Area Health Education Center Program (AHEC)
One of the University of Maryland Baltimore's commitments to improving health care delivery in primary care is the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program.
The AHEC program has been developed to provide comprehensive health care education and training for undergraduate and graduate medical students, as well as for students from the other UMB health profession schools. AHECs attract students, interns and residents to rural and underserved areas, fostering their interest in practicing in such sites. AHEC activities promote increased numbers of physicians and other health care professionals, encourage the development of health care facilities, provide multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary training for health professionals, and increase capabilities for the existing program of graduate and continuing medical education and health training.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine has directed the Maryland AHEC Program for almost 30 years. The Maryland AHEC system is comprised of two rural centers and one urban center: the Western Maryland AHEC, the Eastern Shore AHEC and the Baltimore City AHEC, respectively. The Western Maryland AHEC, established in 1976, is located in Cumberland, a rural community in Allegany County. The Eastern Shore AHEC, domiciled in Cambridge at the Eastern Shore Hospital Center, has been in operation since 1995. Both centers afford students the opportunity to understand and experience the valuable and rewarding benefits of delivering primary health care in a rural environment. The Baltimore City AHEC became operational in Spring 2003. Its central theme is to raise the health consciousness of the surrounding urban community by promoting good health and disease prevention and by helping to make primary healthcare services more accessible for those in need.
Medical school policy requires that students spend eight weeks of their senior year in clinical education at an ambulatory site. Students are encouraged to spend this mandatory rotation at rural and urban sites. Additionally, senior medical students may choose a rotation at one of the three AHEC sites as a primary care elective. These experiences are designed to encourage students to consider practice in similar settings and to gain a firm appreciation of the special health needs of rural and urban populations.