NE Area Health Education Center wins national award for getting Appalachian students into med school; program going statewide

The Northeast Kentucky Area Health Education Center at Morehead won the Center of Excellence Award in Distribution at this month’s national AHEC conference for working to improve the health-care workforce in rural and under-served areas.

The AHEC was nominated for its Successfully Training and Educating Pre-medical Students program. STEPS was created in 2013 to level the playing field for their local students who are interested in applying to medical school.

Most of the 17-county Northeast Kentucky AHEC service region is in Appalachia, which has long been short 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,” a news release said.

The STEPS program helps the participants prepare for the Medical College Admission Test with courses, mock interviews, assistance with the application, physician shadowing, and other activities.

“The purpose of STEPS is to produce not just more, but more competitive, medical-school applicants from our region,” said David A. Gross, director of the Northeast Kentucky AHEC. “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.”

The release says three groups of students have completed the program, and 22 of the 25 students who met all program requirements enrolled in medical school.

The Northeast Kentucky AHEC has also recently entered into a two-year contract with the Kentucky Primary Care Office to replicate the STEPS program with the other seven Kentucky AHECs.

“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,” Gross said.

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