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Southwest Indiana AHEC honors rural health partners

June 10, 2024

A vibrant rural healthcare system requires not only an ongoing commitment to the education of current employees and the future healthcare workforce, but also to creating reciprocal partnerships across the region to improve healthcare for all. Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC) recognizes the efforts of healthcare educators and providers who are helping achieve this mission. 

2024 Partnership Matters Award 

Southwest Indiana AHEC’s 2024 Partnership Matters Award was presented to Carol Collier-Smith, Chief Operating Officer at ECHO Community Healthcare, who has been an active AHEC Advisory Council member for nearly 10 years. Because of her leadership, medical, physician assistant and nurse practitioner students experience ECHO’s unique culture and mission during clinical rotations, while AHEC Scholars have learned about women’s health and midwife services through observation experiences. 

Collier-Smith, who has worked at ECHO for nearly 24 years, plans to retire from her post in September. “Carol has always been a champion of AHEC, and her willingness to foster a reciprocal partnership between ECHO Community Healthcare Center and AHEC has been invaluable,” says Jane Friona, Executive Director of Southwest Indiana AHEC. “We recognize her for her tremendous engagement, commitment and support of the AHEC mission, and we wish her the best in her upcoming retirement.” 

2024 Outstanding Preceptor Awards 

Southwest Indiana AHEC presented Outstanding Preceptor Awards to Allyson Wehrheim, PA-C, and Erin Sievers, PA-C, both affiliated with Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana. Through AHEC collaboration, both providers precept students from the University of Evansville Physician Assistant (PA) Program, primarily those interested in learning about primary health care in a rural/medically underserved community. Between both preceptors, they typically precept about a dozen students each academic year.  

Wehrheim is a Knox County native who graduated from Butler University with her MPAS. A recent student comments, “Allyson was an amazing preceptor!! She was nice and answered my questions. She was open to letting me see so many of her patients. I had a wonderful experience at this site.” 

Sievers is also from Knox County. She completed her undergraduate studies and MPAS at Butler University. One of her students describes her as “fantastic,” adding, “She is a preceptor but also makes you feel very comfortable with performing new procedures and asking questions. The learning environment is very friendly, and I enjoyed and looked forward to driving to the site every single day.” 

“After college, Wehrheim and Sievers both returned to their hometown of Vincennes to make a positive impact on the community,” says Friona. “Southwest Indiana AHEC recognizes their dedication to educating future health professionals by sharing their passion and clinical knowledge by precepting students, which is critical to the long-term health of rural communities.” 

Southwest Indiana AHEC began as a regional center in 2008 and is hosted by the University of Southern Indiana in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Southwest Indiana AHEC is part of a national network with a mission to improve health by leading the nation in the recruitment, training and retention of a diverse health workforce for underserved communities. 

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