UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC

trains healthcare professionals for WNC

MAHEC in the News

Media articles from 2020 & 2019

Are Electronic Media Harming Children’s Health?

Ever since televisions first entered our homes, parents have grappled with the question of how much screen time is best for their children. While screen time can be educational, too much of it can impede child development and invite a range of serious health issues.

Nicole Evans, a doctor of osteopathic medicine at MAHEC Family Health Center, cites two studies of the same group of 2,441 children in Calgary, Canada, that found significant developmental differences at ages 3 and 5 among those who used electronics for varying amounts of time.
[read full story]

The Doctor Gap: A Training Program for Country Docs

In the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, a large percentage of rural residents struggle with poverty and limited access to healthcare. In Avery County, you'll find only one primary care physician for every 2,920 residents. In stark contrast, the national average is one primary care physician per 1,330 people.

In desperate need for doctors with a heart for rural medicine, MAHEC teamed up with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Watauga Medical Center in Boone, N.C., to build a family medicine residency program from scratch. [read full story]

How to Cope with Threat of Coronavirus

There are so many layers to the coronavirus story and one layer that is largely being ignored -- the psychological threat, the fear some people feel.

"We're getting inundated in all spheres, you know. We could be walking down the street and see somebody wearing a mask and then that's an automatic trigger that kind of strikes our own fear response and triggers our fight or flight response," Valerie Krall, director of Behavioral Medicine at MAHEC, said. 

Krall is aware of how many people are reacting to COVID-19. [see full story]

Local Center Gives Medical Students Hands-On Experience

MAHEC is more than a place for people to get treatment. It is also an academic teaching center for aspiring doctors.

Donna Frazier received two-for-one care at Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville. "You get an experienced clinician, and you also get someone who has recently trained and has all the latest science," said Dr. Lisa Reed, of MAHEC Family Medicine.

It paid off with a medical student's discovery. [see full story]

In Rural WNC, Induced Births Are On The Rise

The closure of several labor and delivery units at hospitals across Western North Carolina means more mothers and their doctors are planning births differently.

Dr. Suzanne Dixon has been an ob/gyn with MAHEC for about 8 years. Most of the time she works in Asheville, but she spends 2 days a week in Franklin at Mission Women’s Care. Dixon says that since Angel Medical Center closed it’s labor and delivery unit in 2017, the other ob/gyns in her practice had to leave. 

About 80 percent of Dixon’s patients now schedule when they will be induced into labor instead of waiting for a natural birth. [listen to full story]

When a Rural Maternity Unit Closes, Alternatives Are Hard to Come By

Since 2013, at least nine maternity units across the state have closed and a 10th is slated to shutter in the coming months. Addressing this growing crisis requires a systems approach, providers in western and eastern North Carolina say.

Suzanne Dixon has been caring for patients in Macon County since early 2018. Dixon, an ob/gyn with the Mountain Area Health Education Center, travels to Franklin once a week and sees women on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Even with a full schedule of 20-25 patients a day and surgeries every other week, Dixon says her work can’t fully address the needs of the community. [read full story]

Embodied: The Long Drive To Safe Birth in NC

Host Anita Rao tackles the maternal health crisis in North Carolina in this installment of Embodied on The State of Things. Anita speaks with Lilly Knoepp of Blue Ridge Public Radio who shares her reporting on rural maternal health in Western North Carolina where only one birthing center remains open in the region west of Asheville.

Lilly shares excerpts from her conversation with MAHEC's Suzanne Dixon, MD, who travels to Franklin, NC, two days a week to provide ob/gyn care for patients in the wake of recent labor and delivery unit closures in the region. [listen to full story]

Drugs, Dollars and Docs: Records Show, Asheville Doctors Accept Thousands from Big Pharma

A law called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires all pharmaceutical and medical companies to report any payments made to licensed doctors. Payments from pharmaceutical leaders to medical providers are legal according to guidelines from the American Medical Association.

Courtenay Wilson, PharmD, is the associate director of Pharmacotherapy at MAHEC. She says according to the guidelines, doctors can accept money and even gifts from drugmakers with a few stipulations. [see full story]


Spotlight Carolina: MAHEC Simulation Center

On Sunday, WLOS TV-13's Spotlight Carolina host Mark Keady sat down with medical director Paul Rodgers, MD, and Jeffrey LaSalle, RN-BC, to discuss how MAHEC's innovative approach to medical education improves provider's skills and patient care.

MAHEC’s Simulation Center allows medical professionals and students to learn life-saving procedures without putting real patients at risk. Dr. Rodgers and Jeffrey share how state-of-the-art simulation technology is used to create customized learning scenarios to help providers hone their skills in a variety of healthcare procedures and emergency situations. [see full story]

Spirit of MLK Awards Celebration Honors Diversity Leaders at MAHEC

On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, more than 250 employees and community members gathered at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since 2001, MAHEC has hosted a Spirit of MLK awards celebration and luncheon to recognize faculty, staff, and learners who embody the qualities of an emerging leader, the spirit of MLK, and whose lifetime work demonstrates a commitment to advancing social justice for communities of color. [read full story]

Local Woman with Hepatitis C Breathes a Sigh of Relief

Laurie Sykes is now breathing a sigh of relief, unlike a few months ago when, following a routine blood test, she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C -- a viral infection that attacks the liver. So, how do people get it?

"It's only through blood exposure: transfusions, surgeries, transplants," replied Dr. Shuchin Shukla, a MAHEC family medicine physician. Sykes has learned at Mountain Area Health Education Center that medication in the form of a pill is now 95 percent effective curing Hep. C. [see full story]


Madison County Launches MAT Program to Combat Opioid Addiction

A new decade does not always come with a clean slate. A patient’s symptoms don’t disappear on New Year’s Day, and public health advocates continue to face challenges from years past long after the ball drops in Times Square.

Doctors Marianna Daly and Blake Fagan of MAHEC know this. Both share a common experience – losing a patient to overdose – that has them motivated to find solutions for those struggling with addition. When Fagan, a MAHEC family physician for over 20 years, began offering training in medication-assisted treatment, Daly was quick to jump on board. [read full story]

Top Threats to WNC Health at the End of 2019

Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center, shared his take on threats to health in this area, remarking, “Ironically, what makes Western North Carolina so desirable — the beauty of our predominantly rural region — also makes us vulnerable to a variety of challenges that are part of a national rural health crisis.”

Those challenges translate into five major concerns, Heck explains. Learn what they are and how UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC is working to address them. [read full story]

Partnership Goes Beyond Healthcare

Bruce Hoebel's debilitating health problems took a toll on his wallet while waiting months for disability to kick in. "By this time, all finances was gone," recalled the 54-year-old. "Any money I had saved up was gone."

"I think we are recognizing more and more, especially in a family medicine clinic, that people have needs outside the medical treatments or interventions that we have," explained Dr. Zach Wright, a family medicine physician at Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC).

Wright listens in more ways than one, pointing patients to social and legal services they never imagined. [see full story]

The Secret of Saving the Lives of Black Mothers and Babies

In the mountains of North Carolina, black women are fighting a national health care crisis by helping each other have healthier pregnancies.

Bianca Davidson was 17 and still in foster care when she got pregnant. The baby arrived a month-and-a-half early. She hemorrhaged after delivering her second son. Her third pregnancy, three years later, required an emergency caesarean section. Davidson was afraid the next time she gave birth, either she or her baby would not survive. She had good reason to be afraid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women across the country are 320 percent more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

This time Davidsdon's doctor offered her a service that wasn’t available 12 years ago: a doula through a program run by and for black women who are employees of the Mountain Area Health Education Center and provide free support to high-risk, low-income mothers like Davidson. [read full story on Politico]

Collaborative Community Effort Tackles Rising Health Inequities

“Around the world, infant mortality rates are seen as a key measure of how healthy a community is,” Hannah Legerton of MAHEC told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “Our black infant mortality rate has increased...black babies in Buncombe County are four times as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies.”

Buncombe County was one of six locations selected to participate in CityMatCH’s fourth cohort in a nationwide program that promotes shared learning among public health departments, community organizations, academic researchers and other experts to identify the best strategies for eliminating racial infant mortality disparities.

CityMatCH partners include YWCA Asheville, to serve pregnant and parenting teenage mothers), Buncombe County's Nurse Family Partnership, ABIPA, Pisgah Legal Services, and MAHEC. [read full story]

988: FCC Approves 3-Digit Suicide Hotline Number

Mental health professionals support the FCC moving forward with a three-digit national suicide prevention hotline. In a unanimous vote, the FCC is moving forward to designate a new, nationwide three-digit number for a suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

Mental health advocates like Josh Schactman, a member of the behavioral health faculty at MAHEC sees it as a good move. “We don't always have the best access to our cognitive faculties when we're in crisis, so having a shorter number, hopefully, will make it easier for people to remember and be able to contact that crisis line,” Schactman said. [see full story]

WNC Labor And Delivery Closures Leave A Gap In Women’s Healthcare 

Last week, the doors closed on Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital’s Labor and Delivery Unit in Murphy. The closure is part of a national trend of labor and delivery units closing. Western North Carolina has certainly felt it says Dr. Bryan Hodge. “With Erlanger closing in the past 5 years we have had 6 labor decks close,” says Hodge.  

Hodge is director of Rural Health Initiatives at the Mountain Area Health Education Center or MAHEC. The regional organization recruits and trains medical practitioners to rural areas. Hodge is concerned about what the closure means for Western North Carolina. [listen to full story]

In the Face of an Opioid Epidemic, Make a Safer Home for Your Family During the Holidays

This is the time of year when many of us travel, reconnect, and exchange gifts with those we love most. It is also the time when we help take care of family concerns: Grandma’s eyesight is getting worse, our favorite aunt has food in her fridge more than two years out of date, the old family home is in need of some serious repairs. One concern that often goes unaddressed is what’s in the medicine cabinet or the kitchen cupboard. 

Removing and properly disposing of dangerous medications makes homes safer for those who live in them and their guests. When we remove these medications, we make it less likely that our loved ones will ingest a mistaken prescription, and we lessen the risk for accidental poisoning and overdose. This year, when you go home for the holidays, we encourage you to give your family the gift of a safer home—yours and theirs. [Read opinion on USA Today]

Flu Season Arrives in WNC, But It's Not Too Late to Get a Shot

North Carolina state health officials reported Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, that a fifth person has died from the flu. So far, four out of the five people who have died were age 65 or older.

At MAHEC, one doctor said he's only diagnosed children with the flu this season. "This year, it looks like more dangerous for older folks, but also hitting younger people more," Dr. Shuchin Shukla said. The state's weekly flu report shows a gradual increase in cases since reporting began in October."I was looking at the data for the past couple of years and December and early January is when it was really getting bad," Shukla said. [see full story]

Recruiting the Next Generation of Rural Physicians

"The best clinicians in a rural environment are much like a Swiss army knife," shares Bryan Hodge, DO, MAHEC's director of Rural Health Initiatives. "A Swiss army knife is not going to be the ideal knife in certain situations, but it has the ability to get people through. It's certainly the knife you're going to want if you're in a camping situation where there could be a variety of different challenges that you face at any time."

Rural physicians are the keystones of their communities' healthcare, and they take pride in the range of care that they deliver. The problem is, there are too few of them -- and that shortage is only going to get worse. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts that by 2030, the number of practicing rural physicians will fall by almost a quarter. [see full story]


They Took My Kid: Rural Docs Help Moms Fight Addiction

MedPage Today explores programs at a rural center in North Carolina focused on improving both prenatal care and substance abuse treatment by bringing both types of care under one roof.

"One of the other challenges pregnant women with opioid use disorder face in a rural setting is certainly access to medication-assisted treatment," shares MAHEC's Melinda Ramage, FNP.

"They can see a provider like myself, who is buprenorphine-waivered to prescribe medication assisted treatment, to get their obstetrical care and medication-assisted treatment in the same visit. They don't have to go to another clinic to access that or individual sessions with our counselor or attend our groups. That's a gamechanger." [see full story]


Local Agencies Present Update on Battle Against Opioid Addiction and Overdose

Lynette Oliver stood in front of a tall black panel in the banquet hall of the U.S. Cellular Center on Oct. 28. Dozens of small fabric squares hung from two lengths of ribbon draped across the panel, reminiscent of Tibetan prayer flags. “I’m looking for my son,” the petite woman said aloud as she scanned both rows. “I found him.” On June 18, 2018, Oliver discovered Michael dead at 36 of an overdose, leaving his son without a father two days shy of his 11th birthday. 

Oliver and over 100 other members of the community attended Let’s Talk Opioids, a community update and conversation on opioid crisis response in Buncombe County. It was standing room only as in-the-trenches experts presented information, including the Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full story]


WNC Tackles An "Unaddressed Public Health Crisis"

Educators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement are gathering in Asheville this weekend to tackle an unaddressed public health crisis. Blue Ridge Public Radio talked with one of the conference organizers who is helping shine the spotlight on the issue here in WNC. A landmark study found that the more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) a person experienced, the higher their risk of problems in adulthood - everything from drug abuse to depression to diabetes.  

“The original study showed that two out of three people have at least one ACE – it’s pretty common and it’s been labeled a public health crisis,” says Mary Lynn Barrett LCSW, MPH, a behavioral health specialist at the Mountain Area Health Education Center who has dedicated much of her career to ACE awareness. [listen to full story]


A Mountain Doctor's Office Adds Pharmacist to the Team

Pharmacist Evan Drake isn't behind a counter asking questions. Instead, she learns during a consultation with Dorothy Blair, at Foothills Medical Associates in Columbus, that a lot of medication isn't working for the 75-year-old.

Evan is a MAHEC rural fellow and graduate of MAHEC's second-year ambulatory care residency program. Her residency and rural fellowship have helped prepare her to establish an innovative clinical pharmacy practice working alongside rural healthcare providers to improve the quality and cost of care. [see full story]


Let's Talk Opioids: Update on Buncombe County's Opioid Response Efforts

On Oct. 28, Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, MAHEC, and Vaya Health hosted a community conversation about opioids at the US Cellular Center. The town-hall style event opened with a presentation on the current state of the opioid crisis in Buncombe County delivered by UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC Chief Education Officer Blake Fagan, MD, and Buncombe County's Amy Upham, MPH.

The presentation was followed by updates on local opioid response efforts shared by Buncombe County Health Director Jan Shepard; Asheville Fire Department Chief Scott Burnette; MAHEC's Melinda Ramage, FNP; NC Department of Justice's Holly Jones, MPH; and Vaya Health's Ellen Stroud. Community members had an opportunity to learn more about local resources focused on prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery. [see news coverage on WLOS and WYFF]


Statewide Symposium Spotlights Narrative Healthcare

When Laura Hope-Gill first proposed a narrative health care program for Lenoir-Rhyne University back in 2015, the assistant professor of writing received anything but a warm welcome. Fast forward to 2019, and Hope-Gill tells a different story.

The field is set to gain local visibility thanks to North Carolina’s upcoming first statewide symposium on narrative healthcare to be held at MAHEC. The keynote speaker is Dr. Rita Charon, who founded the narrative medicine program at Columbia University. Other presenters will include Dr. Jeff Heck, MAHEC’s CEO, who strives to impress the importance of narrative on the healthcare providers who train with his organization. "Good physicians are very interested in understanding patients.” [read full story]


MAHEC To Host ACEs Southeastern Summit 2019

Ariel Shumaker- Hammond, MPH, LCSW, director of MAHEC's Perinatal Mental Health Program, and Frank Castelblanco, DPN, director of the Department of Continuing Professional Development, explain the importance of understanding adverse childhood events, also known as ACEs, and their lifelong health impacts.

MAHEC is hosting the upcoming ACEs Southeastern Summit on
Nov. 1-3 in Asheville that features national and regional leaders working in the fields of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. This year’s summit will help participants develop practical tools, skills, and strategies to take back to their schools, organizations, and communities to reduce the intergenerational transmission of trauma and improve resilience. [see full story]


Imbed Awarded $1.5 Million NIH Grant to Fight Biofilms in Wounds

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Imbed Biosciences a
$1.5 million two-year grant to support research to develop a bio-resorbable wound dressing that can kill bacteria hiding in biofilms in wounds. Biofilms are bacterial communities that are resistant to treatment and can delay the healing of chronic wounds for several months.

“There are no effective therapeutic options available to completely remove biofilms from wounds," explains Dr. Michael Schurr, Imbed cofounder and director of MAHEC's General Surgery Residency Program. The hope is that a new wound dressing made with silver and gallium metal ions will kill these bacteria without damaging the skin cells that are involved in the healing process. [read full story]


WNC Doctors Say Flu Season's Started Earlier Than Normal

Doctors in the mountains confirm there's flu cases already being reported in Buncombe and Henderson County. "Usually we’re starting to vaccinate in October, and we don’t really start seeing flu until winter," said Dr. Daniel Frayne, president of the Mountain Area Health Education Center. 

"Sometimes you see a few cases and then you don’t see anything for awhile, so it’s a little bit too soon to tell," said Dr. Frayne. Regardless, doctors say the best thing you can do is get your flu shot now. Even though it's still September, it's not too early. "The flu vaccine each season is effective for the entire season no matter how long it lasts," said Frayne. "Getting it later doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re protected longer." [see full story]


News 13 Investigates: Racial Disparity Among Those in Need of Transplants

Right now, more than 3,000 North Carolinians are waiting for the one thing that could save their lives - a kidney transplant. News 13 has learned that most of the people on that list are minorities. Data from LifeShare Carolinas shows that 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. waiting for kidneys are African-American. In North Carolina, it's nearly double the national rate at 60 percent.

In Asheville, MAHEC president Dr. Daniel Frayne sheds light on the reason behind the racial disparity. "It's not about genetics. That's the key concept. Certainly, socio-economic status plays a big role," Frayne said, and things like toxic stress, access to doctors, and education all factor in. "We have a gap that is persistent and, in some cases, actually worsening between particularly black and white," Frayne said. [see full story]


Two Buncombe County People Suffer Consequences of Latest Smoking Craze

The first cases of what's being called vaping-associated illness have been confirmed in Buncombe County. State health officials said there are 33 cases in North Carolina, and most of those people had to be hospitalized. What's causing the vape-related illness remains a mystery that could be far from being solved.

"It's one thing to say what chemicals are in the vaping solutions when they're aerosolized and get into your lungs," Dr. Lisa Reed, a family physician at MAHEC said. "We just have to wait longer to find out which of the many chemicals that are in these is going to be the one that causes a different chronic health problem," Reed said. "People who are waiting to see what long-term consequences might be, it might take years."  [see full story]


Telehealth Delivers Crucial Rural Access to Care

As medical providers across Western North Carolina work to expand access, especially in rural communities where it’s notoriously lacking, telehealth has emerged as a promising new solution for patients in areas that lack local resources. An estimated 7 million patients in the United States will use telemedicine services this year, and demand will continue to rise. 

“As we become more digital in our daily lives, it makes more sense, from a provider’s perspective, to interact with folks in that realm,” says Shane Lunsford, practice manager at the MAHEC Center for Psychiatry and Mental Wellness. “This is a way to make access to healthcare happen and treat patients’ conditions before they have to go to the emergency room or call 911” [read full story].


ARHS Discusses $90 Million Plans for Hospital Campus in Watuaga

ARHS President and CEO Chuck Mantooth discussed plans for the future of ARHS that have been made with the aging population in mind. Improvements include a new bed tower adjacent to the emergency department, surgery suites, and a new cardiovascular center.

Phase two would include a continuity clinic with a new family medicine primary care residency program that is set to launch in July 2020. The residency program would be run in partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, with four to six residents brought in each year for a three-year family medicine residency. [read full story].


Addicted NC: New Ways To Keep Teens from Addiction

Several mountain counties are now relying on students to spread the word about the dangers of opioids.

MAHEC School Health Program Manager April Baur, RN, and RHA Prevention Specialist Heather Daniels help lead the Partnership for Substance Free Youth in Buncombe County.

"We've learned scare tactics don't work, they don't respond well to those, so we really focus on education and then sort of action steps," Baur said. "They really want the facts, and they want it to be presented to them the same way they would any other topic and then from there they can make the decision. I think it's empowering for them to make the decision themselves," Baur said. [see full story]


Addicted NC: Lack of Local Resources for Teenagers

In North Carolina, more than 20 percent of high schoolers admit they've tried opioids. Experts said it's a dangerous statistic, since an addiction can begin after just a few days of prescription pills.

Dr. Blake Fagan said 90 percent of all adults struggling with addiction started using before they turned 18. "Because they have a younger brain, for some of these kids, they take pills for the first time and they are off to the races. Now they have an opioid use disorder," Fagan said.
[see full story]


Asheville and Buncombe County Seek Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation

In the run-up to World Breastfeeding Week, Thursday-Wednesday,
Aug. 1-7, local elected officials have proclaimed their intention that Asheville and Buncombe County should be a breastfeeding-friendly community. Lactation expert Georganna Cogburn imagines a truly breastfeeding-friendly community as a place where new moms are supported in all aspects of their lives. 

Cogburn works with MAHEC and provides lactation education for breastfeeding peer counselors and health department staff members involved with Women, Infants and Children nutrition programs throughout Western North Carolina. Realizing the breastfeeding-friendly vision, she says, will take broad support and participation throughout the community [read full story].


Addicted NC: WNC Program Helps Addicted Mothers, Mothers-to-Be

Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can have devastating consequences on an unborn baby. Here in the mountains, doctors continue to work closely with expecting mothers struggling with addiction.

"The numbers will make it look like we’re seeing more cases, but what we’re actually seeing is that we are getting better at identifying and then offering treatment," said Marie Gannon, of the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC. She's the behavioral health director for Project CARA, a substance abuse treatment program for pregnant women, that tries to provide "respect, resilience and recovery for all. [see full story].


Addicted NC: Substance Use and Pregnancy

Wednesday in our series "Addicted North Carolina," we focused on women who are fighting addiction during pregnancy. Marie Gannon works at MAHEC where she is the co-director for Project CARA, which stands for 'Care that Advocates Respect/Reslience/Recovery for All.' CARA provides gender-specific, trauma-informed substance use treatment and perinatal care in one comprehensive program to ensure pregnant and parenting women can access the quality ob/gyn care and substance use treatment they deserve.

We talked with Marie about how common addiction is among is pregnant women, how addiction impacts a fetus or newborn, and most importantly, how these women can get help. [see full story].


MAHEC Hosts Health Career Summer Camp for Area Students

Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) hosted its first Project PROMISE Health Careers Summer Camp at the end of June. This free three-day camp was held at MAHEC and UNC Asheville, which housed 20 rural junior and senior high school students from McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Yancey and Swain counties.

Over the three days, campers joined MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative team for health career-focused activities led by health professionals and residents from MAHEC’s family medicine, ob/gyn, sports medicine, pharmacy, dental, and surgery programs.  Students were exposed to a variety of clinical settings and hands-on activities [read full story].


News 13 Investigates: Overcoming Pregnancy-Related Mental Health Disorders

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, a condition that some experts say affects about 20 percent of mothers, includes a number of different types of mental health issues. Women can experience symptoms during pregnancy or up to a year after birth. 

Bali Mitchell is a local mother who battled postpartum depression with each of her pregnancies. It started when her first son was born. She then got pregnant with twins, and the feelings only got worse. She finally got the help that saved her. Mitchell was emotional talking about that difficult time in her life and her gratitude for the team at MAHEC who treated her. [see full story]


Insurance Coverage Gap Impacts Children's Health

New data from NC Child, a Raleigh-based children’s health research group, shows that although 85% of Buncombe County mothers received prenatal care in 2017, the percentages of Buncombe babies born pre-term or with low birth weight remain comparable to those across NC.

Dr. Daniel Frayne, practicing family physician and president of Mountain Area Health Education Center, says that children’s health begins even before conception. This is important, Frayne says, because about 30% of birth outcomes are related to a woman’s health before conception.

“Mom’s health affects the child’s health. But even if we’re doing the best in prenatal care, if we’re not addressing mom’s health before pregnancy, we’re not going to get the outcomes in children and the next generation that we want” [read full story].


Report on Women's Health Unveiled in Asheville

“Buncombe County is doing really well compared to other counties in North Carolina overall,” said Elyse Shaw, a researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the co-author of a new statewide report about women’s health.

The state, however, didn’t get a great report card: Shaw’s organization gave North Carolina a D in women’s health, down from a D+ in 2013.

N.C. Secretaries Machelle Sanders of the Department of Administration and Dr. Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health and Human Services had been scheduled to appear at the unveiling, held at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, but both were detained in Raleigh [read full story].


Women's Health Report: NC Gets 'D' Grade

North Carolina has a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing women’s health and wellness. That's the finding of a state commissioned report released in Asheville this week at Mountain Area Health Education Center. 

The 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness report conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows overall NC has made some progress but the state still ranks among the highest in the country in a number of areas, including stroke and infant mortality rates, says Institute study director Elyse Shaw. [listen to full story]


Dental Assisting Program at ICC Being Offered

The new Dental Assisting program is made possible thanks to a partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville, which is opening a dental clinic on the site of the old hospice facility on the campus of St. Luke’s Hospital. 

“There is a shortage of dental and primary healthcare providers across Western North Carolina,” said Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of MAHEC.

“Too many families are using hospital emergency departments for their dental care, which is costly and does not improve oral health outcomes. We want to make dental and primary healthcare more accessible across our region. This new collaborative partnership will help us do that.” [read full story]


Healthcare Providers, Mental Health Advocates, Elected Officials Gather in Asheville

The Mountain Area Health Education Center was full Tuesday as the N.C. Council for Women and Youth Involvement launched the 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report. The report is the second in a series of four highlighting key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The report revealed high infant mortality rates in our part of the state. It also revealed ongoing problems with domestic violence and mental health.

But, it showed improvement on the breast cancer mortality rate and—for some demographics—fatal heart disease. [see full story]


Governor Announces Release of 2019 Status of Women in NC Health & Wellness Report

Governor Cooper today announced the completion of the 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report, released by the NC Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement. The report was unveiled at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville and is the second in a series of four highlighting key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor Rebecca Planchard joined Council Director Mary Williams-Stover and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Study Director Elyse Shaw at MAHEC to provide a review of data and policy recommendations from the 2019 Health and Wellness report. [read full story]


News 13 Investigates: Teen Vaping Dangers 

Years of progress combating teen tobacco use are being threatened by an e-cigarette, vaping epidemic. The small devices are a big problem in mountain schools, and, as summer breaks, schools are warning parents. 

As schools educate students on the dangers in health classes, MAHEC is working with Buncombe County schools to include vaping awareness in next years' health and wellness program.“What I'll say is no chemicals—whether it's THC, whether it's nicotine, whether its alcohol—none of those things are healthy for people whose brains are not fully formed,” said MAHEC's Dr. Lisa Reed. [see full story]


Healthcare Trends, Healthcare Needs

You may not give much thought to the medical field in Western North Carolina unless you or a loved one are sick. But the local medical industry should not be taken for granted—it has a large financial impact throughout the region.

The Western North Carolina region is following many national trends in healthcare employment. Jeffery E. Heck, MD, CEO of MAHEC, shares that the biggest trends in healthcare practice are toward specialization and urbanization. "Unfortunately, what we need here in Western North Carolina are more general practitioners, like those trained in family medicine, who can provide a full spectrum of primary care for the people in their communities." [read full story]


Moms-to-Be Teach Each Other in Monthly Group Prenatal Visits

In a big room full of moms-to-be, pregnant women check each other’s blood pressure and weight, a nurse-midwife measures their growing bellies, and they all join a seated circle for two hours of candid talk about what to expect when you’re expecting. But in a more relaxed group setting, women open up and conversation flows beyond vital signs, weight gain and due dates.

Pregnant women at the clinic can opt to join a group session for their monthly checkups instead of the traditional one-on-one office visits with their doctor that are usually recommended. Kailee Morel Alvarez had never heard of group prenatal visits when she learned she was pregnant last summer. But the 21-year-old and her husband were sold after their first visit to Mountain Area Health Education Center’s OB-GYN clinic. [read full story]


Nursing Students Test Virtual Reality Simulation Technology at MAHEC

Students in Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing tested a new virtual reality simulation technology Tuesday, April 9, at the Mountain Area Health Education Center’s Biltmore Campus.

WCU developed the innovative training program in partnership with Learning Lab 360 and the Mountain Area Health Education Center as part of a $2.7 million federal grant designed to support community-based primary care clinical experiences for nurses. 

“Using virtual reality in clinical education allows learners to be involved in real-life experiences without real-life consequences,” said Elaine Alexander, MAHEC simulation center director. [read full story]


'Sistas' Aim to Reduce Disparities in the Delivery Room

Rates of maternal and infant mortality during childbirth are disproportionately higher among African American women in Buncombe County and nationwide. That stark reality is what prompted a group of women in Asheville to organize and start a doula service for women of color and for women without the financial means.

“The fact that racism plays a role in that set everybody on fire in wanting to address specifically the disparity in infant mortality,” said Amanda Brickhouse-Murphy, a nurse midwife at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

With the assistance of a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, MAHEC and the organization Mothering Asheville helped launch Sistas Caring 4 Sistas. Six women completed their doula training in 2016. The nonprofit primarily serves patients on Medicaid. [listen to full story]


Buncombe County Students Learn About Opioid Crisis in Creative Way

Health officials found a unique way to deliver a strong message to students about the dangers of opioids. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, from 2010-2016, 10.4 percent of unintentional opioid-related deaths in North Carolina were people 24 years old and younger.

In order to educate about this crisis, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC, launched the play, 'It's Just a Pill,' earlier this month. It takes a creative approach in educating kids and teachers about the risks associated with opioids.

"It's better to talk about it at a younger age because our minds are more moldable at this age," said Shanzay Bashir, a sixth grader. [see full story]


Children’s Musical Explores Opioid Epidemic

Melody Hays understands pain. As she struggled with myasthenia gravis and rheumatoid arthritis, unable to leave her bed for 10 years, she pondered how she could make a difference in the world and help others.

Hays eventually regained mobility and, after seeing a presentation by Dr. Blake Fagan of the Mountain Area Health Education Center, she dreamed that she asked him, “what are we doing for children?” The next morning, she woke up inspired to write a children’s musical. Hays is now a healthcare education planner at MAHEC.

On March 8, It’s Just a Pill premiered at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. The 55-minute musical confronts the opioid epidemic from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl. Following the premiere, the play will go on tour and will be seen by at least 4,000 students. [read full story]


Want To Find A Key To Unlocking Good Health? Look To Communities

There are many rewarding aspects of my job. One that is particularly gratifying is that I have the privilege of serving as chairman of the independent Blue Cross NC Foundation...In this role, I have the opportunity to gain even more insight into the health challenges facing our state, as well as the efforts on the ground to tackle these challenges head-on. In Asheville, a group of women – who themselves were marginalized by a health care system that didn’t reflect them or their experiences – have trained to become doulas to support the women of their neighborhood and to face racial disparities in infant mortality head-on. These doulas are now employed by a local OB/GYN practice and their influence is shaping not only the birth experience for women whose babies are at risk for higher mortality, but also the policies and practices in the health care system overall. [read full story]


Local Leaders Tackle Health Impacts of Structural Racism