What the Heck is AHEC?

By Karen Brown

AHEC or Area Health Education Center, has been a part of the Waco community and region for nearly 20 years, but what the heck is it?  Area Health Education Centers were first proposed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education in the early 1970’s as a means of addressing the maldistribution of health professionals in medically underserved areas throughout the nation. Today, 56 AHEC programs with more than 240 centers operate in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Texas AHEC East – Waco Region is a part of the Texas AHEC East Program which is run out of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Together, our federally and state funded program, covers 111 counties and over 17 million people. Your local Waco Region is charged with 18 counties in the Heart of Texas. To quote Wikipedia, “AHECs are nonprofit organizations strategically located within designated regions where health care and health care education needs are not adequately met.  An AHEC works within its region to make health care education (including residency and student rotations) locally available, on the premise that health care workers are likely to remain in an area where they train.  An AHEC also works to support practicing professionals with continuing education programs and other support resources and to attract youth (particularly those from minority and medically underserved populations) to health care professions. An AHEC partners with community organizations and academic institutions to fulfill its mission.”

Why AHEC? Because in 2015:

  • 35 Texas counties had no physician of any kind
  • because 80 counties had five physicians or less
  • because 185 counties had no general psychiatrist
  • because the physician workforce is disproportionately located in the five most populous counties in the state
  • because there are 438 designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) in Texas
  • because in Texas, only 12% of Texas physicians identify as black or Hispanic

So what do we do?

  • We help young people learn about and gain access to education to become their community’s health professionals.
  • We provide real-life community educational experiences for health professions students.
  • We facilitate recruitment and retention support for providers.
  • We provide health career development education and training opportunities for health professionals
  • We host community presentations to encourage healthy life styles.
  • We assist communities in providing systemic change to address health inequity in their community

In short, we want to grow our own healthcare. It’s essential that our students know that we need them to be our future healthcare workforce. They need to know that we NEED primary care doctors, we NEED nurses, but there is also a place in healthcare for everyone. Below are just five of the many health care careers that can be completed in Waco in two years or less.

Certified Coding Specialist

  • Coding specialists work in hospitals, health agencies, medical clinics and other facilities and process data for patient care, research and reimbursement purposes.
  • 1 year certificate program
  • Average Salary: $15/hr

Occupational Therapist Assistant

  • Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.
  • 2 year associate degree
  • Average Salary: $50,000/yr

Respiratory Technician

  • Respiratory therapists provide care for patients with lung disease or injuries that affect lung function.
  • 2  year associate degree
  • Average Salary: $54,000

Biomedical Equipment Technician

  • Biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for all aspects of the installation and maintenance of biomedical equipment.
  • 2 year associate degree
  • Average Salary: $55,000

Community Health Worker

  • As an individual who promotes health or nutrition within the community in which the individual resides
  • 160 hour training
  • Average Salary: $12/hr

We are thankful to our many community partners and supporters as we work toward “Making Our Communities Healthier.”  It is because of our valued relationships within the community that make our programs successful! For more information, please visit:  http://txaheceast.org/waco/

Karen Brown is the Center Director for Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) – Waco Region.  She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, and a MAEd. from East Carolina University. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Rural Health Association and the Texas Society of Public Health Educators. Originally from North Carolina, she enjoys exploring all that Texas has to offer. You will often see her with her husband and son attending local community events and festivals, and she will be the first in line at Waco’s  latest culinary addition.  Karen may be reached at 254-753-4392 ext. 13 or email Karen.Brown@txaheceast.org


RiverSounds Concert Series Returns to Bosque River Stage

by Candice Kelm

For over five decades, McLennan Community College has established and pursued its mission to engage, educate, and enrich its community. MCC’s Visual & Performing Arts division takes the mission to heart in providing numerous performances throughout the year by students and professional artists in the College’s state-of-the-art performance facilities. RiverSounds, the annual free outdoor concert series, is a prime example.

RiverSounds is held on Thursday evenings each June at the Bosque River Stage, a 350-seat amphitheater nestled along the banks of the Bosque River. The venue features stadium-style seats along with lawn seating where patrons can relax and enjoy the performances of their favorite local and regional artists.

The 2017 RiverSounds lineup will include four nights of outstanding performers from various musical genres and is sure to provide something enjoyable for everyone.

We kicked of the season last Thursday with Grammy Award nominee and legendary barrelhouse boogie and blues lady Marcia Ball. According to the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill where this legend has performed several times in the past, “The Texas-born, Louisiana-raised musical storyteller’s groove-laden New Orleans boogie, deeply soulful ballads and rollicking blues have won her an enormous, loyal and still-growing fan base.” What a great way to start the summer!

The Purple Hulls will open the June 8 concert. Identical twins Katy Lou and Penny Lea Clark, from the deep piney woods of East Texas, will entertain guests with their repertoire of Bluegrass Gospel tunes. The night will continue with Contemporary Christian music along with Praise and Worship by Antioch ‘Live’.

Eclectic fun music will take center stage on June 15 with the MCC Faculty Jazz ensemble opening for Brave Combo. MCC’s Faculty Jazz ensemble performs original compositions and standards from a wide variety of musical styles. Brave Combo brings a mix of everything from Japanese pop and Latin American dance tunes to orchestral classics and rock and roll.

Country and Americana will be featured on June 22 with local ladies Kayla Ray & Jonna Mae opening for Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, the “King and Queen of Americana Country.” Austin City Limits said of these local icons, “If Austin’s happily egalitarian music scene suddenly switched to a monarchy, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis might have to learn to perform while balancing hefty crowns.” (http://acl-live.com)

Admission is free to all RiverSounds concerts. Gates will open at 7 p.m. each Thursday evening with the first band taking the stage at 8 p.m. Blankets, lawn chairs, food, and drinks are welcome, but no glass containers or pets are allowed.

Waco native Candice Kelm has served as the Sports Information Specialist for MCC Athletics since 2006 and lends a hand as a writer to the Marketing and Communications department. She received her bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in journalism and business from Baylor University in 2002.



Becoming A “Work-Ready City”

By Christina Helmick

One of the three main parts of the Prosper Waco mission is to help build an environment in which all members of our Waco community are able to improve their financial security.  During our 2016 Annual Summit, Matt Meadors, President and CEO of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, talked about upcoming collaborations and partnerships planned to help accomplish this part of the mission.  One of those collaborations is now coming to fruition: Workforce Readiness Certification (WRC).

Local employers have reported for years that they need employees with good work readiness skills.   The purpose of the WRC is to provide a certification that employers can trust to identify job candidates who have those important skills.

A development team including representatives from the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD), McLennan Community College (MCC) and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce (GWCC) began work on this project in January 2016.   To make sure the certification would meet the need, the development team first met with a focus group of local employers to hear their top concerns regarding employee behavior and skill.  The team also worked with the employers to collect specific, real-life case studies of situations in which workforce readiness skills would come into play at work.

The conversations with these employers were documented and that information was used to create a survey which was then emailed to 136 larger local employers.  The results from this survey provided additional guidance for developing the certificate program.  The development team then validated the findings with a follow-up meeting with employers.

Based on this work, the development team developed two certificate programs:

  1. Work Ethic: dependability, honesty and integrity, interest in working, commitment to improve, positive attitude & enthusiasm, and respect
  2. Being an Employee: attention to detail, taking ownership, listening and communication, meeting production goals, and teamwork

To obtain certification, cohorts of Job candidates participate in 24 hours of instruction (per certificate).  The curriculum includes real-life scenarios directly from employers.  One facilitator and six local employers will interact with each cohort group. Skill attainment is assessed through self-assessment, cohort assessment, facilitator assessment, and assessment by employers.  Only those students whose cumulative assessment reaches a fixed level of proficiency are awarded a certificate.

For a full list of what the certification will include, please contact Dr. Richard Hinckley of CORD (hinckley@cord.org) and for a copy of the survey contact Frank Graves of McLennan Community College (graves@mclennan.edu).

The first “pilot” cohort of WRC students will start later this month.  Initial students will be selected by the Reintegration Roundtable (For more information about the Reintegration Roundtable contact Jamie Schmitt by email at Jamie.Schmitt@hotrmhmr.org).  The development team will use information collected from this group to fine-tune the curriculum before making it available community-wide.

Developing the Workforce Readiness Certificate was a collaborative effort.  It could not have been done by one organization, but several organizations working together have developed a certificate program that will help our community build a better-prepared workforce. Through collaboration and partnerships, there are endless possibilities!

For more information about efforts like the WRC, please visit prosperwaco.org or call 254-741-0081.

Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.