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AHECSW ReConnects Post-Secondary Students to Rural Communities

- Thursday, January 14, 2016

AHECSW checked in with our college interns that are participating in our ReConnect program to review their experiences working in a rural community and mentoring high school students.

When reflecting on the role that Duval plays with the program and what he has learned from his experience in his role he shared, "I play a very personal yet professional role with the students in the Bright Works Oregon Healthcare Team Program. As a Pre-Health Advisor, I have to know these students on a personal level and learn a lot about their goals in life to do my job effectively. I am only able to provide guidance and make helpful suggestions to the students when I know what area of healthcare they want to go into and why they want to pursue that area specifically. I also play a much more professional role with students in the program. In order to effectively teach the professional skills that the students need to learn, I have to play the role of an authority figure so that they realize the importance of what I am teaching." 

The experience hasn't only exposed Short and Duval to the clinical side of healthcare in a rural community, but they have been able to connect to the investment that a community must make in their own students. They have been able to witness the altruistic spirit that many local professionals demonstrate through the time they donate to the programs. Short shared his insights on what he has witnessed and learned through his role," Our rural community is entirely dependent upon its own healthcare professionals. The services available in Douglas County and surrounding areas depend upon the available healthcare workforce. If the rural community needs more or different services it is upon that community to establish the necessary services. Obviously a community is dependent upon its healthcare system but a successful community will have a healthcare system that is entrenched in the community. In other words, the healthcare workforce must be invested in its community. Our rural healthcare system has that -- it exists outside of the hospital. Our healthcare professionals are uniquely invested in the welfare of their community. I say this from a personal level, for I have had the privilege to work alongside many of them as they volunteered their time to give presentations, lead dissections, and mentor young students in our community."

When we asked Short and Duval how these experiences were shaping their potential future career pathway and what value they saw in the programs aiding in filling our local rural healthcare workforce pipeline they provided our staff with valuable feedback. Short stated that, " These experiences have reaffirmed my desire to work in the fields of healthcare or public health. The amount of community investment that I have seen from the various healthcare professionals that work with Bright Works Oregon and AHEC points to a level of altruism that I would like to attain! This level of investment has shown me that single individuals can create impactful change within rural communities.The ability to work with my community and its healthcare system have allowed me to appreciate the importance of rural healthcare and its fragility. Communities without proper healthcare or healthcare access will clearly suffer and rural communities continuously show an increasing need for healthcare professionals. Therefore, the rural health pipeline must be filled in order to maintain healthy and successful rural communities."   Duval reinforced Short's sentiments on the impacts of the program and the increased knowledge he has gained by participating in this program by saying, "I feel that the need to fill the rural health pipeline is of great importance. If I did not feel this way, then I would not be planning on working as a healthcare professional in a rural area myself. Rural communities unfortunately sometimes have some of the worst statistics relating to their overall health.If we are to better these types of statistics in rural communities, the deficit of healthcare workers in these areas must be eliminated. With an ever-growing human population, the overall health of these communities is only going to continue to dwindle if changes are not made. Filling the rural health pipeline is imperative to improving the health of communities across Oregon, a mission I personally plan on continuing to aid in the future."

AHECSW feels honored to have these two remarkable young men as our first ReConnect students. We have been able to see the positive impact that they have had on the community and with the students. We hope to continue to support them and offer them resources as they continue working towards their future careers in healthcare field. 


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