The program is part of a national initiative that provides inter-professional learning opportunities to students with health majors (e.g., medicine, pharmacy, social work, dentistry, nursing, physical therapy, public health and others) who are interested in serving rural or underserved communities. The goal is to have students build the skills and competencies needed to help transform primary care and improve patient care.
“Being an AHEC Scholar will help me network and give me professional development opportunities,” Azeredo said. “It’s a program that will prepare me for being a leader in public health.”
The two-year, 160-hour program—which also provides students with a $500 annual stipend—focuses on core areas such as current and emerging health issues, cultural competency and social determinants of health.
“I began the program in November 2018 and will finish in November 2020,” said Azeredo, who is concentrating in health education. “The first year is didactic, where we complete individual and group work in Google Classroom. The second year is experiential, so we will be out in our assigned counties assessing the community and analyzing their needs.”
The program’s interdisciplinary focus is one of the main reasons Azeredo was drawn to it.
“Health professionals all have different skill sets,” she explained. “Public health, for example, prioritizes prevention over treatment. But forming connections with other health professionals can help us lower rates of morbidity and mortality. As health professionals, we need to trust in each other’s capabilities.”
In addition to gaining insight into other health professions, Azeredo values the program for the career-building opportunities it provides.
“My experience as an AHEC Scholar sets me apart from others,” emphasized Azeredo, who hopes to get a job at a university upon graduation and eventually pursue her PhD. “When I graduate I’ll be someone who has experience working in a setting with multiple professions, and I’ll be able to directly apply what I’ve learned out in the community. This can be crucial for my future career.”
Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health