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WNC Rural Health Initiative

Mountain Area Health Education Center’s (MAHEC) WNC Rural Health Initiative is partnering with providers and community leaders in Mitchell and Yancey counties to develop the Mitchell-Yancey Rural Teaching Hub. Blake Fagan, MD, MAHEC’s Chief Education Officer, is spearheading this initiative, and is working alongside Christa Currie, JD, Sarah Thach, MPH, and Yancey County’s own Bryan McClure.

Throughout the months of April and May, MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative (RHI) team is scheduling visits with Mitchell and Yancey counties medical practices, to become better connected in the two communities. To create more rural physicians, MAHEC is starting new Psychiatry and General Surgery residencies, expanding its Family Medicine Residency and medical school campus, and increasing the amount of time those learners spend in rural communities. As the RHI team meets with local providers, it will gauge their experience and interest in teaching MAHEC residents, UNC medical and pharmacy students, and area high school students.

MAHEC is 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 high school seniors from Mountain Heritage and Mitchell who show authentic interest in healthcare professions. 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 program that will help recruit future health care providers to practice in our community.

A key factor in getting health care learners interested in rural medicine is getting them in engaged in community projects. The RHI team is excited to work with Graham Children’s Health Services, Toe River Health District –Yancey and Mitchell Health Departments, and others in the community to teach these learners the power of collective community health improvement.

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