American Indian Health - Area Health Education Center (AIH-AHEC)
Native Community Members with Face Masks
AIH-AHEC Supports Indigenous Nursing Students

American Indian Health - Area Health Education Center (AIH-AHEC)

The University of Arizona Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program has partnered with the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care to develop a new center that focuses on Arizona’s American Indian health system and its workforce.

Building a Tribal AHEC Model 

In collaboration with the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation (SCAHC) and Gila River Health Care (GRHC), the American Indian Health Area Health Education Center (AIH-AHEC) will implement educational and training activities that will improve the availability and sustainability of healthcare professionals within their respective communities.  AIH-AHEC program activities include Community Based Experiential Training (CBET) for college students in health-related disciplines; youth pipeline healthcare activities for grades K-12; continuing professional education for primary providers working in tribal communities; and a community immersion program for graduate students in healthcare fields. Working in tandem with tribal communities will enhance the AIH-AHEC mission by providing opportunities and experiences for future health care providers in tribal communities.

The AIH-AHEC will address the regional needs that have been identified by focusing on supporting American Indian healthcare systems. The AIH-AHEC will aid IHS hospitals and clinics to nurture a future healthcare workforce by assisting with continuing education, supporting health care staff, and promoting healthcare careers for K-12.  Additionally, the AIH-AHEC will focus on improving the health professional shortage areas throughout Arizona. The AIH-AHEC and tribal partners will embrace the “Grow Your Own” strategy, which is a favorable method towards increasing the number of healthcare workers, while developing sustainability of the health care workforce in American Indian communities. "Growing your own" focuses on training and mentoring individuals from their communities to become health care providers who can return to their home communities.

The need for an AHEC focusing on American Indian Health has been heightened during the public health emergency, particularly in rural and tribal communities, since the pandemic exacerbated the current shortage of primary care providers. According to Kim Russell, Director of the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care (AACIHC), “Tribes in Arizona experience some of the highest health professional shortage area scores within the State. The new AIH-AHEC can begin to alleviate some of these shortages by working closely with our tribal health systems and enhancing their current workforce strategies and solutions such as “Grow Our Own” programs”.

The AIH-AHEC will be working with all 22 recognized Tribes in Arizona in an effort to promote its available services and programs. The AIH-AHEC is developing a three-year strategic plan which will serve as a guide for the program’s future progression. The process is set to begin in February 2023, and if you are interested in serving on the AIH-AHEC Strategic Planning Committee please contact us.

For more Information on the American Indian Health - Area Health Education Center (AIH-AHEC) contact Jeff Axtell, AIH-AHEC Director at [email protected] or 928-714-6925.