Chicago AHEC Visits the Hill – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Chicago AHEC Visits the Hill

July 18, 2018 Written By: Rachel Lackland

My name is Rachel Lackland, the administrative assistant for Chicago Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and 2014 Chicago AHEC Internship Alumni Network member. Together with Health & Medicine’s Chicago AHEC team—Sharon Powell, Chicago AHEC Director and former Senior Policy Analyst, Tiffany Ford accompanied me as well—I had the opportunity to join ILAHEC at their NAO (National AHEC Organization) conference in Arlington, Virginia.

The NAO Conference happens every two years bringing together all the state AHECs
as one and to present on their centers’ current work. The AHEC program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train, and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The AHEC program helps bring the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs. The strength of the AHEC Network is its ability to creatively adapt national initiatives to help address local and regional healthcare issues.

Chicago AHEC presented on two panels: “Talk Data to Me: Increasing Effectiveness in Longitudinal Tracking through Unique Data Collection Platforms” and “Criminalization of People of Color as a Barrier to Diversifying the Health Workforce.” Both presentations were very effective and educational and led to robust questions from the audience.

Chicago AHEC showcased our research, personal experiences, and enthusiasm on why these two topics should be addressed in other states, schools, and communities. Many AHECs were very interested in our criminalization panel because so many people could relate to these hard times of violence in our Black and Brown communities and that society should start working together and protecting each other. So many eye opening stories were told and some suggestions were made to others on how to handle their own situations.

We also got the chance to speak to senators and legislators on Capitol Hill. I was very excited and nervous however all that went away and I was able to speak with ease and confidence! In addition to our panels, we learned how other AHECs are using AHEC Scholars—a new AHEC program—and how to integrate that initiative into the work we do every day. Overall, I am blessed to have the experience to be a part of this national conference and see firsthand what it truly means to be an AHEC!

The Chicago AHEC Team: (Left to right) Rachel Lackland, Sharon Powell, and Tiffany Ford