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2024 Outstanding Preceptor Award

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.”

2024 Partnership Matters Award

Southwest Indiana AHEC’s 2024 Partnership Matters Award is 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.”

Tom Stratton and AHEC Team2023 Outstanding Preceptor Award

Southwest Indiana AHEC presented the 2023 Outstanding Preceptor Award to Dr. Thomas Stratton of ECHO Community Healthcare in Evansville, Indiana.

As a physician at the only Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Evansville, Dr. Stratton ensures that students not only have a great clinical experience, but that they understand the complexities many patients endure in their lives, including language, economic and social barriers to healthcare.

Dr. Stratton has been precepting Indiana University medical students during their third-year family medicine clerkships for many years, and he typically precepts two to three students each academic year.

In addition to precepting, Dr. Stratton is very engaged in local community initiatives addressing mental health, and he is passionate about reducing implicit bias and educating students on the issue. He presented during a regional preceptor professional development workshop in 2019, and he provided a family physician’s perspective on working with LatinX communities during a National AHEC Organization Diversity Community lunch and learn in October 2022.

"Recognizing the value of supporting, mentoring and educating future healthcare professionals, particularly with underserved populations, is critical to the mission of the Indiana AHEC Network," said Jane Friona, Executive Director of Southwest Indiana AHEC. "We are pleased to recognize Dr. Stratton for his outstanding efforts in educating students on the importance of providing care to diverse patient populations."

Ashli Smiley and Jane Friona2023 Partnership Matters Award

Ashli Smiley, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Coordinator for the Indiana Department of Health, is the recipient of the Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC) 2023 Partnership Matters Award.

She has worked as a SANE in the emergency department of an Indianapolis level one trauma center, as well as a rural county hospital. She now uses her experience statewide for the benefit of training and mentoring forensic nurses and improving survivor services.

“When we think about all of our partners, Ashli stands out as a true advocate and ally of the Indiana SANE Training Project,” said Jane Friona, Executive Director of Southwest Indiana AHEC. “She has been an amazing resource for Southwest Indiana AHEC and this project, and I am certain that we would not have accomplished all we have, particularly in rural and underserved communities, without her steadfast support and advice.”

For the past four years, Southwest Indiana AHEC, hosted at the University of Southern Indiana in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, has been expanding care for victims of sexual abuse and assault through the Indiana SANE Training Project, which is funded with a HRSA Advanced Nursing Education – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner grant.

Learn more about the Indiana SANE Training Project.

2022 Outstanding Preceptor Award

Southwest Indiana AHEC presented the 2022 Outstanding Preceptor Award to Jennifer Richardson, MD, of JLR Family Practice, Jasper, Indiana.

Dr. Richardson has been precepting Indiana University medical students during their third-year family medicine clerkships since 2016, and she typically precepts four to six students each academic year, according to Krista Kercher, Clinical Coordinator for Southwest Indiana AHEC.

“Dr. Richardson has committed herself, and her practice, to helping ensure a strong pipeline of future health professionals in southwest Indiana,” said Kercher. “She has always been willing to accommodate schedule changes and assist with clinical rotations when other providers had conflicts or issues potentially impacting a student clinical rotation. That flexibility has been crucial to Southwest Indiana AHEC’s success in coordinating these family medicine clerkships.”

Past students have provided the following comments after their family medicine clerkships with Dr. Richardson:

“I enjoyed learning from Dr. Richardson! She truly cares about her students and goes above and beyond to make them feel at home. I appreciated all the extra time that put in to help me learn. There was a variety of medical conditions seen in her practice, which was a great learning opportunity.”

“Dr. Richardson was a great preceptor. She took the time to discuss every case we saw that day and answered any questions I had.”

Dr. Richardson graduated from University of California School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Evansville, Indiana. She was appointed to the active medical staff at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in 1999, and she served as the medical staff president in 2018 and 2019.

UE PA Program2022 Partnership Matters Award

Southwest Indiana AHEC's 2022 Partnership Matters Award is presented to the Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the University of Evansville. Since its inception in 2016, the UE PA Program has worked collaboratively with Southwest Indiana AHEC to empower students to "serve responsibly" and "live meaningfully."

According to Jane Friona, Executive Director of Southwest Indiana AHEC, UE faculty and leadership have assisted with recruiting AHEC Scholars, and 31 PA students have been (or are) involved in this community healthcare fellowship. “The PA Program prioritizes AHEC Scholars in rural and underserved family medicine rotations to help strengthen their intent and preparation for future practice in these communities,” said Friona. “The clinical coordinators work very closely with AHEC to ensure the ‘right’ students are in the ‘right’ rotations for the benefit of both the student and the clinical site.”

Friona said the PA Program staff have worked collaboratively on regional preceptor appreciation initiatives, as well as the regional clinical collaboration team. “Although the PA program is fairly new to the region, the program has recognized the need to work collaboratively with all of the regional healthcare facilities and educational institutions to help ensure preceptors and clinical sites are not overburdened with the need for additional clinical rotations,” she said.