University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Office of Primary Care and Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program

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Office of Primary Care and Area Health Education Centers Program (AHEC)

Office of Primary Care

Encouraged by the Vermont Legislature, the University of Vermont College of Medicine established the Office of Primary Care (OPC) in 1993 to focus the College of Medicine's commitment to primary care in Vermont. OPC is actively involved in enhancing networks for community faculty, in strengthening teaching and research programs, and in preparing the workforce for the future.

The OPC was awarded federal funding to establish a statewide AHEC program in 1996, that includes three regional centers (Northeastern VT AHEC in St. Johnsbury, Champlain Valley AHEC in St. Albans, and Southern VT AHEC in Springfield); each is its own 501c-3 non-profit organization. Together, AHECs work to increase the supply, geographic distribution, and education of Vermont's healthcare workforce, and provide a link between UVM's health professions and training programs and Vermont's communities. The Vermont AHEC network is a true academic-community partnership.

Vermont Area Health Education Centers (AHEC)

The Vermont Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program, in collaboration with many partners, improves access to quality healthcare through its focus on workforce development. This includes: pipeline programs in health careers awareness and exploration for youth in communities across the state; support for and engagement of health professions students at the University of Vermont and residents at The University of Vermont Medical Center; and recruitment and retention of the healthcare workforce in Vermont.

AHEC efforts focus on achieving a well-trained healthcare workforce so that all Vermonters have access to quality care, including those who live in Vermont's most rural areas and Vermont's underserved populations. In addition to workforce development, AHEC brings educational and quality improvement programming to Vermont's primary care practitioners and supports community health education across the state.

AHEC believes that success in healthcare innovation, transformation, and reform depends on an adequate supply and distribution of well-trained healthcare professionals.

What is an AHEC?

Today's nationwide system of Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) resulted from recommendations in a 1970 Carnegie Commission report. Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) were begun by the federal government in the late 1970s as programs designed to address health staffing distribution and the quality of primary care through community-based initiatives. The program encourages universities and educators to look beyond institutions to partnerships that promote solutions which meet community health needs.

How are AHECs Structured?

AHECs are administered by a university-based School of Medicine, which houses the Program Office, and subcontracts with area centers that are remote from the University and designed to cover a geographic part of the state. Each Center must be a 501C3 entity, governed by a Board of Directors that represents community leaders and health care practitioners from the region in which the Center is located. A program office may receive a maximum of 12 years of federal seed funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); the Centers are eligible for six years of funding. The Program Office administers a multidisciplinary academic consortium that includes one or more nursing schools and schools of other health professions, such as social work and physical therapy.

How are AHECs Funded?

The federal government awards seed money through competitive grants to establish AHEC programs and centers. The intent is to create an infrastructure and to build a case for state support when the activities and accomplishments are of value to the communities served by the AHEC.

What is the Role of the Community in AHEC?

Communities are the heart of AHEC. The Centers are governed by a community Board of Directors who live in and represent the region served. These community boards identify the needs and priorities for health care professionals in their region within the scope of the broad AHEC objectives. The AHEC employees live in the Center’s region and are employees of the Board of Directors rather than of the academic partner. A minimum of 75% of all federal dollars awarded must be subcontracted directly to the Centers, with the remaining financial oversight used to develop institutional support and linkages needed by the committee.

Where is AHEC in Vermont?

AHEC Centers Map

The statewide infrastructure of AHEC consists of a program office located at the University of Vermont in Burlington and three regional centers: Northeastern Vermont AHEC in St. Johnsbury, VT; Champlain Valley AHEC in St. Albans; and Southern Vermont AHEC in in Springfield, VT. Each AHEC is a separate, non-profit organization capable of providing support for community healthcare systems. AHEC provides a link between the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Vermont communities. AHEC is a dynamic academic-community based partnership.

Program Highlights

AHEC addresses issues related to access and quality through:

  • Continuing education and quality improvement initiatives with primary care providers.
  • Training providers in best practices and practice guidelines.
  • Developing opportunities for interdisciplinary training.
  • Training individuals to promote health education.
  • Facilitating access to mental health practitioners.

As Partners in the Vermont Blueprint for Health, AHEC initiatives include:

  • Annual Geriatrics Conference & Bridging the Divide Interdisciplinary Conference
  • Support clinical education for Vermont Health Professions students.
  • Assist primary care practitioners with education that encourages healthy eating and weight loss
  • Encourage and support Vermonters to enter needed health care professional education programs.

Training Students in Rural and Underserved Areas

To help make student experiences in rural areas more accessible and affirming, AHEC:

  • Provides housing assistance to students with clinical rotations 25 miles or more from campus.
  • Creates experiences in communities above and beyond the student clinical experience, such as conducting community health screenings, interdisciplinary opportunities, community presentations and encouraging health careers in middle and high school students.

The Vermont Educational Loan Repayment for Health Care Professionals

To learn more visit the Educational Loan Repayment page.


Office of Primary Care and VT AHEC Network “At-A-Glance”



VT AHEC Education & Career Pipeline: Objectives & Activites "At-A-Glance"

VT AHEC Education & Career Pipeline


Last modified August 12 2016 01:32 PM