Many Utahns are not aware that 26 out of their 29 counties fall under the federal government's definition of "medically underserved," which means there is a great shortage of primary health care professionals in Utah. In 1995 the state legislature developed Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) to help solve this problem.
Since then five AHEC regional centers have been established. Three of the centers, located in Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Cedar City, are currently in operation. The other two centers, located in Price and Ephraim, were closed last year due to funding cuts by the state legislature, but those regions are now being served by the AHEC center located in Cedar City. (SUAHEC)
Health care provider shortages have been predicted for a number of health care professions in Utah by 2020. AHEC is working now to alleviate these shortages in the future. In the last seven years of operation AHEC has had a positive impact on the future of Utah's health care workforce by increasing the number of health care professionals in Utah's "underserved" areas.
AHEC does this by fulfilling its mission which is to introduce youth that live in rural and underserved urban communities to health care careers, to organize internships for students pursuing health care careers, and to support health care professionals who serve in medically underserved communities.
AHEC has been succeeding. For instance, over 5,700 youth in Utah have been introduced to health care careers and more than 225 students currently studying to be health care professionals have received training through AHEC programs in "medically underserved" rural and urban communities.
Although funding is scarce, AHEC is still operating its three centers to insure its mission is met.
The Medical Education Council predicts that Utah must add 6,680 health care professional to the Utah market by 2020, AHEC is working to make this happen.
AHEC's administrative office is located in Salt Lake City. For more information about the AHEC program interested persons can contact Shannon Goble at (801) 587-3372 or email her office at Shannon.Goble@hsc.utah.edu.