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MAHEC in the News

Recent Stories From the Press

Gov. Cooper Wants More Federal Money To Fight Opioids

Gov. Roy Cooper gave state health officials the go ahead Monday to immediately apply for a $25 million grant from Washington. The money would go toward prevention, treatment and recovery services for an estimated 5,000 people across North Carolina.

"We're asking for grants or trying to get a little bit more funding for the future," said Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at Mountain Area Health Education Center. "Every little bit of money helps us with this opioid crisis. We probably need enough funding to cover maybe closer to 100,000 people in North Carolina that are in their addiction and not able to receive services currently," he said. [see full story]

Here’s How to Use the Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone

Naloxone use is increasingly common as communities across the country grapple with the effects of opiate addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine recommends that those who are at risk for an overdose—as well as their friends, family, or other potential bystanders—should consider carrying the drug and undergo training to learn how to use it.

“Because naloxone blocks the effects of opiates in the body, when a person wakes up, they may show withdrawal symptoms, such a vomiting, achiness, or anxiety,” Blake Fagan, MD, chief education officer at Mountain Area Health Education Center, tells SELF. [read full article]

Medical Experts Host Opioid Crisis Conference in Asheville

Medical experts with MAHEC and Mission Health hosted an opioid crisis conference on Thursday at MAHEC in South Asheville. Panels included people who are working on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. 

The discussions gave attendees an idea of the current state of the opioid crisis but focused on the ethics of opioid treatment and prescriptions.

The North Carolina attorney general, who has made opioids a top priority, was expected to give the keynote address to end the conference. [see full story]


Alternative Pain Therapies May Reduce Addiction Risk

At the Mountain Area Health Education Center, for example, treating pain involves more than just pushing pills. For starters, cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients think differently about their pain. “We have lots of data on how behavioral therapy can actually reduce their pain,” says Dr. Blake Fagan. “There is good, solid data that treating a patient’s depression that is a result of that pain helps to decrease their pain."

Fagan, however, also stresses the need for more scientific research to assess different therapies’ effectiveness.

“We have data on behavioral therapy. We have data on treating patients’ depression. We have data on acupuncture,” he says. “But there haven’t been any randomized, controlled trials on CBD or kratom. I don’t think we in the medical community can say these are safe alternatives, because we just don’t know.” [read full article]

Stories from Mothers of Color Spur New Effort in Buncombe County to Fight Infant Mortality

Smart McMillan gave birth to twins, though one baby died before leaving the hospital. Stories like Smart McMillan’s have been told often by black mothers like her who have suffered the loss of a baby, or nearly died themselves while giving birth. Black babies in Buncombe County were two times more likely to die than white babies in 2016. That rate had increased to three times more likely in 2018, according to a May report by Mountain Area Health Education Center. 

MAHEC has teamed with Mothering Asheville, which guides a community-based doula program aimed at supporting women throughout their pregnancy. "Mothering Asheville is a movement that emerged after a grant opportunity from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation," said Maggie Adams, a grant project manager at MAHEC who works closely with the doula program. [read full article]

MAHEC Selects Daniel J. Frayne, MD, as new President

With support from the search committee and senior leadership team, MAHEC is pleased to announce that Dan Frayne will assume the newly created role of MAHEC President in July. Since joining MAHEC in 2006 as a Family Medicine physician, Dan has held many leadership roles including medical director for all MAHEC Family Health Centers, medical director for Regional Services, and Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine, to name a few.

For those of you who know Dr. Frayne, you have likely witnessed his innovative teaching style, tireless commitment to accessible culturally appropriate healthcare for all people in Western North Carolina, and relentless dedication to quality improvement. He has a proven track record of being an astute visionary, and his successes have had far-reaching positive impacts on our entire organization. [read full article]

Medication-Assisted Treatment as an Answer to the Opioid Epidemic

Elaine Ellis from the North Carolina Medical Society speaks with MAHEC's Dr. Blake Fagan, MD, who discusses the challenges physicians face in treating patients with chronic pain including risks for opioid dependency and overdose. He addresses new opioid prescribing limits in the recently enacted North Carolina STOP Act and shares evidence-based alternatives for chronic pain management.

Dr. Fagan also explains how primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can support their patients with opioid use disorder through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine. [listen to podcast]

Considering What a "Code Blue" Really Means for Patients

Let's talk about death. What? That's not at the top of your list for breakfast conversation? Well, you're not alone. Few of us want to discuss death, even though it is inevitable for us all.

As a physician working at MAHEC's Family Health Center in Asheville, there are times I need to admit patients to the hospital. When I do, I ask a question about my patient's values that spoils the illusion. If you are the patient, here's what I ask you: "If your heart were to unexpectedly stop beating - in other words, if you were to die naturally - while you are in the hospital, what would you want the doctors to do?" [read full article]

Opioid Epidemic Inundating Public-Health, Foster-Care Systems

If you think the "opioid crisis" has been overhyped, consideration of the facts discussed at this week's forum on opioid issues in Asheville may change your mind.

Deaths from drug overdoses in North Carolina surpassed deaths from motor vehicles accidents for the first time in 2010. Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses have doubled since 2009. The over-prescription of opioid painkillers and increasing availability of heroin and fentanyl on the streets has led to more than a quarter-million deaths in the past 10 years across the country.

Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at the Asheville-based Mountain Area Health Education Center, made these points during his keynote speech Tuesday at the N.C. Community Association's opioid forum. [read full article]

Here Are Some Ways to Tackle the Opioid Issue in Western North Carolina, Experts Say

Making progress against the opioid epidemic requires sustained efforts to help people addicted to the painkillers before, during and after a crisis, experts said at a roundtable discussion put on by the Citizen Times.

Eighteen people from around Western North Carolina discussed local solutions and obstacles to dealing with opioids in the meeting Tuesday. The group included health care and social services professionals, five state legislators and a Buncombe County commissioner.

Blake Fagan, a family physician at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, said there is still work to be done to get providers and patients to switch to other ways to deal with pain and, for those already addicted, provide counseling and peer support plus medicine to combat the severe symptoms of withdrawal. [read full article]

As Opioid Death Rates Spike in Minority Communities, Faith Leaders Issue Call to Action

The Rev. L.C. Ray admittedly knew little of the region's opioid crisis before his WNC Baptist Fellowship Church congregation asked him last year how they could raise awareness about of an epidemic killing an average of four people a day in North Carolina. But lack of knowledge, Ray said he decided, shouldn't translate to lack of action.

In collaboration with Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, Buncombe County Schools, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Asheville Police Department, Health and Human Services and additional faith groups, Ray helped to organize the event on Tuesday night.

During a presentation given by Dr. Blake Fagan, assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at MAHEC, many attendees gasped and mumbled 'oh my God' as he discussed the severity of opioids and heroin in WNC. [read full article]

New Scholars Program Hopes to Address the Shortage of Healthcare Professionals in NC

A new program in the mountains is hoping to address the shortage of healthcare professionals in the state.

The NC AHEC Scholars Program will recruit, train and support selected health professions students who are committed to community service and improving health in rural and underserved urban communities in Western North Carolina where all 16 counties are federally designated health professional shortage areas.

Students from underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged/rural backgrounds, and first-generation college students are encouraged to apply for this federally funded program. [see the full story]

Burnsville Mom Helps Women Heal from Opioid, Substance Use Disorders

"I'm a graduate of Mountain Heritage, but don't hold it against me," Jessica McCurry shared with a gymnasium full of students at Madison High School in February. The laughter and playful boos bounced off well-traveled gym floors. But you could have heard a pin drop a few minutes later when Jessica, a lifelong Burnsville resident, shared her experiences from ten years of struggling with an opioid use disorder.

Now six years into her recovery, Jessica has regained control of her life and her health. Today she's using her hard-won experience to help women in Yancey County with substance use disorders find their own path to wellness through Toe River Advocates for Community Education and Support (TRACES), a community health initiative sponsored by the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and funded by a two-year grant from the Duke Endowment. [read full article]

How To Handle Medical Advice Requests From Friends, Family

A survey in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that 99% of the 465 responding physicians had been approached by a family member for a medical diagnosis, advice or treatment.

Despite such apparent prevalence, teaching the next generation of physicians how to handle medical requests from family and friends is often not part of the required curriculum, according to Robyn Latessa MD, director and assistant dean, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Asheville campus located at MAHEC.

"In our program here at the UNC School of Medicine Asheville, we do touch on this topic, but that's certainly not the case across the board," she said. [read full article]

Teaming Up To Combat the Opioid Crisis

"Last year over 64,000 people died of opiate overdoses in the United States," says Dr. Blake Fagan, a family physician and Chief Education Officer with MAHEC. "The number one reason that people get into their opiate use disorder - that's the new term for opiate addiction - is from prescription medications," adds Dr. Fagan.

NC Attorney General Josh Stein is pushing to get unused pills out of homes. That's why he is teaming up with agencies across the state for medication take-back events like the one MAHEC and the Attorney General participated in on March 22 in Asheville where 650 pounds of unused medications were collected in just 4 hours. [see the full story]

Fagan: Doctors, Big Pharma Share Blame in Opioid Crisis

The Eastern Area Health Education Center co-hosted a conference featuring Dr. Blake Fagan from MAHEC in Western North Carolina and Dare County Sheriff’s Investigator Donnie Varnell who shared the best ways to handle what they said is an “epidemic” of drug abuse that kills thousands of Americans every year.

Fagan said patients should be prescribed opioids only for a few days after surgeries, and should be taught other ways to manage pain in the long term, including use of non-addictive medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical therapy and exercise. [read full article]

Buncombe County Moves Up to 14th in State for Overall Health Outcomes

Buncombe County is on track to become the third healthiest community in North Carolina, according to national County Health Rankings (CHR) released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute earlier this month. Excellent clinical care, a wealth of opportunities for physical activity, and educational achievement helped the county lead the way in the state.

"We have a wonderful Safety Net Coalition here in Buncombe County," notes Jeff Heck, President and CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). "But it doesn't matter how good our clinical care is if our community members can't access it. That's one reason we partnered with Pisgah Legal Services to ensure our patients can access the care they need." [read full article]

America Has Yet to See the Worst of the Opioid Crisis, Doctors and Nurses Caution

North Carolina's opioid deaths have risen from fewer than 200 in 1999 to 1,384 in 2016. Nationwide, overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit drugs have more than quadrupled since 1999. In 2015, the opioid overdose epidemic killed more than 33,000 people in the U.S.

Without greater intervention, the short-term outlook is bleak, said Blake Fagan, MD, a MAHEC family physician.

"We haven't hit the peak or the decline in Western North Carolina," he said. "Think of opiate use disorder as a swift-moving river - there are people in the river and they're drowning and we have to jump in and pull them out. But someone has to run up the river and see who's pushing them in." [read full article]

America's Opioid Epidemic Takes Root in the Lives of WNC Teens

Opioids have become so prevalent in America - and so easy for youths to find - that the crisis shows up in every aspect of life. Parents check arms for track marks. Resource officers are equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

Alice Elio sees prevention in school as the best way to get ahead of the epidemic. As a school nurse program manager at MAHEC - an organization that helps train future doctors while providing family health care and other medical services - her efforts have been largely focused on substance abuse education over the last three years.

"We know that anyone who receives these opioids before the age of 18 are very highly susceptible to addiction," said Elio, who manages 30 nurses in 58 schools and is charged with the safety and health of 25,000 students. [read full article]

Newborns Have Become the Most Innocent Victims of America's Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is helping to change the perception of addiction, said Melinda Ramage, a family nurse practitioner on the maternal fetal medicine team for MAHEC, which serves 16 Western North Carolina counties and trains physicians and other health care professionals.

"What opioids are bringing to light is how poorly we screen people and how uncomfortable we are when talking to patients about treating their disease," Ramage said. In the past, obstetricians were reluctant to treat women battling addiction while pregnant, she said. [read full article]

Assessing Childhood Experiences to Try to Prevent Addiction

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACE, are becoming an increasingly common method used by social workers and doctors to detect the likelihood of a child becoming an addict. Dr. Blake Fagan, family physician at MAHEC in Buncombe County, described how ACE scoring works:

"If you are growing up and you see your parents beating each other, you get a point. If there is drug use in the home, you get a point. If you are abandoned by one or both parents, you get a point, and so forth," Fagan said. "It adds up, and as it goes up you're more vulnerable to having one of these substance use disorders." [read full article]

Q&A with Dr. Blake Fagan: "We Are Just as Much to Blame as Anyone"

Dr. Blake Fagan is the assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at MAHEC in Buncombe County and has been a family physician for 19 years. He has made addressing the nation's opioid epidemic a focus since the death of a patient from an opioid addiction three years ago.

He now travels North Carolina with colleague Dr. Don Teater to caution other health professionals on the risk of opioid use and lobby lawmakers for protections.

In this Q&A, Fagan discusses the ways medical professionals have contributed to the epidemic and how his life has been changed. [read full article]

Worries Grow that the Opioid Epidemic Is Creating a 'Lost Generation' of Children

America's opioid crisis is harming an entire generation of children in ways that will last a lifetime.

In Western North Carolina, hundreds are entering a foster care system already burdened by a surge in opioid-related cases. Hospitals in Appalachian states sometimes spend weeks helping newborns withdraw from opioid dependency after their mothers used during pregnancy. Teens are finding easy access to prescribed and illegal opioids, such as heroin.

The Citizen Times interviewed more than 35 parents, 25 children, 50 medical professionals, 45 social workers and dozens of people from other agencies to understand the scope of the opioid crisis's effect on children in the region. [read full article]

Opioid Abuse Takes Center Stage at Town Hall

Opioids, a broad category of drugs that includes codeine, oxycodone, Vicodin, fentanyl and heroin, are at the center of a nationwide epidemic that counties across the U.S., including Buncombe, are scrambling to solve.

"We're calling it an epidemic because the number of people who are dying, particularly from overdoses of opioids whether they be … prescribed by the doctor or bought on the street, that number continues to rise," said Dr. Melissa Hoffman, a trauma surgeon with Mission Health and a fellow in hospice and palliative medicine at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full article]

Fighting Opioids Through Alternatives - And Resetting Expectations On Treating Pain

Buncombe County commissioners have been holding town hall meetings in recent months regarding opioids. Those gatherings have touched on several topics, but have had one common goal - educating people on how powerful the painkillers are and how easy it is to become addicted to them.

Dr. Red Hoffman is a trauma surgeon at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, better known as MAHEC. She also focuses on hospice and palliative care in her work, so Hoffman administers and prescribes opioids frequently.

"We know that if you use opioids for five days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now is 7%. If you use opioids for ten days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now almost triples." [listen to news segment on NPR]

Addiction, Prevention and Recovery Are All Closer Than You Think

Dr. Blake Fagan sits down with the co-hosts of A Mindful Emergence to discuss how addiction, prevention and recovery from opioid use and substance use disorders are all closer than you might think.

This hour-long conversation addresses some of the causes of the opioid epidemic, how it is impacting WNC, and what you can do to reduce the risk for addiction and stimga in your community. They also discuss various treatment options for this chronic relapsing brain disease that include harm-reduction approaches like medication-assisted treatment that can reduce the risk for relapse. [listen to radio show #107]


Deprescribing Medications for Older Adults

Many older adults take too many prescription drugs or take them at too-high doses. Prescriptions started long ago to treat temporary medical conditions somehow never get stopped. Other preventive drugs may offer little to no benefit after a certain age and bring unacceptable side effects for older users.

Your community pharmacist can alert you to medication hazards and identify drugs that could be safely tapered and eliminated. Maximizing quality of life for older adults is a primary goal of deprescribing, says Tasha Woodall, the associate director of pharmacotherapy in geriatrics with the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina. [read full article on U.S. News]

McDowell High School Students Organize Blood Drive

Three local students, who plan to dedicate their lives to serving others, are putting on a community blood drive Friday.

McDowell High seniors Rebecca Molina, Hadyn Thynne and Adrienne Hollifield are in Project PROMISE, a program supported by MAHEC that gives students exposure to real healthcare experiences and offers mentorship and internships.

As part of that program, the students create a community project. [read full article]

Providers Get Training in Emergency Deliveries

"How much do you think is in this first cup?" It's an important question about postpartum hemorrhage to participants in a Basic Life Support in Obstetrics training at MAHEC in Asheville. It's graphic, but knowing how much blood loss is too much is important.

"If we know a mother has lost a lot of blood, we're going to act faster," explains MAHEC OB/GYN Dr. Bre Bolivar.

Everyone from nurses to paramedics to doctors - who don't often encounter delivery - engaged in various simulations, including CPR. Every scenario participants deal with in this class doesn't just involve the mother's safety, but also the child's. [see the full story on WLOS TV-13]

Tis the Season: Ways You Can Prevent the Spread of Illness at Work

It's that time of year when many workplaces are overrun with illness. Eighty percent of workers surveyed by Staples Business Advantage say they come to work sick.

"Especially this time of year, people wanting to save their vacation time or feeling guilty knowing how busy the workplace is going to be, and they don't want to do that to their team members," MAHEC's Clinical Director of Obstetrics Jenie Abbotts said.

In addition to frequent hand washing and de-sanitizing well touched areas, Abbotts recommends employees get plenty of sleep and the flu vaccine. She also says people need to take sick days when they are feeling feverish. [see the full story on WLOS TV-13]

New Maternal Mortality Strategy Relies on 'Medical Homes'

When Hannah White first showed up at the Mountain Area Health Education Center here three years ago, she was in trouble. She was 20 years old, a couple months into her first pregnancy and on the run from an abusive husband. She also has a form of hemophilia which prevents her body from producing platelet granules that stem bleeding. That disease had robbed her of her Malawian mother when Hannah was three months old.

"I was a mess," White recalled when she first showed up at MAHEC, which serves a 16-county area of western North Carolina. "I was worried about the abuse and was having this bleeding and afraid I was going to die or lose my baby.

MAHEC's ob-gyn program is part of a statewide initiative in North Carolina that identifies low-income women whose pregnancies present a high risk to either the baby or mother. [read the full article on HuffPost]

Local Agencies Battle Health Woes of Food Desert in WNC

It may seem odd, but obese children are malnourished, and their lifelong well-being is at risk every bit as much as children who aren't getting enough calories, says registered dietitian Fred Stichel of MAHEC Family Health.

"Mal" means bad, he continues. And malnourishment affects both the underweight and the obese.

Too often, the cause of malnourishment is that families live in what's known as a food desert, where getting nutritious food is difficult. The only store within striking distance for someone who doesn't have access to a car might be the corner gas station convenience store. [read full article]

Supporting Moms Expecting Recovery in Pregnancy

Marie Gannon, Mel Ramage and Denise Weegar sit down with the co-hosts of A Mindful Emergence to discuss the needs of pregnant women struggling with opioid and substance use disorders and their innovative approach to meeting these needs through Project CARA's perinatal substance use disorder clinic at MAHEC's Ob/Gyn Specialists.

This hour-long conversation addresses the triple stigma pregnant mothers face, neonatal abstinence syndrome, the importance of the mother-baby dyad, trauma-informed support, medication-assisted therapy, and Project CARA's holistic community-based approach to recovery and mother-baby health. [listen to radio show #93]

New TRACES Program Helps Moms and Babies Suffering From Opioid Epidemic

Cassie Tipton York, a native of Bakersville, gave an impassioned public presentation last month at Mitchell High School in honor of Overdose Awareness Day.

Cassie told Avery, Mitchell and Yancey county officials and residents that she lost almost everything to opioid and methamphetamine addiction including her children, her home and even her freedom.

"Addiction doesn't make any sense," Cassie shares. "Nobody plans addiction. But you definitely need a plan, and a lot of support, to recover from it." [read full article]

What to Expect When You're Expecting Recovery

"Why do people like you have children?"

Ashley can still remember the shame she felt when confronted by this question in the hospital just hours after she gave birth to her son. The harsh judgment didn't come from a fellow patient but from someone providing her care.

"This is exactly the kind of response that makes mothers hide their addiction," she shares. "When women can't even get support from medical professionals, but instead get shamed, getting high can feel like the only option. It's a vicious cycle." [continue reading]

Asheville Agencies Address Complexities of Opioid Addiction and Treatment

At MAHEC, obstetrics practitioners ask women whether they have used drugs.

"Five years ago or five minutes ago, it doesn't matter," says family nurse practitioner Melinda Ramage. "We're not here to judge. We're here to help."

Too often, women with substance use disorders live under the threat of losing their babies and landing in jail.

"How do you expect a woman who has had her baby taken away to react?" says Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer for the Mountain Area Health Education Center. "She's going to be depressed, and that's going to increase her chances of using and of suicide. [read full article]

Cooper Advocates a Multi-Pronged Approach to Addressing Opioid Addiction

Gov. Roy Cooper came to Asheville on Thursday to proclaim September as Drug and Alcohol Recovery Month in the state and to pledge his support for efforts that would effectively increase access to treatment for substance use disorder.

"Every day in North Carolina, four people die from opioid overdose," Cooper said before reading and signing the declaration. "Nationally, more people die from accidental overdoses than die in car accidents."

Educating doctors about the best ways to prescribe pain medications and educating the public about how dangerous opioids can be is another important factor in the battle to control the epidemic, said Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of the Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full article]

AHEC Brings New Doctor to Yancey/Mitchell

Jessica White, MD, began a yearlong Rural Family Medicine Fellowship through MAHEC on September 4, 2017 when she joined the Mountain Community Health Partnership. She sees patients mainly at Celo Health Center but also at Bakersville Community Health Center sites in Spruce Pine and Bakersville. White did not start out on a path to medicine, but a career in photojournalism put her in direct contact with a rural population with needs that were not being met. Although t here was value in telling their stories, she felt there was more she could do to better their situation. "I wanted to do something that was more directly of service to the community, and it just seemed like rural medicine was a good fit," says White. [read full article]


Buncombe School Officers Equipped to Reverse ODs

About 10 officers in Buncombe County's middle and high schools were trained Wednesday on how to administer opioid overdose-reversal kits, also known as Narcan. It's the first time county schools will have naloxone nasal spray, which can reverse an overdose and almost instantly bring a victim back to sobriety. Now, school officers will join campus nurses among those able to administer naloxone. Officials said as the opioid epidemic has worsened, schools across North Carolina have decided to carry the Narcan kits to stop children from falling victim. Local schools have even heard requests from parents to carry naloxone, said Alice Elio, school health program manager at Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full article]

Rural Fellowships Bring More Doctors to Haywood County

Drs. Paulette Doiron, MD, and Kelly Garcia, MD, began a year-long Maternal Child Health Fellowship through MAHEC in July at Haywood Health Center, where they plan to stay and practice upon completion. They are both excited to serve a rural area and population and help fill the shortage of primary care physicians. "It just seems unfair that people have to drive so far to see a doctor, can hardly afford to pay one when they get there, and not be able to find one closer that they trust," said Garcia. "I hope that by going out there, I can make a difference." They both have a love for obstetrics and pediatrics, but ultimately decided they did not want to be limited in the patients they could serve. Practicing family medicine in a rural area gives them the opportunity to treat the entire family. [read full article]

Battling Opioids on the Frontlines

The Friday evening began just the way Dr. Blake Fagan of the MAHEC-Asheville Family Medicine Residency Program wanted. After a hectic week teaching, seeing patients, and attending to administrative duties every physician loves, unwinding with his family was just what he needed. He glimpsed the start of his call-free weekend as a just reward for navigating another crazy schedule. Then his cell phone rang. Recognizing the number from Mission Hospital in Asheville, he did what many family doctors do on their time off - he answered on the second ring. The news wasn't good. One of Fagan's longtime patients was in the ICU and couldn't be stabilized. He recognized her name instantly, a remnant of having delivered two of her children and knowing her family. His heart sank as he found out more. [read full article]

Local Healthcare Providers Working Together to Reverse Opioid Trend

Medical professionals across the mountains are teaming up to fight addiction. The Western North Carolina Substance Use Alliance began meeting about six months ago and just finalized its strategic plan. The alliance focuses on four key areas:

1. Boosting treatment for pregnant women
2. Strengthening long-term care and treatment for adults
3. Strengthening long-term care and treatment for kids and adolescents
4. Expanding medication assisted treatment

The alliance isn't solely focused on opioids, but they are a major focus. It's part of the alliance's aim to change prescribing habits. Mountain Area Health Education Center hosts 36 residents at a time and has a history of many residents staying in the area as primary care physicians. [read full article]

MAHEC Begins Surgical Residency Program

"There's a big shortage nationally, there's a big shortage in North Carolina and there's a big shortage in Western North Carolina." Mountain Area Health Education Center is trying with precision to turn that around by starting a state-funded General Surgery Residency Program in Asheville. [read full article]



With WNC Doctor Shortage, State Budget Boosts Mountain Medical Training

Rivers Woodward grew up in a small town, but hadn't planned on beginning his medical career in one. That changed when the Franklin native took part in an innovative program at the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine that takes medical students interested in rural medicine away from the Chapel Hill campus to study in Asheville for their final two years of medical school. [read full article]



Keys to Successful Aging

Ann Mojonnier was traveling in Turkey when she liked the way a wine glass fit in her hand and asked the restaurant owner to sell it to her. Instead, he wrapped up six of them and gave them to her. "I have a glass of wine with dinner every night," says Mojonnier, who's 81, holding the glass up to the light in her kitchen. Traveling is just one of the ways she and her husband, Al, 83, stay engaged. They're planning to visit the Galapagos Islands in June. [read full article]


Doula Program Empowers Women in Need, Supports Expectant Moms
MAHEC collaboration in Pisgah View addresses poverty, infant mortality and racial disparity

Thirteen years ago Nikita Smart gave birth to her daughter with the help of strangers. She and the girl's father had split. Her family lived out of town. So the hospital in Fort Myers, Florida, had a sitter stay in the room during labor. Friends stopped by to check on her, but Smart encouraged them to leave. They had jobs to get to and children to look after. "I was just totally alone," said Smart, who was considered high-risk because of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. Smart, 44, is now training to be a doula and leading efforts in Pisgah View and Hillcrest apartments to make sure expecting African-American mothers in those publicly subsidized neighborhoods never feel like help is far away. [read full article]

School Nurse Day Recognizes Improved Health and Learning Outcomes

National School Nurse Day is celebrated on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, and MAHEC is grateful for the many wonderful school nurses that play a vital role in our community. "School nurses do not get enough credit for the crucial and, in some cases life-saving, work they do on a daily basis," says Dr. Jeffery Heck, MAHEC President and CEO. "Every day, parents place the health of their children in the hands of a school nurse, and MAHEC is extremely proud of the skill, hard work, and genuine care each and every one of the nurses display." [read full article]

How the Opioid Crisis Affects Our Healthcare

This is the third article in a series addressing the opioid crisis we are facing in Western North Carolina. The first article defined the problem. There are too many opioids being misused, the drugs can be addictive, and addiction (including to heroin) can lead to overdose and even death. [read full article]



North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper to Visit MAHEC

North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper will visit the MAHEC Family Health Center at Newbridge on Monday, March 20th at 12:00pm to learn more about the Reach Out and Read program. Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit that partners with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together, and several MAHEC practices participate in the program. [read full article]


Providers and the Community Response to Opioids

Last month we explored the reasons for the opioid crisis and the serious potential for addiction with the use of opioids. As providers, we have become acutely aware of the crisis because of the exponential rate of opioid overdoses and overdose deaths in our community. [read full article]





MAHEC Yeah!: Adding Up the Mountain Area Health Education Center's Impact on Health Services Across WNC

The next time you see a doctor, dentist, nurse, or other caregiver in Western North Carolina, you might have the Mountain Area Health Education Center to thank. MAHEC was created in 1974 to provide medical care to underserved parts of WNC and encourage health care professionals to stay in the area by offering educational programs, work at medical facilities, and mentoring. [read full article]



Asheville Professionals Help Mothers Birth Healthy Babies

Local professionals agree that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" when it comes to maternal and infant health. And they stress that preventive efforts to improve child health start with maternal health. [read full article]





Three MHS Students Selected for Healthcare Internship

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education) selected three high school seniors from McDowell High School who show authentic interest in a healthcare profession. [read full article]




Lessons of the Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Opioids, which include Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin and morphine, are powerful painkillers. In the past, opioids were mainly used for patients with cancer pain, at the end of life, or after major surgery. But starting about 20 years ago, there was a big push for doctors to prescribe opioids for acute and chronic pain of all types, such as headaches, fibromyalgia, arthritis and back pain. [read full article]




New Bus Stop at MAHEC Should Improve Access

The city transit system has added a bus stop that will serve MAHEC patients. Several MAHEC employees including Dr. Jeffery Heck, MAHEC president and CEO, will celebrate the new stop with a ride on the bus Tuesday morning. [read full article]



Mountain Causes: Doctors Launch Mama Maisha to Help African mothers

There has been a lot of talk lately about making America great again, and there is nothing like living outside the confines of the United States' borders to see what makes this country so special. [read full article]




Mountain Causes: Gardening for Those in Need

Tilling a mulch-covered plot behind the Mountain Area Health Education Center Family Health Center for the first time two summers ago, Dr. Eric Smith and a colleague did not have high expectations for the modest garden they helped create to provide healthy food to needy patients. [read full article]



Project Seeks MHS Seniors for Medical Internships

McDowell High School seniors interested in a health care career will take part in a credit-based internship with local medical providers called Project PROMISE. Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) is assisting with the project as part of its WNC Rural Health Initiative. [read full article]



Residency Reaches Milestone

From delivering babies to managing critical care patients, the Hendersonville Rural Family Medicine Residency Program gives fledging doctors a wide spectrum of hands-on training to serve them in future practice. The program, now in its 20th year, has developed into a highly competitive residency experience that prides itself on being a smaller "rural track" program. [read full article]



Budget Expands Doctor Training in WNC

A budget deal moving through the state General Assembly this week would increase the number of physicians and other health professionals trained in Western North Carolina and decrease tuition paid by students at Western Carolina University. [read full article]



Wanted: Doctors with a Rural Heart

Who wants to be a country doctor? That's the question Robert Bashford has in mind whenever he meets prospective medical students. As associate dean for admissions at the School of Medicine, Bashford is always on the lookout for potential rural doctors for the Kenan Primary Care Medical Scholars Program. "He knows when someone has a rural heart," said Hallum Dickens, a third-year medical student in the program. Dickens grew up in a low-income family in White Level, a rural community in Franklin County, and came to Chapel Hill originally as a Carolina Covenant Scholar. "People who come from underserved communities are more likely to return to practice there." The purpose of the rural physician program is to increase the number of Carolina medical students seeking health careers in rural and underserved areas in North Carolina and to retain them. [read full article]

Asheville Campus to Receive $1M

A retired anesthesiologist plans to give $1 million to the UNC School of Medicine Asheville Campus. The planned estate gift by Dr. Frank Moretz is part of a larger, $3 million gift that will be divided between the Asheville Campus, the UNC Chapel Hill Department of Anesthesiology, and the Department of Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill. It is the first major gift to the Asheville Campus, which opened in 2009. "I was very grateful to the university for accepting me as a medical student years ago," Moretz said. "The university took a chance on me, and I wanted to pay them back."

The UNC medical school's Asheville Campus opened with four students. It now has 20 third-year medical students and slots for up to 20 fourth-year students. One goal of the program is to produce more doctors who stay in Western North Carolina. It also emphasizes primary care and rural medicine, which are both in demand. 
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