About AHEC

The Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program is a federally funded program established in the United States in 1972 “to improve the supply, distribution, retention and quality of primary care and other health practitioners in medically underserved areas.”[1] The program is “part of a national effort to improve access to health services through changes in the education and training of health professionals.”[2] The program particularly focuses on primary care.

AHECs are nonprofit organizations strategically located within designated regions where health care and health care education needs are not adequately met. An AHEC works within its region to make health care education (including residency and student rotations) locally available, on the premise that health care workers are likely to remain in an area where they train.[3] An AHEC also works to support practicing professionals with continuing education programs and other support resources and to attract youth (particularly those from minority and medically underserved populations) to health care professions. An AHEC partners with community organizations and academic institutions to fulfill its mission.

According to the National AHEC Organization, in 2015 more than 300 AHEC program offices and centers comprised the national AHEC network. AHECs are distributed across 48 states and the District of Columbia.[4] In each state, the central program office(s) associated with a university health science center administrates the program and coordinates the efforts of the state’s regional AHECs.

The Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington was established in March 1987 under Washington State University Spokane.  Funding came from the Washington State Department of Health and the University of Washington School of Medicine.  In 2003, the AHEC transitioned again to a home under the WSU Extension.

In September of 2015, the Eastern Washington Area Health Education Center transitioned from the WSU Extension to Eastern Washington University under the College of Health Sciences and Public Health.

EWAHEC continues the mission of the traditional AHEC work:

  1. Increasing diversity among health professionals
  2. Improve healthcare delivery and quality to rural and underserved areas.
  3. Increase the healthcare workforce pipeline by providing career exploration opportunities for high school students.