/ Modified sep 9, 2022 3:53 p.m.

Arizona sees its first Tribal Area Health Education Center

The center will work to bolster health care education and training to American Indian communities.

American Indian health care systems in Arizona are going to see its first Tribal Area Health Education Center.

The new change will focus solely on educating and training American Indians to pursue health care professions in order to help combat high rates of health disparities.

This addition has come from the partnership of the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care and the Arizona Area Health Education Center Program (AzAHEC) at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. It will be the sixth AHEC regional center in Arizona.

“All regional centers will work well together to collaborate on shared objectives and I think benefit the state of Arizona,” Leila Barraza, director of the AzAHEC program, said.

Kim Russell, director of the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care, shares that this idea started prior to her arrival and spans back 10 years.

“It was my leadership, my membership who deliberately said, ‘Kim establish the sixth AHEC.’ So I was given my marching orders,” Russell said.

It was not until this year that the Arizona state government approved legislation to add the sixth center. The bill had originally been proposed in 2020.

Gila River Health Care and the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation will be collaborating with the new center to help implement programs that will effectively provide support to American Indians.

“We actually have a seat at the table now—to be a part of those conversations,” Russell said.

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