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BCOM Students Selected as AHEC Scholars

Sixteen BCOM first and second year medical students were recently selected as Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Scholars. The two-year program is designed for health professions students interested in supplementing their education by gaining additional knowledge and experience in rural and/or underserved urban settings. Scholars must complete a total of 160 hours, including 40 hours each year of didactic education and another 40 hours in community-based, experiential, or clinical training. The six core topic areas cover interprofessional education, behavioral health integration, social determinants of health, cultural competency, practice transformation, and current and emerging health issues.

In late January, the BCOM students traveled to Albuquerque for an orientation and kick-off event where they participated in a meet-and-greet dinner followed by a leadership training workshop covering communication, teamwork, and mental health. They were also introduced to key aspects of the program, including the required participation in virtual teleECHO conferences which the scholars tap into from wherever they may be in the state to discuss patient cases and practice interprofessional skills.

First year student Nicholas Chajec said he’s particularly looking forward to these ultra-modern conferences. “These are the first of their kind and they engage all scholars to work on primary case studies,” he said. “Although we all understand we work as a team to provide care to our patients, we don’t truly begin to be a part of such a dynamic until we enter clinical rotations in our third year. During these sessions, we get to truly work in a patient-centered model, hearing and understanding the views of our healthcare colleagues.”

To be selected for the program, scholars must display an interest in practicing healthcare in a rural or underserved area. It is open to all health professions degree programs including medical, dental, pharmacy, nurse practitioner, nursing, physician assistant, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and public/population health programs.

“It was fascinating to learn how all the different perspectives of each health discipline work to help our patients,” said second year student Weston Kloster. “The training provided guidance on how to best address issues when communicating as a team of leaders. I found it refreshing to get some different insight into patient care as opposed to our daily routine in medical school of getting just the physician’s point of view. I am thankful to be a part of an organization dedicated to addressing the unique issues facing underserved communities in New Mexico.”

Read on to meet just a few of the BCOM AHEC Scholars and find out why they joined the program and what they are most looking forward to over the next two years.

“When I went to the AHEC introductory meeting back in October, they emphasized public health, health disparities, and how we take those two topics and use them to assess and alleviate problems within the local community. I find those topics really interesting and I am a huge believer in giving back to the community I live in. I’m hoping this program will help me feel more prepared for clinicals and I’m looking forward to networking with physicians in the southwest. I’m really excited to be working with a cohort from all over the state in solving clinical cases within our community.” – Dania Baraka


“The AHEC Scholars program focuses on key areas that I find critical to my future as a physician, such as interprofessional training, behavioral health integration, and cultural competency. During our professional education, we are reminded of these aspects of healthcare, but we tend to be so focused on our own learning and skills that they can get placed on the back burner. As a future physician, I will be part of a healthcare team and I believe that early training on how to effectively lead a team, communicate, and work with those other healthcare professions is crucial. I saw it as an easy decision to partake in a program that focused on teaching and strengthening skills that are imperative to provide the best patient-centered care possible.” – Nicholas Chajec


“Prior to BCOM, I worked in an underserved area hospital in Minneapolis, MN, and BCOM’s mission to aid underserved communities in the southwest played a huge role in pushing me to apply. I saw the AHEC Scholars program as the next step in pursuing my goal while simultaneously deepening my understanding of social determinants of health and interprofessional education. I am very excited to learn about the health issues facing communities here in New Mexico as well as the greater Borderplex area. The program will keep me focused on broader aspects of health effecting my patients, especially as I eagerly await starting rotations this July. I am excited to be working with a group of students from many different disciplines of healthcare. I think our collaboration will help me better interact as a provider in the future as well as simulate the interprofessional future of healthcare.” – Weston Kloster


“I applied because I wanted more knowledge, involvement, and resources about rural and underserved urban settings. This program highlights a multitude of topics that are important to my future career goals. It is a great opportunity to be able to learn from a variety of health professionals from different locations to broaden my perspective on healthcare in diverse areas. This program will give me a better understanding of the many factors that can affect medical care and my future role as a physician in facilitating quality patient care. I am looking forward to seeing the different topics that will be addressed through the teleECHO clinics and learning more about what the program has to offer for community involvement.” – Amy Ngo


Congratulations to all the BCOM AHEC Scholars:

Julianne Ankrom, OMS-I
Shaun Antonio, OMS-II
Dania Baraka, OMS-I
Michaela Casperd, OMS-I
Nicholas Chajec, OMS-I
Zachary Coffman, OMS-II
Wesley Goodrich, OMS-II
Weston Kloster, OMS-II
Megan Martinez, OMS-II
Raymond Martinez, OMS-I
Ananya Moorthy, OMS-I
Amy Ngo, OMS-I
Renan Orellana, OMS-I
Nishath Rahman, OMS-I
Rebecca Rubin, OMS-I
Julie Weilbaker, OMS-I