The AHEC program is a vehicle for change.
It has been my privilege to serve as the Executive Director of Utah AHEC since its inception. I brought this program to Utah in 1996, and for twenty years we at Utah AHEC have worked diligently to enhance the state of primary care in Utah. Our program has been guided by several objectives over the years, but perhaps the most important goal of Utah AHEC is to listen to the communities we serve.
Today, we are facing tremendous shortages in our primary care workforce across the nation – and Utah is no exception. In fact, Utah is ranked 49th out of 50 in their ratio of primary care physicians offering patient care to patients. What’s more, primary care clinics feel strained under the changes and uncertainties brought on by “Healthcare Transformation”. With the primary care sector being the backbone for our current national health system, these realities can be incredibly frightening.
However, we must acknowledge the substantial opportunities facing primary care. As a practicing family physician, I view the national movement towards healthcare reform (i.e. lowered costs, enhanced quality, improved population health outcomes, and improved satisfaction of healthcare professionals) as a chance to fix a very broken system. We are building a system in which a physician is not solely responsible for the care of patients, but rather relies on the skillset of an entire care team (including advanced practice clinicians, medical assistants, nurses, care managers, pharmacists, social workers, patients, and caregivers). And our system is evolving to better serve patients, particularly those with chronic illness, through a better understanding of social determinants of health.
With these opportunities in mind, I am excited to announce that the new mission of Utah AHEC is to help current and future health professionals acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to practice in a transformed health system for medically underserved rural and urban communities. Through our strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations we aim to improve the geographic distribution of health professionals, the demographic and professional diversity of health professionals, and transformation of health systems to enhance wellbeing, quality, and efficiency of care.
I cannot overstate the importance that education plays in this charge. Having spent my entire career focused on educating the future generation of primary care professionals, I am proud to be a part of this next chapter with Utah AHEC.
Michael K. Magill, MD