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A new nursing program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is aiming to improve access to quality health care in rural and underserved communities. Alabama has a shortage of primary and specialty health care providers, and according to the Bureau of Health Workforce, 66 of 67 counties in the state lack enough dentists and mental health care providers to meet population needs.

The new program will provide 111 students from across the state with firsthand training on how to provide care in rural and underserved areas. The students are from multiple universities and have been selected to participate in the first class of Alabama Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) scholars. The scholars come from a wide range of backgrounds including medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology, social work, and education.

Students in the program will learn about rural medicine and how to serve underserved communities both in and out of the classroom by participating in service projects. UAB plans to train, place, and keep students with varying backgrounds in underserved areas to ensure adequate health care is provided to all people across the state. Diversity is crucial to improving access to health care, which is why UAB has recruited a diverse new cohort of students.

Michael Faircloth, MD, the director of the Alabama Area Health Education Centers program and the medical and lab director of Student Health Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells UAB.edu, “The focus of the program is to take students who are pursuing careers in various health professions and make sure they receive a portion of their clinical training in rural and underserved areas. Many people think of doctors and nurses when they hear the term health professions, but a successful health care workforce needs more than doctors and nurses. It needs dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, social workers and technologists.”

UAB’s new Alabama Area Health Education Centers scholars will be enrolled in the program for two years, working with leaders in the state’s five AHEC regions. To learn more about UAB’s new program to address health care needs in rural and underserved communities across Alabama, visit here.

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