ASU Social Work Students Accepted in Inaugural Alabama Health Care Scholars' Program
By Hazel Scott
A new state scholar's program established to increase the number of health care workers in Alabama has tapped some of Alabama State University’s top Social Work students as members of its inaugural class. .
Four ASU junior’s who are Social Work majors are among a select cadre of students selected from across the state to participate in the first-ever class of Alabama Area Health Education Centers' (AHEC) scholars. The select group of ASU students includes: Melodie Mitchell, Jacora Gipson, Angela Wilder and Andrianna Ezell. These students will receive firsthand training on how to provide care in rural and/or underserved communities in such venues as homeless shelters, free clinics, community health centers, health fairs and much more.
There is a shortage of primary and specialty health care providers in Alabama, according to the Bureau of Health Workforce, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). For example, 66 out of 67 counties in Alabama lack enough dentists and mental health care providers to meet population needs.
According to AHEC officials, a successful heath care workforce needs more than just doctors and nurses; it needs social workers, dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, and technologists. The inaugural class of AHEC scholars (who include ASU's four students listed above) come to the program with backgrounds in various educational interests, which helps fill the gap of needed skills. The program lasts for two years.
“The focus of the program is to take students who are pursuing careers in various health professions and make sure they receive a portion of their clinical training in rural and underserved areas,” said Dr. Michael Faircloth, M.D., director of the Alabama Area Health Education Centers program in a statement.
Training, placing and keeping students with various backgrounds in underserved areas is key to ensuring adequate health care is provided to all people across the state, Faircloth explained.
Diversity also is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving access to health care. AHEC officials state that there aren’t enough minorities who are health professionals and that the health field is working to improve that issue.
For Melody Mitchell, a native of Meridian, Miss., The AHEC program is a perfect fit.
“I’m very happy with the program,” Mitchell said. “I’m interacting with other scholars and learning about their specific health profession. I will gain a lot of experience, especially on how to accomplish goals for our patients.”