Students Prepare for Health Careers in Medically Underserved Communities

Students interested in health careers gathered with public health professionals on August 14-15, 2021 to learn, teach, network, and discuss best practices for improving health in and with marginalized communities across Illinois.

Co-convened by three urban administrators of Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) — Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) for Northeast Illinois AHEC, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group for Chicago AHEC, and Project Brotherhood for Chicago South AHEC – the AHEC Summer Institute was open to graduate and undergraduate students pursuing health careers with a commitment to serve marginalized populations, whether or not they are currently involved with the AHEC Scholars Program. Participants in the AHEC Summer Institute had the opportunity to earn certifications in topics such as Blood Borne Pathogens and Mental Health First Aid, receive career coaching and training, network with one another, and learn from leading health professionals in various industries.

“COVID-19 has dominated the healthcare discussion and renewed the importance of the global public health infrastructure,” says Ruthie Moore, PHIMC Education and Training Manager and co-organizer of the AHEC Summer Institute. “Here in Illinois, the AHEC program is equipping Scholars with tools they need to combat opioid addiction and palliative care in our communities, as well.”

The National AHEC Organization was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train, and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. Today, AHECs across the country are preparing the next generation of public health professionals to better serve low-income communities, rural communities, communities of color, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender-nonbinary, and to encourage young people from these communities to consider careers in the health professions.

AHEC Scholar Rayan Salih noted after the recent national AHEC conference, “There’s a lot left to be done but it’s inspiring to see all the leaders that we have on the ground already. I thought the sessions were super engaging and interactive… and I would recommend that all future scholars should attend!”

The AHEC Summer Institute falls in AHEC’s 50th anniversary year.