Collaborative Research

community based, patient engaged


Our Research Division is committed to conducting community-based, patient-centered healthcare research that addresses the unique needs of our rural mountain region.

Our Vision

MAHEC’s research vision is to become a  leader in Western North Carolina health issues, policy and data. We strive to achieve this vision by partnering with local, state and national experts on issues relevant to health professions education and population health through collaborative, innovative, diverse, and community-driven research.

Our Research Focus

Research is a core component of our clinical practices and our academic health center, the UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. Our scientists are focused on the unique health issues facing Western North Carolinians and our rural and underserved populations. We conduct research to guide and evaluate clinical and population health interventions and to inform workforce development initiatives and healthcare policy.

Our researchers work in interdisciplinary teams that include a wide range of clinicians, patients, public health professionals, teaching faculty, residents, medical and allied health students, local and regional community partners, other academic institutions, and state and national healthcare experts.

Currently, our research efforts are focused on several core areas:

Healthcare Workforce Development—All 16 counties in our region are federally designated as healthcare professional shortage areas. We’re exploring the best ways to recruit, train and retain these professionals to meet these needs, including the role of inter-professional education and inter-professional care teams to understand which types of providers and in what combinations are needed to provide care in rural areas. And we’re working with community partners to develop models to enhance resiliency in our healthcare workers to reduce turnover and improve the quality of care.

Medical Education and Practice—Our research division provides ongoing support to our faculty, fellows, and residents as well as the students and preceptors at the Asheville campus of the UNC School of Medicine and our health careers programs. We know it is vital for providers and students to learn how to conduct research to deliver the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. This is what it means to practice evidence-based medicine. We further support academic research aimed at understanding the best ways to deliver medical education and support medical education learners.

Substance Use Initiatives—Western North Carolina has been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic. MAHEC has developed a number of substance abuse prevention and treatment initiatives to address this crisis, and preliminary research shows that our programs may be more effective than many others. We are conducting qualitative and quantitative research to identify what makes our programs successful so we can help others replicate our models.

Community-Based Participatory Research—We are committed to involving patients and community partners in the earliest stages of research to ensure we are addressing our community’s needs. We have collaborated with patients and partners on women’s health screening tools, substance use treatment programs, community health improvement programs, and shared decision making tools. We strive to include the voices of those from vulnerable populations in all of our research efforts.

You can learn more about our research division and our academic health center in this interview with Research Division Director Kathy Foley, PhD.  

We also encourage you to explore our research highlights and recent publications and presentations.

Research Request Support

The Research Division aims to provide efficient and strategic support to those interested in conducting research at MAHEC. In order to ensure effective alignment with MAHEC’s mission and organizational policies, we consider each project and carefully assess each request. Please fill out this form and a research representative will follow up with you within 5 business days: Research Support Request Form.

To read our Conflict of Interest Regarding the Public Health Service policy, please click here.