Rural health education center in Illinois gets $6.5M

The National Center for Rural Health Professions at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine Rockford will receive nearly $6.5 million over the next five years to fund the Illinois Area Health Education Centers Network program.

The network includes nine centers throughout the state in rural areas and Chicago, with the program based in Rockford, Illinois, at the College of Medicine and led by Hana Hinkle, research assistant professor of family and community medicine, who serves as director of the network.

The network seeks to address the critical health workforce needs in rural and underserved communities in Illinois by providing access to training and education opportunities for anyone interested in pursuing health careers in the state’s most affected communities.

Since 2010, the Illinois Area Health Education Centers Network has reached more than 100,000 participants at all levels of training and education in the health professions.

The program’s funding provides critical training and education for high school and college students searching for careers in the rural and underserved health care workforce and for practicing health care providers.

Programs offered through the network include job shadowing, classroom-based presentations and pipeline programs that allow students to train in communities throughout the state where they can experience health care delivery in areas of highest need. The network also offers a competitive, two-year program for professional-level students from across the state called AHEC Scholars.

The Illinois Area Health Education Centers Network is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with training health professionals and improving health care for people who are geographically isolated, economically disadvantaged or medically vulnerable.