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Media articles from 2013-14

Transformative Training in Western North Carolina

On a beautiful Saturday evening last September, the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) celebrated its 40th anniversary with an event that brought together program leaders spanning four decades. Attending were numerous MAHEC visionaries credited with launching the program and establishing it as one of the most successful of its kind in the nation.

Since MAHEC's earliest days, its core mission has been to strengthen the healthcare workforce that serves its 16-county coverage area in Western North Carolina. The linchpin to realizing this vision has been MAHEC's family medicine residency program at Asheville, one of the state's largest and most progressive training programs. Founded in 1976, MAHEC's residency program has graduated more than 280 family physicians with more than 62% continuing to practice across the region. [read full article]


Rural Primary Care Student Program Receives $3M Endowment

The Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) is pleased to announce a $3 million endowment from The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust in support of the Kenan Primary Care Medical Scholars Program. The goal of this program is to inspire the best medical students from the UNC School of Medicine to pursue careers in primary care medicine in underserved rural and urban areas of the state.

“The vision of the Kenan Primary Care Medical Scholars program is the same as our mission at MAHEC,” said Dr. Jeffery Heck, president and CEO of MAHEC. “We are here to attract, train and mentor the best students who become outstanding physicians committed to rural medicine in Western North Carolina. [read full article]


MAHEC Getting $850,000 in Duke Grants
Money will fund heart, healthy aging projects

Mountain Area Health Education Center is getting a two-year, $500,000 grant for an initiative aimed at identifying people who are at risk of heart disease and stroke.The Healthy Heart Buncombe grant is one of two grants MAHEC’s Center for Healthy Aging is getting from the Duke Endowment. The other is $350,000 for a two-year “Innovations for Healthy Aging” initiative.

The Healthy Heart grant will focus on the Woodfin area in the first year and Enka-Candler in the second year. “Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in Western North Carolina, and stroke is the No. 1 cause of disability nationwide — yet both are largely preventable,” said Sarah Thach, associate director of the Center for Healthy Aging at MAHEC. [read full article]


Students Get Look at Rural Medicine in WNC

Medical student Yolanda Paylor spent part of her summer with patients in rural Mitchell County. She spent time in an office with Dr. Brie Folkner as part of a program that aims to boost the number of physicians serving in rural or currently underserved areas. “A lot of times she (Dr. Folkner) would let me go in ahead of her, and I would interview the patient, see how they were doing. They would tell me and then I would present to her,” Paylor said.

Paylor is one of seven students in the Sarah Graham Kenan Rural and Underserved Medical Scholars program. The students were assigned to practices from Sylva to Linville and they recently completed their work.
This is the first year for the program, which is funded by Kenan family, according to Dr. Robyn Latessa, campus director for the UNC School of Medicine Asheville campus and medical director for the Rural Scholars program. It is a collaboration between the UNC School of Medicine and the Mountain Area Health Education Center or MAHEC. [read full article]


ABCCM Plans New Facility in Candler

Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry is planning a building to house its Hominy Valley crisis ministry along with a primary care practice. “It will really be a community service center,” said the Rev. Scott Rogers, ABCCM executive director.

The building will be called the Ferguson Charitable Center and will house the new MAHEC Family Health Care Center at Enka/Candler. Rogers said a group of ministers in the area came to him about two years ago and said, “We’ve decided we need a bigger facility.” At the same time, Jack Ferguson had been talking to Rogers for years about creating a clinic in that area for low-income families.

“Every year since 2000, Jack has called me up and said ‘Do we have a clinic yet? Do we have a doctor?” Rogers said. “As we talked about this whole idea, one of the things I did was talk to Dr. Jeff Heck at MAHEC and told him about this dream and vision that we had.” [read full article]


MAHEC Programs Move to New Location
Biltmore campus renamed for Mary C. Nesbitt

At MAHEC’s old facility on Weaver Boulevard, a lunch room doubled as a classroom and meeting space. “We used to have to kick staff out of the commons area so that we could actually have a meeting of more than 10 people,” said Dr. Steve Hulkower, director of Family Medicine for the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

This summer, MAHEC’s Family Health Center moved to a new location on Hendersonville Road that doubled the clinic space and for the first time put its family medicine and dental health residents and faculty on the same campus with its ob-gyn program. The newest 42,000-square-foot building houses both the Family Health Center and MAHEC Dental Health Center.

MAHEC will host an open house and a ceremony to rename the campus in honor of Mary C. Nesbitt, who served in the General Assembly in the 1970s. “Mary Nesbitt helped secure funding for the original MAHEC efforts,” said Dr. Jeffery Heck, MAHEC president and CEO. [read full article]


MAHEC at Cane Creek: Treating Patients, Training Doctors, Making a Difference

It was a normal day at the Mountain Area Health Education Center clinic on Cane Creek Road... in other words, it was a very very busy day.

Dr. Benjamin Gilmer met us in the waiting room of the first rural clinic in the MAHEC family medicine system. Plate in one hand, fork in the other, he was kind enough to share his lunch moment with us to talk abut the unique health network of which the clinic is a part.

For seven years now, this unassuming house-like brand of MAHEC has not only offered general and specialized medical care to the community, but has also trained residents from MAHEC's family medicine program, medical students from UNC Chapel Hill's medical school, and nurse practitioner students. [read full article]


Putting Mom And Baby At The Center Of C-Sections

Caesarean sections are a marvel of medicine, but for birthing mothers they can be filled with anxiety, fear, and disappointment. Women may have hoped for a VBAC or imagined their picture-perfect natural delivery, and a c-section can bring sadness and a sense of loss.

Dr. Kiran Sigmon, an ob/gyn at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), was intrigued by the idea of improving the birth experience for families having a c-section. Joined by a team of labor and delivery and operating room nurses, as well as staff from Asheville Anesthesia Associates, the idea of a Family Centered C-Section was born. This alternative approach to traditional caesarean sections aims to provide a special birth experience that promotes parent-infant bonding in a family-centered environment. [read full article]


Physician Crunch Must Be Addressed in US, NC

One important goal of any healthcare reform must be to encourage more physicians to go into primary care for reasons both medical and financial. The lack of a primary care physician makes healthcare both less effective and more costly - less effective because health problems are not caught early and more costly because the patient winds up in an emergency room.

The nation will be short 30,000 primary care physicians within two years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. In Western North Carolina, there already is a shortage of 140 primary care providers, a category that includes nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Why? A major reason is money.

“The pay is much less. It’s somewhere between one-third to half as much as the subspecialty-trained physician,” said Dr. Jeffery Heck, president and CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full article]


WNC Needs More Primary Care Providers
Nationwide shortage also prevalent in WNC

Dr. Blake Fagan gets plenty of calls from medical practices in the area. As the director of MAHEC’s Family Medicine Residency Program, he hears from hospitals and practices seeking primary care doctors.

“Right now, I know of over 35 jobs in Western North Carolina,” Fagan said. “Either hospitals or private practices have contacted me and said, ‘Hey, we want one of your graduates.’”

The residency program at Mountain Area Health Education Center, better known as MAHEC, has been successful in keeping its doctors in WNC. But the program doesn’t have enough graduates to fill all the jobs out there, something that has proved also to be a growing challenge nationwide. [read full article]


Residency Program Graduates Head into Rural Medicine

Dr. Evan Beasley knew what he was looking for in a residency program. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native wanted to find a place similar to home where he could take advantage of the outdoors, enjoy the continuation of his education, become a doctor and raise a family. He found that new home in Hendersonville.

Beasley, 30, is one of four doctors who will graduate from the Henderson County Residency Program, taught by Mountain Area Health Education Center, Pardee and, soon, Blue Ridge Community Health Center, on Thursday. Of the four graduates, only Beasley will remain in Henderson County. He is joining the staff at BRCHS, where he will not only be a family doctor, but also clinical faculty who will work with residents who come through the residency program.

“It's not just the people that can afford healthcare,” Beasley said of his decision to head to BRCHS. “It's trying to get healthcare to all people.” [read full article]


A Healthy Perspective: A Local Doctor Ponders a Future of Better Care

President and CEO of the Mountain Area Health Education Center for a little more than a year, Dr. Jeff Heck says the academic medical center has an eye toward not only training physicians, but thinking about sustainability. And it starts with recruiting and retaining doctors.

He talked with Xpress recently about sustainability in the healthcare industry and some ways that MAHEC is addressing them.

Mountain Xpress: In your opinion, what is the greatest barrier to sustainability in healthcare?

Jeff Heck: Our own lack of empowerment to care for ourselves, to take our own health as a blessing, as something that we need to nurture and care for. [read full article]


MAHEC Outreach Should Boost Vital Mission

MAHEC may not be very well-known, but it is one of the most vital elements in Western North Carolina’s medical system. The Mountain Area Health Education Center, established in 1974, has provided residency training for 377 family practice physicians, obstetricians-gynecologists, and dentists.

MAHEC has the region’s only specialized care for high-risk pregnancies. It has one of the nation’s top residency programs for family practice physicians. Of those trained here, 62 percent have remained in the region.

Despite these efforts, the problem persists. WNC “currently has an estimated shortage of 140 primary care physicians, and the need will increase as access to primary care expands with healthcare reform and as our population ages,” said Dr. Steve Hulkower, director of MAHEC’s Division of Family Medicine. [read full article]


Help MAHEC Help the Community

Dr. Brian Moore planned to move back to Georgia once he completed his family medicine residency through the Mountain Area Health Education Center, better known as MAHEC. But like many of the doctors trained through MAHEC, Moore decided to stay in Western North Carolina.

“I guarantee that if most anyone around here looked at their family physician, probably half of them are going to be MAHEC graduates,” Moore said.

Nearly 40 years after the residency program began, MAHEC is continuing to produce doctors who stay in the region. Now, the organization is creating a charitable gift program to help enhance the work it is doing in the community, said Dr. Jeffery Heck, MAHEC president and CEO. [read full article]


Is There a Doctor in the Hills?

The Health Resources and Services Administration designates 15 Western North Carolina counties as areas facing a shortage of primary care providers. The region’s lone exception, Madison County, has managed to overcome a similar shortage through collaboration and community input.

“Since we don’t have a hospital and we don’t have any specialty practices, basically, we’re it,” says Robert Ford, executive director of the Hot Springs Health Program. With a mix of physicians and midlevel providers such as nurse practitioners, the nonprofit operates four medical centers strategically placed throughout the county’s 449 square miles to serve its roughly 20,000 residents.

To keep up with patient volume while providing personalized community care, Ford’s project works closely with the Asheville-based Mountain Area Health Education Center to recruit and retain physicians. Eight of the Hot Springs Health’s nine doctors are graduates of MAHEC’s family medicine program, which also has a Hendersonville branch. [read full article]


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