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Project PROMISE Students Co-Host Mobile Health Clinic in Marion

On Tuesday, May 30th, Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education) students from McDowell High School joined the McDowell County Health Coalition to host a Mobile Health Clinic at the Marion Tailgate Market. This Mobile Health Clinic was made possible by the combined efforts of Project PROMISE students and Ginger Webb of the McDowell Health Coalition.

A component of the PROMISE program is to connect students to their communities through a community project of their choice and development. These students choose to create care packages filled with basic household necessities, and distribute them to those in need at the Tailgate Market. The students managed to compile over 25 household packages, helping nearly 60 individuals in the community! The McDowell County Health Coalition also organized other community representatives and volunteers to offer free blood pressure checks and information about various local organizations to help with the cost of healthcare. Project PROMISE is coordinated by the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and the Center for Rural Health Innovation in Yancey, Mitchell, McDowell and Cherokee County, and is a part of their Rural Health Initiative, which works to build a stronger pipeline of students from rural areas interested in healthcare. If you would like additional information on Project PROMISE, please contact Bryan.McClure@mahec.net.

Pictured (Left to Right): Rhionna Harris, Hanna Atkins, and Makenzie Elliot


National Rural Health Association Conference

MAHEC staff and faculty made three presentations and presented two posters at the National Rural Health Association conference in San Diego May 10-12, 2017.

  • Lourdes Lorenz-Miller, Frank Castelblanco, and Stephanie Kiser presented  “Addressing Infant Mortality in a Collective Impact Model”
  • Rebecca Grandy, Irene Park, and Benjamin Gilmer presented “Integrating Pharmacists into Interprofessional Primary Care Clinics”
  • Maggie Sauer, Tom Bacon, Rachel Presslein, Jamie Cousins, Pete McQuiston, and Sarah Thach presented “Jim Bernstein Health Leadership Program: Growing Local Leaders”
  • Sarah Thach, Anna Beth Parlier, Christa Currie, and Shelley L. Galvin’s poster was presented, “Preparing Learners for Rural Medical Practice: 15 Tips”
  • Sarah Thach, Suzanne Landis, Melissa Baker, Eric Smith, and Shelley L. Galvin’s poster was presented, “Engaging Community: ‘Boot Camp Translation’ Grows Medical Practice” 


Blood Typing Lab and Lecture at McDowell High School

On Monday, April 24th, Project PROMISE students attended a blood typing lecture and lab at McDowell High School, presented by Misty Cox (MAHEC Employee and MedServe Fellow). The lecture was an introduction to the principals of blood typing and heredity, and was followed by a short quiz and hands-on lab. Each student completed the lab with their own blood typing kit in order to determine their personal blood type. This workshop is one of many made possible by Project PROMISE, MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative, and generous grants from the AEON and Lipscomb Foundations. This workshop was one of many throughout the semester. Starting Fall 2017, these opportunities will be available to students outside of the PROMISE program who are interested in medical careers. 


McDowell Case Study

On Tuesday, March 21st Dr. Blake Fagan, Family Medicine Physician at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) reviewed a case study with medical and pre-med students at McDowell Hospital. This event was coordinated and sponsored by MAHEC as a part of their Rural Health Initiative. “When learners of all levels review and discuss a case as a group, they learn from one another and develop relationships that will help them along the journey to becoming a physician,” Dr. Fagan explained.

Medical residents of MAHEC, medical students from UNC School of Medicine Asheville Campus, along with Project PROMISE high school students were all invited to attend. UNC graduate and pre-med intern Misty Cox said, “I enjoyed hearing the med student talk about the medical aspects of the opioid abuse case we discussed.  I work with PROMISE high school students interested in health careers, and we made sure they learned about substance use services in the area so they could contribute their own knowledge to the discussion.”

Other events like this one will be held in the future as MAHEC continues to work on building “pipeline programs” that cultivate future health professionals in rural areas and bringing learners of all levels together to interact and collaborate as a group.

Helping solve a health care shortage

Less than a year after she earned her degree from Carolina, Misty Cox is already putting her skills to work — and helping make North Carolinians healthier in the process. Cox, a 2016 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, is one of 13 fellows participating in MedServe, a program focused on helping solve the problem of health care shortages across North Carolina.

“The need for family medicine doctors in underserved communities is really great,” Cox said. “They’re kind of a first line of defense, and a lot of times have knowledge that can help individuals to keep them out of emergency rooms.” Since the MedServe program launched in the fall of 2016, its 13 fellows have helped care for nearly 6,000 patients in North Carolina, said MedServe co-founder and UNC School of Medicine student Patrick O’Shea.

Click here to read the full article and watch the video!


PROMISE Students Selected For 2017 Spring Semester

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine though Inspiring Service and Education) would like to announce the acceptance of spring semester students for the 2017 program. The program accepted three students from McDowell High School and one from Tri-County Christian School. MAHEC looks forward to working with this great group of students in the upcoming semester. On January the 26th, Project PROMISE held a kickoff celebration in the community room at the Mauzy-Phillips Center located in Spruce Pine. This event allowed for recently accepted students to meet the current students in the program, ask important questions, and also watch a final presentation presented by Lauren Biddix and Taylor Cook.

MAHEC is excited about further growing this project in the local communities which will strengthen the local pipeline to healthcare providers and also help entice students to select a career path in healthcare.

Pictured (left to right): Rhionna Harris, Makenzie Elliot, Hanna Atkins, Landry Phillips, Sabrina Wheeler, Taylor Cook, Lauren Biddix.


Blue Ridge Medical Center-Yancey Campus

On Tuesday, January 17th, the Rural Health Initiative team met with providers at Blue Ridge Medical Center-Yancey Campus, located in Burnsville NC. The meeting time was used to educate the providers about the Mountain Area Health Education Center's Rural Health Initiative, the launch of the Eastern hub (Yancey/Mitchell/McDowell), and to also gauge interest from providers about hosting more learners at the clinic. All of this is a part of the “listening tours” that are being conducted by the RHI team. The meeting was productive and the providers were very receptive about the idea of hosting a wide variety of learners at the clinic.

Pictured (left to right): Dr. TJ Seneker, Sarah Thach-MPH, Dr. Shehla Kahn, Bryan McClure, Dr.Susan McLean, Andrea Wright-PA, Dr. Blake Fagan


Project PROMISE Starting at McDowell High-Spring 2017

On Wednesday, September 21st, Misty Cox and Bryan McClure (pictured) spent the day at McDowell High School spreading exciting news to nearly 200 health science students about the new opportunity starting in the spring semester of 2017: Project PROMISE.

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education) began in 2014, spearheaded by two UNC Chapel Hill medical students (Rivers Woodward and Brittany Papworth). Originally supported by an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, and still hosted by The Center For Rural Health Innovation, Project PROMISE seeks to be a locally-run and community-sustained effort through which we collectively invest in the health of our region.

Project PROMISE selects high school seniors from McDowell High School who show interest in a healthcare profession and provides them mentorship and real healthcare experience in their home county with real providers who have dedicated their time to these student learners. Participants will receive school credit through participation in an internship from 2:30pm-4:30pm, Monday-Friday, for a semester where they rotate through different medical modalities and specialties in order to gain a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) is assisting with the project as part of its WNC Rural Health Initiative. Bryan McClure, Regional Administrator Manager for Yancey, Mitchell, and McDowell Counties, will oversee Project PROMISE, while MedServe Fellow Misty Cox, a McDowell county native interested in rural healthcare, will coordinate the project directly.  MAHEC is excited about further growing this project in the local communities which will strengthen the “pipeline,” encouraging local youth to pursue careers in healthcare and training the next generation of healthcare providers.


October 12, 2016: New RHI Team Member - Misty Cox

MAHEC and the RHI team are pleased to announce the addition of MedServe Fellow Misty Cox, who will be helping launch the PROMISE program in McDowell County. Misty has provided some additional information about herself:
"I work with MAHEC in a dual capacity as a medical scribe for MAHEC’s Family Health Center as well as on various community projects, all under the umbrella of being a MedServe Fellow (find out more at http://www.med-serve.org/). I am a native of McDowell County, North Carolina—Nebo, specifically. In May 2016, I accomplished my lifelong goal of graduating college at my dream school, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology and Anthropology with a minor in Chemistry. Originating from and returning to such a rural community is what drove me to join the RHI Team. With this, I am actively involved in bringing Project PROMISE to my home county of McDowell, so rural students have more plentiful opportunities to learn about healthcare careers than I did. I plan on entering the medical field in the future after my two year fellowship is completed as either a physician assistant or physician. After receiving my professional training, I plan to return to my roots, Western North Carolina, to practice primary care for the community that helped shape me into the person I am today. If you have any questions or wish to find out more about Project PROMISE in McDowell, please contact me at misty.cox@mahec.net."


August 25, 2016:  Project PROMISE Delivers Care Packages To Meals On Wheels Participants

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education) summer students from Mountain Heritage High school recently finished up the summer session of the program, which allowed them to shadow various healthcare professions in the Yancey/Mitchell area. A component of the PROMISE program includes a community project, where the students come up with ideas to give back to their local community, wherever they feel it is needed. The students assisted with Graham Children’s Health-Sizzling Summer Series, and also the DIG IN Community Garden. For the big community project the summer students chose to help the Yancey Senior Center with the Meals on Wheels Program. Students put together “care packages” for each individual who receives a meal in the community. Included in the care packages were the following items; toilet paper, hand lotion, dish soap, moist toilettes, bar soap, tooth brush, toothpaste, and laundry detergent. After talking to [director of senior center] the students discovered that the Meals on Wheels program serves members of the community who are considered needs based, whether that means the individual is bound to their home, and/or may have a disability that limits them from being able to prepare their own warm meals. A special thanks to the AEON foundation and the Appalachian Region Grant for making the summer session possible, and also to Samantha Briggs (Yancey County GEAR UP Student Coordinator) and PROMISE student Sabrina Wheeler for assisting with packing the care packages. 

Pictured (left to right): Vivian Hollifield (Yancey Senior Center-Director), Teresa McPeters (Yancey Senior Center-Site Manager), Sabrina Wheeler (PROMISE Student), and Samantha Briggs (Yancey County GEAR UP Student Coordinator)

Not pictured: Sophia Coren (PROMISE Student), Tiana Thomason (PROMISE Student)

August 1, 2016: Field Trip!

Students in the Minority Medical Mentoring Program (MMMP) and Project PROMISE summer interns loaded a chartered bus headed to Atlanta, Georgia. The first stop on the trip was the Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine for a tour of their Suwanee, GA. facility. The students were given a behind the scenes tour of the anatomy lab areas, details on the difference between Osteopathic and Allopathic medicine, physician assistant programs and pharmacy along with information about what it takes to make it to that level of education. The next stop on the trip was the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which included a guided tour of the museum, galleries and an in-depth walk through time on how and why the CDC was started. The students were educated on current problems the CDC faces like the Zika virus, drinking water and various projects taking place at the facility. Students were also informed about national and worldwide historical epidemics such as the bubonic plague, TB, Influenza, Smallpox, to name a few. Students also had a discussion about the implications of the Tuskegee syphilis study and CDC’s role in that event. The last stop on the trip was Mary Mac’s Tearoom where the students were treated to a southern dinner that will not be forgotten.

This trip concluded the summer internship programs for the MMMP and Project PROMISE programs that were funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant. A special thanks to Jacquelyn Hallum, MMMP Program Director for coordination of the trip. Chaperones attending: Bryan McClure from the MAHEC Rural Hub project, Deanna LaMotte, MAHEC Public Health Specialist, Leslie Council, MMMP Advisory Committee and Jacquelyn Hallum, Program Director. Students attending: Morgan Brown, Diana Sanchez, Melvis Madrigal Nava, Gabriela Parra-Perez, Sabrina Wheeler, Sophia Coren, Candida Alas-Ortega, Adriana Alvarez, Cederia Davis, Darryl “Jayda” Hart, Itzel Garcia Ruiz and Brianna Smith. See link to pictorial gallery.

June 8, 2016:  Project PROMISE Accepts Summer & Fall 2016 Students

(Pictured from left to right; Sabrina Wheeler, Tiana Thomason, Sophia Coren, Madison Charlton, Christen Thomas, Megan Duncan, Taylor Cook, Marybeth Thomas)

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine though Inspiring Service and Education) would like to announce the acceptance of the summer and fall students for the 2016 program. The program accepted four students from Mountain Heritage High School and two from Mitchell High. MAHEC and Project PROMISE look forward to working with this great group of students in the upcoming semesters. On June the 2nd Project PROMISE held a kickoff celebration in the community room at the Mauzy-Phillips Center located in Spruce Pine. This event allowed for recently accepted students to meet the current students in the program, ask important questions, and also watch a final presentation presented by Madison Charlton and Christen Thomas.

MAHEC is excited about further growing this project in the local communities which will strengthen the local pipeline to healthcare providers and also help entice students to select a career path in healthcare.


May 23, 2016: Rural Medical Affinity Group Meeting

On Monday May 23rd  the Western Carolina Medical Society - Rural Medical Affinity Group held a meeting at the Cherokee Indian Hospital, located in Cherokee, NC. This was a great time for everyone to collaborate and share what projects are being done in the local rural communities. The meeting started out with introductions and gave everyone in the room a chance to tell about what they were doing in various different rural areas in Western North Carolina. Dr. Blake Fagan gave a presentation highlighting what MAHEC is doing with the Rural Health Initiative, rural teaching hub in Yancey/Mitchell counties and other noteworthy things going on within the organization. After the meeting everyone was given a tour of the new Cherokee Indian Hospital and also some insight as to how the facility is run.

Pictured, left to right: Sarah Thach, Dr. Blake Fagan, Dr. Winona Houser, Dr. Paulette Doiron, Bryan McClure


April 19, 2016: Mitchell and Yancey Providers Express Interest in Teaching

This past Tuesday the RHI Team continued its listening tour in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. All nine of the providers the team met with committed to teaching learners ranging from Mitchell and Yancey high school seniors, to MAHEC Family Medicine residents. The team was also given a tour of both the Mauzy-Phillips Center and Blue Ridge Regional Hospital located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Thus far the team is very encouraged by the enthusiastic response from both local providers and community leaders. It will continue its visits through the month of May with the goal of sitting face-to-face with every provider in Mitchell and Yancey counties.


April 14, 2016: RHI Team Initiates Listening Tour in Mitchell and Yancey Counties

MAHEC’s WNC Rural Health Initiative is partnering with providers and community leaders in Mitchell and Yancey counties to develop the Mitchell-Yancey Rural Teaching Hub.

Throughout the months of April and May, Blake Fagan, Christa Currie, Sarah Thach, and Bryan McClure are visiting Mitchell and Yancey medical practices, to discuss the new Rural Health Initiative, explore interest in teaching, and identify opportunities to engage learners in community initiatives.


April 4, 2016: Regional Administrative Manager Hired for Mitchell-Yancey Rural Teaching Hub

We have hired Bryan McClure to serve as RHI’s Regional Administrative Manager. He is based in Yancey County and will be working to develop preceptor and learner opportunities.

He is now working with the Center for Rural Health Innovation to promote Project P.R.O.M.I.S.E. (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education), a local program that selects seniors from Mitchell and Yancey high schools who show interest in healthcare professions. This program was created by UNC medical students at the Asheville Campus Rivers Woodward and Brittany Papworth two years ago. Students receive high school credit for shadowing local health care providers and completing a community project. Additionally, students benefit from mentorship opportunities with UNC medical students. This is a great pipeline program that will help recruit future health care providers to practice in the community.


February 2015: Advisory Commitee Formed

An Advisory Committee was convened in December of 2015 to oversee the development of the Mitchell Yancey Rural Teaching Hub.  Their first task is to recruit and select a Regional Administrative Manager who will help recruit preceptors, secure housing, and introduce learners to educational, social, and recreational opportunities in Mitchell & Yancey Counties.

Photo depicts Mitchell Yancey Rural Teaching Hub Advisory Committee members and MAHEC staff at Mayland Community College: 

(Left to Right) Patti Jensen, Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce; Keith Holtsclaw, Mitchell County Commission; Scott Dudley, MAHEC Human Resources; John Boyd, Mayland Community College; Becky Carter, Blue Ridge Hospital; Blake Fagan, MAHEC Rural Health Initiative; Amy Russell, MAHEC and Mission Medical Associates; Christa Currie, MAHEC Rural Health Initiative.  Not present: Lynda Kinnane, Toe River Health District