said David A. Gross, director of the NE KY AHEC. “The purpose of STEPS is to produce not just more, but more competitive, medical school applicants from our region. In part because of this program, we continue to see meaningful increases in the number of local students applying to and being accepted by in-state medical schools.”
Since its creation, three cohorts of students have completed STEPS and the subsequent medical school application/ interview/matriculation cycle. Of the 25 students who met all program requirements, 22 matriculated to a medical school (21 within Kentucky and the other at nearby Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.).
Further evidence of the program’s success is that the NE KY AHEC recently entered into a two-year contract with the Kentucky Primary Care Office to replicate STEPS among the other seven Kentucky AHECs.