Depot student awarded at Eastern Area Health Education Center annual meeting

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Feb. 4, 2014
(L-r): Kathryn Ratcliff, Ph.D., Eastern CT AHEC Board of Directors member; U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney; Maritza Bond, MPH, executive director, Eastern CT AHEC; Kimberly Silcox, Eastern CT AHEC Board of Directors president; and Sylvia Baird, Eastern CT AHEC Board of Directors member at an Eastern AHEC and award reception on Jan. 23. Photo courtesy of Tom Hurlbut. - Contributed Photo

On Jan. 23, Eastern Connecticut’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) held its annual meeting at The Mills in Willimantic. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2) was the keynote speaker, talking about the Affordable Care Act and the importance of AHECs. The Windham Textile and History Museum provided a presentation on the history of Willimantic.

Eastern AHEC is a non-profit organization that currently receives state and federal funding to provide health education services in rural eastern Connecticut. The federal AHEC program was established in 1973 as a means to encourage medical schools to increase the number of students and residents trained in rural communities. According to a press release, “Eastern AHEC’s mission is to improve health outcomes by creating partnerships in education and healthcare, providing support to healthcare professionals and strengthening the quality and supply of healthcare providers.”

Eastern AHEC accomplishes this mission in a number of ways, including:

•coordinating and organizing continuing education programs for medical and social service providers;

•recruiting, training and retraining community health workers;

•providing health career recruitment programs to high school and college students by introducing future health professions and at the same time provide care to those who are currently underserved medically;

•cultivating and promoting interest in developing international approaches and strategies to meet the healthcare needs of the growing immigrant and refugee populations in the area.

In addition, Eastern AHEC was recently awarded a grant to help implement the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut through the role of navigators, who help educate and assist consumers through the enrollment of affordable health insurance plans.

“Having trained and trusted healthcare navigators in our community, including AHEC’s staff and network, is critical to help consumers understand new benefits and coverage options,” said Courtney. “I congratulate AHEC on their excellent work educating our communities, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to promote good health in eastern Connecticut.”

Among those who received awards at the annual AHEC meeting was E.O. Smith Depot Campus student Angie Courchesne. “Angie is a student intern at AHEC, and the Depot has partnered with their Youth Health Service Corps (YHSC) program to develop student interest in health-related fields and do community service-based learning,” said Depot Director Brad Martin. E.O. Smith High School at the Depot Campus provides a non-traditional educational experience for students who have demonstrated the need for a smaller and more personalized instructional setting.  Founded in 2008 in collaboration with Big Picture Learning, The Depot provides real world internship experiences and individualized learning plans derived from students’ interests.

Courchesne is a junior at The Depot and an YHSC participant intern. “I have participated in the Youth Health Service Corps program at the Depot Campus and also completed an independent service learning project for Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center, where I created care kits for the homeless,” said Courchesne. Courchesne said she chose the YHSC program because she is interested in exploring careers in the health field after she graduates from high school. “Eastern AHEC's influence in Willimantic has helped me experience different community organizations and the services that they provide,” said Courchesne. “This experience has helped me develop my communication and leadership skills which are important to me because I hope to make an impact in the communities around me.”

The goal of Courchesne’s independent learning project at The Depot was “to help others in need, specifically the homeless population of Willimantic,” she said.  Courchesne said that her experience gave her a first-hand look at the impact of her service. “I’m looking forward to continuing my work with the Youth Health Service Corps,” she said.

For more information about The Depot Campus at E.O. Smith, go to and click on “Depot Campus.” For more information regarding Eastern AHEC and its different programs, go to

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