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Conference Highlights

After almost two years of planning, the 2018 NAO Biennial Conference, AHEC on the Hill: Diversity, Distribution and Practice Transformation, began on Sunday, July 8 with the following:

  • NAO Board of Directors Meeting

  • New Directors Orientation with 65 in attendance

  • Evaluation Session lead by members of Committee on Outcomes, Research and Evaluation

  • Meetings of:

    • Center Directors Constituency Group

    • Program Directors Constituency Group

    • And a joint meeting of the two groups

A most important number, that the Conference Planning Committee had been watching, was the percentage of first time attendees with a 41% level joining for their first NAO conference!

  • 413 Registrants,

  • 48 US state/territories

  • 35 breakout sessions

  • 24 moderators

  • 13 judged posters; two NAO-CDC-HPV project posters for information

  • 18 sponsors and exhibitors

  • Mobile app which made it an almost paperless conference!

A quick review

Jon Doolittle, President of Northwest Medical Center, a critical access hospital in Albany, Missouri kicked off the conference with the opening session theme, “We Get To”, reminding us all what a privilege and honor it is that we get to do the work that we do every day.

Those in attendance were looking forward to next hearing from Luis Padilla, MD, associate administrator for HRSA. Dr. Padilla was unable to attend, Capt. Jacqueline Rodriqgue, MSW, presented to the attendees in his absence. She reported that the supplemental funding would be used for the new focal areas below, which left many questions for the audience. NAO will be working together to support our National Network members future funding potential and process changes ahead.

Training activities will support opioid use disorder diagnosis, prevention and treatment

  • Trainings on tele-mental health services

  • Behavioral health integration with focus on opioid use and misuse

  • Community health worker training on SUD

AHECs should use cutting edge technologies and activities to train allied health and health
professionals, mental health providers, and other health professionals for practice in rural
and underserved areas.

Training should also address legal and ethical issues associated with substance abuse
treatment and tele-mental health services.

At noon, the NAO Diversity Committee following up on the success of the student panel during a breakout session in 2016 with a student panel as a plenary session:  Student Panel: Educating and Training a Diverse Health Care Workforce:  A Professional Student Panel Discussion
The purpose of this session was to address effective ways to enhance the educational experience of diverse and economically disadvantaged students. This presentation engaged graduate level health professions students from diverse backgrounds in a discussion which will inform the audience about their experiences and challenges as they pursue their profession. 
Student Panelists

  • Tara Seals, CPNP, MSN - Nursing - Recent Graduate, University of Virginia (former Missouri AHEC participant)

  • Kai Turner, DO - Medicine - Pediatric Resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE

  • Rutmann Desauguste - Medicine (Osteopathic) - 3rd year, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

  • Alex Fournier, MHTA - Mental Health - MHTA pursuing a RN degree.

  • April Phillip - Nursing - Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing in 2015

  • Hunter Hall - Medicine (Allopathic) - 3rd year, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport

Monday evening, NAO went to the Potomac River on the Odyssey dinner cruise to “Rock the Boat!” dinner. The NAO Legacy Awards were presented with great celebration and followed by dancing and watching the sun set on the National Mall from the DC waterfront!

Tuesday, July 10 began with personal experiences and the challenges met by the Henrietta Lacks family members, David Lacks, Jr. and Jeri Lacks Whye.
The Lacks family has enthralled audiences across the country by talking about their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Henrietta Lacks, and her transcendentally important contributions to science. The international success of Rebecca Skloot’s New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, has left people keenly interested in the Lacks family and Henrietta’s legacy. With their speaking across the country, members of the Lacks family put a personal face on such issues as the dark history of medical experimentation on African-Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over informed consent. Their talks raise complicated questions about whether we control the stuff we are made of, and whether we should share in the profits. Their message is positive, optimistic, and—above all—a celebration of Henrietta Lacks’ life and legacy. They have visited more than 100 communities and campuses, where their appearances give audiences an unforgettable first-person perspective on the collision between ethics, race, and the commercialization of human tissue, and how their experiences have impacted the Lacks family from generation to generation. Their story, as told in their book, has sold more than 2.5 million copies around the world, and it has been selected as a common read by more than 250 schools, libraries, and community institutions. This book has also been made into an HBO film, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. Several members of the family were involved as consultants.

At lunch, the NAO Business Meeting was held with updates from the overall operating leadership and committee chairs of NAO. The revisions to the bylaws were enacted at this time and were officially passed by the network membership. These updates are provided so that NAO members have a greater understanding of the work that happens by committees and officers on behalf of the organization.

One of the new membership categories is for honorary members. David Garr, MD, Program Director for the South Carolina AHEC, was awarded the first NAO Honorary Membership. Dr. Garr retired officially on June 30, 2018. Honorary members are individuals with past NAO Board of Directors or NAO Leadership service.  Honorary members are nominated by the Executive Committee and approved by the Board.

Throughout the conference, NAO members were encouraged to join NAO standing committees. The resulting outcomes were that more than 20 new members enthusiastically joined one of the seven various NAO committees while at the conference!

Matt Jones, a three-time cancer survivor, was the final plenary speaker. Matt Jones is the founder of the R.E.A.L. Leadership Academy and was a PhD Candidate in Organizational Leadership.  He is also the author of over ten books, including his newest one, "Happiness is a Marathon:   26.2 Ways to Stay Happy at Work and in Life."  Matt uses his story of overcoming insurmountable odds to motivate audiences to achieve greater victory during these times of change and uncertainty. He kept us laughing!

Dale Dirks and Joshua Lewis of Health and Medicine Counsel of Washington provided us with preparation for the visits with our Congressional representatives on Wednesday morning. Folders with information and data to share were provided for all states making visits.

To close the conference,

  • Anna Wenders, Conference Planning Co-Chair expressed appreciation to the many sponsors and exhibitors,

  • Michelle Boyd, Conference Planning Program Subcommittee Chair, expressed her appreciation to the many breakout session presenters, moderators, poster presenters, poster judges, and her subcommittee team,

  • Jacqueline Wynn, Interim CEO, and Conference Planning Co-Chair thanked all those who attended and encouraged them to take what they had learned and implement it in some way in their programs and centers,

  • Mindy Bateman, President Elect, pledged to take the feedback from the conference in the form of session evaluation, live polls and questions, to help move NAO forward.

  • Paula Overfelt, President and Conference Planning Co-Chair again shared her gratitude for the exceptional support of the NAO membership in attendance and expressed her desire for everyone to become more involved with NAO and more fully experience all we can share about AHEC to improve the future development of our professional organization.

NAO Awards

Legacy Awards

  • Red Koelling Distinguished Service Award – 
    David Garr, MD, Program Director, South Carolina AHEC

  • Eugene S. Mayer Award Program of ExcellenceWWAMI AHEC
    Suzanne Allen, MD

  • Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice –
    Guilford Refugee Health Coalition of the Greensboro AHEC (NC),
    Shawn Houck, RN & Jeffrey Walden, MD

Center of Excellence Awards

  • Diversity Center of Excellence AwardAlaska AHEC
    PATH (Preparing Alaskans for Training in Health Care Academies)

  • Distribution Center of Excellence Award – Northeast Kentucky AHEC Center
    Successfully Training and Educating Pre-Medical Students (STEPS)

Poster Awards

  • First Place
    The Mentoring Connection – Southern Kentucky AHEC, Presenter Sherry Spragens, R.T. ® ARDMS and Shawnee Eckert

  • Second Place
    PROJECT SASS: Teen AHEC’rs along US Mexico Border Share Skin Cancer Prevention Education and Demonstrate Leadership, Southeast Arizona AHEC, Presenters Gail Emrick and Lois Loescher

  • Third Place
    Workplace Wellness AHEC Style, Hawaii Pacific Basin AHEC, presenter Erica Davis

Presidential Awards

  • Past President’s Award
    Mary J. Mitchell, Executive Director, Manhattan Staten Island AHEC

  • President’s Awards
    Jacqueline R. Wynn, NAO Interim CEO, North Carolina AHEC and Mindy Bateman, NAO President-elect, Director, Crossroads Utah AHEC

Legislative Recognition

On Wednesday, July 11, conference attendees met in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building for an awards presentation prior to making their visits with the Congressional delegates of their states.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield, North Carolina, was recognized due to his strong support of AHEC and NAO over his legislative tenure. As photographed, Jacqueline Wynn, Interim CEO, presented Congressman Butterfield with his award.

Congressman Michael Burgess, Texas, was unable to attend, but sent his health aide Elizabeth Allen, who accepted the award on his behalf. Congressman Burgess, Texas, introduced reauthorization language on behalf of AHEC and other Title VII programs.

Senator Roy Blunt, Missouri, was recognized for his support of AHEC and his work on our behalf on the Senate L-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee. He was also unable to attend; however, the Missouri AHEC presented the award to health aide, Desiree Mowry, on behalf of NAO during their visit to his office.

Senator Jack Reed, Rhode Island, was recognized for his support and intent to introduce the reauthorization language for AHEC in the Senate. His award was presented to health aide, Jill Boland, by Public Policy Co-Chair, Kristina Fjeld-Sparks.


To view all conference photos click here.


Click here to view and download presentations.

Conference attendees who currently are not members of NAO may contact Denise Harris at d.harris@nationalahec.org to request specific presentations.

Thank You to Our Sponsors & Exhibitors

Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Lanyard Sponsor

Breakfast Sponsor

Session Sponsors



Concurrent Sessions


Breakout Session I Black Males in Medicine: Condition Critical

Breakout Session I Cultural Competency and Diversity Training for Health Professionals

Breakout Session I e-Learning as a Tool for AHEC Scholars and Practice Transformation

Breakout Session I Utilizing Telehealth Technology to Provide Community-Based Interprofessional Clinical Practice Experiences for Diverse Learners

Breakout Session I Best Practices for Clinical Training Preceptor Development

Breakout Session I Wellness Wednesdays: An Interprofessional, Community-Based Experiential Model for AHEC Scholars

Breakout Session I A Regional AHEC’s Use of Recognition and Faculty Development to Recruit and Retain Community Preceptors

Breakout Session I Implementing a Communication Plan and Branding South Carolina AHEC. Transforming Healthcare through Education: How Utah is Restructuring Program Activities to Meet HRSA’s Redesigned Priorities

Breakout Session I Rapid Cycle Quality Improvement and Ripple Effect Mapping

Breakout Session II Partnering to Encourage Rural Students towards a Health Career

Breakout Session II Service Learning for Health Services Students through the Creation, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Wellness Fair for at Risk Students at an Alternative High School

Breakout Session II Engaging Health Professions Students in the Core Topic Areas through Community Health Center/AHEC Partnerships

Breakout Session II Transforming Clinical Practice and Health Education to Provide Quality Care for Older Adults

Breakout Session II A Multiorganizational Plan to Address the Shortage of High Quality Community Preceptors

Breakout Session II It Takes a Community: A Detailed Review of the Planning Strategies and Implementation of a Long-Standing Rural Health Careers Camp in Northwest Illinois. Homegrown Healthcare Providers: The Arkansas Model

Breakout Session II AHEC Collaboratives: Charting a New Course Using Longstanding Relationships and Experience to Meet the Changing AHEC Landscape

Breakout Session II Grant Support and Spread of Opioid CME: Lessons Learned from AHECs in Kentucky and North Carolina

Breakout Session II Talk Data to Me: Increasing Effectiveness in Longitudinal Tracking through Unique Data Collection Platforms


Breakout Session III Facilitating ACCESS through Education – GSAHEC’s Advanced Cultural Competence Education and Support

Breakout Session III Teaching 1st Year Health Professions Students How to Access Social Determinants and Identify Community-based Resources through an Interprofessional Skills Boot Camp

Breakout Session III Integrating Social Determinants of Health into Community Health Worker Curricula to Drive Transformative Care in the Community. Practice Transformation: Using Community Health Workers to Link Public Health and Clinical Health

Breakout Session III Practice Transformation: A Case Study Utilizing the HPV Project

Breakout Session III Georgia’s Preceptor Tax Incentive Program (GA-PTIP) – Innovation at Work

Breakout Session III Looking Out the Front Windshield: Utah AHEC’s Role in Transforming State Primary Care Workforce Projections

Breakout Session III Enhancing Partnerships Creates Bigger Impact for Small AHEC Centers

Breakout Session III Pipeline Programs and Their Importance in Directing High School Students into the Health Care Field

Breakout Session III Rural Immersion Institute of the North (RIIN)

Breakout Session IV Criminalization of People of Color as a Barrier to Diversifying the Health Workforce. Mentoring the Masses…800 & Counting!

Breakout Session IV Engaging Community Partners and Collaborating Across AHECs to Address the Need for Sexual Assault Examiners

Breakout Session IV Harvesting a Rural IPE Experience: A Framed Conversation on the Rural & Urban Context and Its Impact on Students

Breakout Session IV Interprofessional Oral Health: Opportunities for Quality Improvement and Practice Transformation to Impact Community Health

Breakout Session IV New Modalities and Business Models for Continuing Professional Development in Rural Areas

Breakout Session IV the Arizona Rural Health Professions Program

Breakout Session IV Federal Grant Opportunities to Support and Expand Your AHEC Offerings


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