Western New York Rural Area Health Education, Inc. (R-AHEC)’s mission is “to improve health and healthcare through education.” R-AHEC is part of the National Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program. The AHEC program was developed in the early 1970’s to recruit, train and retain a health professional workforce committed to underserved communities. The AHEC Program’s vision is to connect students to careers, professionals to communities and communities to better health. R-AHEC is part of the NYS AHEC System and is New York State’s first AHEC. Each NYS AHEC center is expected to be unique, while providing similar core services to aid in the health professional recruitment/retention supporting medically underserved areas, coordinate student training opportunities within underserved areas, and direct efforts towards developing health career opportunities for local youth.
R-AHEC has fostered strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations. R-AHEC is recognized as a neutral, regional facilitation resource capable of successful implementation of local, state and federal workforce and education grants with a wide variety of local and regional healthcare organizations, school and community partners. Currently, R-AHEC employs an Executive Director, and Associate Director, Administrative Specialist, Staff Accountant, four Coordinators, one Program Assistant, and a part-time cleaner. The governing Board of Directors seats up to 17 members, representing health professions, schools, geographic and/or business associations.
R-AHEC began operations in 1999 as a non-profit independent facilitation resource that serves as a networking hub to a predominately rural 12-county region, headquartered in Warsaw, New York. Counties include Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates, which covers 9,141 square miles. R-AHEC addresses the health needs of its rural communities by focusing on: Health Workforce Development; Student Housing; Pipeline Programming for Youth; Health Information Technology Support, and finally Community Health Education.
Health Workforce Development: Through various grant based and independent initiatives, current healthcare workforce is offered a variety of on-going skills training, career ladder development, and professional skills development. Projects have continually changing components and are designed to build and retain a skilled healthcare workforce.
Student Housing: The Thiel Hospitality House offers medical and health profession students’ opportunities to connection with rural preceptors during clinical rotations. This is achieved through various housing incentives, including short-term housing and housing scholarships.
Pipeline Programming for Youth: Offers health career education and career path development for youth at all school levels. Activities include classroom presentations, field trips, shadowing experiences with local healthcare providers, all aimed at exploring the various careers in healthcare.
Health Information Technology: The Western New York Rural Broadband Healthcare Network (WNY RBHN) is a consortium of partners in rural, urban, and medically underserved areas of Western New York and surrounding regions, which focuses on increasing the utilization of Health Information Technology (HIT) and utilizes the FCC’s Rural Health Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund to enable eligible facilities to provide better access to care through telemedicine.
Community Health Education: Through Resources for Education and Awareness of Community Health (REACH), initiatives are implemented to improve community awareness of various health issues.