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The PA AHEC increases access to primary health care services through a training model of community-based health professions education. Through this training model, the PA AHEC program has developed partnerships with participating medical schools in the Commonwealth including:

Increasing Access to Health Care
The statewide medical education and training infrastructure component of the PA AHEC organization builds the health professions educational capacity for professional development throughout undergraduate and graduate education within the context of the community.

Undergraduate training: The statewide medical education and training infrastructure builds and expands the educational capacity of medical schools, dental schools and other health professions-students-in-training through the AHEC’s community-based clinical training network. The students are placed within the community-based affiliating AHEC clinical practices to learn the principles of ambulatory care as applied to rural, urban and high-risk populations. The strengths of the AHEC’s medical education and training infrastructure are divided into two dimensions: the learning environment and the patient panels. The learning environment challenges students to sharpen diagnostic skills, critical thinking skills and manage chronic diseases within a practice environment that offers limited health care resources, restrictive technologies and no specialty supports. Another strong point of the learning environment is the type of supervision and oversight students receive during the AHEC clerkship. Medical students/health professions students-in-training are introduced to an apprenticeship model of clinical training, which is a one-to-one learning experience between medical student and physician/preceptor for the length of the clerkship. This model is very helpful to students because of the preceptor’s ability to track performance and assess learning needs, knowledge base and clinical skills. Students enjoy this type of learning and frequently want to repeat this experience with the same preceptor at a later time during their clerkship and electives. Patient panels and the community are representatives of a high percentage of elderly, adolescents and chronic disease. What makes this a different patient population is the health determinants (economic status, educational level, employment status, environment and familial health) of these populations significantly influence compliance to treatment plans and quality of life.

Graduate training: Primary care residencies and other graduate health professions programs are placed with community-based practices for four to six week clinical rotations or a longitudinal course of study of 16 weeks or more. In some placements, residents also act as teachers and complete mini preparatory courses to assist in their role as medical educators. Clinical rotations with community practices lay the ground work for succession planning for many physicians looking to retire from practice and leave their patients in good hands.


Funding for the Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center Program is provided by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Commonwealth's Medical Community and Communities at Large provide additional support.