Healthcare professionals speak to DETCOG
By Emily Banks Wooten
Shontel Minor, Director of Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) East Piney Woods Region, and Dr. Courtney West, Associate Dean of Educational Affairs for Sam Houston State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, gave informative presentations during the luncheon prior to the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Directors of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments Tuesday at the Polk County Commerce Center. Livingston Mayor Judy Cochran, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Chairwoman Nita Battise welcomed members and guests.
“Texas AHEC East is devoted to improving the supply, distribution, retention and training of varied health professionals in medically underserved and rural communities,” Minor said. “We link 100 East Texas counties and over 18 million people to community health workforce development, health opportunities and resources provided by eight regional centers which are uniquely positioned within the community and are hosted by local community institutions or are non-profit organizations.
“Our mission is to make our communities healthier through healthcare workforce development strategies that support the training and retention of health professionals in medically underserved and rural communities,” Minor said.
“Some of the programs offered are health careers promotion and preparation in which ninth though 12th-grade students focus on pipeline activities that prompt interest in study and practice of health professions; community-based experiential learning which is the support of health profession students with educational training enhancements such as AHEC Scholars; professional education and support in which we provide continuing education opportunities for existing health professionals and DSHS-supported CHW profession certification; and community health and development in which we engage and support community-based partners in education and awareness efforts for emerging health issues such as COVID,” Minor said.
After six years in the making, Sam Houston State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM), a 108,000 square-foot facility on a 7.3-acre property in Conroe, welcomed its inaugural class of 75 aspiring student-doctors in August of 2020, West said, adding that the second class includes 112 student-doctors as the college ramps up to a full class enrollment of 150.
“Our mission is to prepare students for the degree of doctor of osteopathic medicine with an emphasis toward primary care and rural practice, to develop culturally aware, diverse and compassionate physicians, who follow osteopathic principles, that are prepared for graduate medical education, and will serve the people of Texas with professionalism and patient-centered care,” West said.
“A significant part of the mission of the COM is to increase the physician workforce in the eastern region of Texas and to increase access to primary care. The COM will accomplish this by recruiting qualified applicants from areas to which they would likely want to return and establish their practice,” West said.
Reviewing some of their pipeline programs, West spoke of JAMP, SOAR and RISE UP.
“JAMP, the Joint Admission Medical Program is a special program created by the Texas Legislature to support and encourage highly qualified, economically disadvantaged Texas resident students pursuing a medical education; SOAR, Scholars for Osteopathic Academic Readiness, ensures that underrepresented and disadvantaged students do well academically and socially during undergraduate training with students receiving advice on how to navigate college life, prepare for standardized testing and apply to medical school; and RISE UP, Readiness Initiatives for Student Enhancement Underserved Populations, which promotes interest in careers in the medical professional among underrepresented and disadvantaged students in high school and ensures that they receive an educational foundation before enrolling in college,” West said.