AHEC Scholars Program

Interprofessional team meeting

About the AHEC Scholars Program

The South Carolina AHEC Scholars program is a part of a national initiative to prepare tomorrow’s health professionals to become leaders in interprofessional, transformative practice who serve those who need it the most. Do you want to join the cutting edge of health professions training with other students and disciplines from across the state?

The program consists of didactic and experiential training opportunities with a focus on interprofessional primary care and service to rural and underserved populations. AHEC Scholars will receive preference for innovative, team-based clinical fieldwork placements, in addition to networking opportunities with state leaders and primary care professionals from across the state.

Core Topics

All training will be focused around the following core topics:

  • Telehealth
  • Interprofessional Education
  • Behavioral Health Integration
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Cultural Competency
  • Practice Transformation
  • TeamSTEPPS®
Primary Care and Serving the Underserved

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the Future of Primary Care defines primary care as "the provision of integrated, accessible health care services by clinicians who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community."

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects that demand will outstrip the supply of available primary care professionals by 2020 (HRSA online). In South Carolina, all but one county is a full or partial health professions shortage area. With so many South Carolinians in need of access to health care, the need for health professionals to practice full-scope primary care in rural areas is great. Additionally, recent studies show that family physician salaries are rising and that rural family physicians have a broader scope of practice than their urban counterparts. Opportunities abound in all areas of primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

The AHEC Scholars program provides students with innovative, interprofessional training and mentoring focused on building the skills and competencies needed to help transform primary care and improve patient care. South Carolina AHEC Scholars will receive a certificate recognizing them as leaders in primary care upon completion, setting them apart during job search and/or subsequent residency match.

To successfully complete the AHEC Scholars Program, students will:

  1. Participate in the AHEC Scholars program for 2 years (see a sample cohort timeline)
  2. Complete 40 hours of experiential and 40 hours of didactic activities during each of the two years of the program. Opportunities include:
    • Primary care focused interprofessional simulation activities
    • Partnering with SC primary care leaders on quality improvement initiatives
    • Fieldwork placements/rotations in team-based practice settings
    • Access to online courses focused on the core topics
  3. Complete a follow-up evaluation 1 year after exiting the program.
Student Eligibility

Students from various disciplines and institutions can participate in AHEC Scholars. Preference will be given to individuals with/that meet one or more of the following:

  • South Carolina resident
  • Rural background
  • Commitment to a rural lifestyle
  • Commitment to primary care
  • Underrepresented minority
  • Disadvantaged background

At this time, students must be enrolled in one of the following South Carolina health professions programs (subject to change):

Medical University of South Carolina
  • Dental - 2nd Year
  • Nurse Practitioner - 2nd Year, 1st Semester (full-time); or 6th Semester (part-time)
  • Medicine - 2nd Year
  • Pharmacy - 3rd Year
  • Physician Assistant Studies - 1st Year
University of South Carolina
  • Masters of Social Work - 1st Year
  • Medicine - 2nd Year
  • Nurse Practitioner - Family Nurse Practitioner Students
  • Pharmacy - 3rd Year
  • Physician Assistant Studies - 1st Year
Student Benefits

Becoming an AHEC Scholar offers many opportunities and benefits, including:

  • Network and receive mentoring opportunities with established leaders in primary care and rural health in South Carolina
  • Receive preference for innovative team-based clinical fieldwork placements/rotations
  • Increased competitiveness for SC AHEC rural incentive grants
  • Certificate recognizing you as an AHEC Scholar and leader in primary care

Complete your application online:

Apply Now

Medical Departments

Jennifer Bailey, MEd

South Carolina AHEC


Jennifer Bailey, is the Associate Program Director for Education and Evaluation and Director of the Office for Telehealth Education at the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium. She serves as Associate Director for Community Affairs with the Office of Interprofessional Initiatives and Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Prior to her role with SC AHEC, she served in leadership positions at Wake Forest School of Medicine, facilitated the interprofessional core course at the University of South Carolina, directed the required interprofessional core course for MUSC Students, and worked with the MUSC Health clinical enterprise to develop teamwork and interprofessional collaboration training for all clinical staff. She is a Master Trainer for TeamSTEPPS® and has advanced training in quality improvement and change leadership from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Bailey has over 12 years of experience developing, facilitating, and evaluating health professions clinical and didactic education programs, interprofessional education and practice, teamwork training initiatives and professional development curricula for a variety of health care providers. Her research interests include participatory research, social determinants of health, interprofessional collaborative practice and education, patient safety and quality.

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Betsy Blake, PharmD

College of Pharmacy
University of South Carolina


Betsy Blake, Pharm.D., is the director of interprofessional education and an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. She practices in a patient-centered medical home primary care clinic affiliated with Palmetto Health Richland, collaborating with providers to improve care for patients with diabetes. Blake received her doctor of pharmacy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Pharmacy in 2000. She then completed a pharmacy practice residency (2000-2001) and a primary care residency (2001-2002) at the Medical University of South Carolina. Since joining the faculty at the UofSC College of Pharmacy in 2006, Blake has earned many teaching awards, including Teacher of the Year in 2010 and then the USC Clinical Practice Teaching Award in 2011. She was also named the Midlands Region Mentor of the Year in 2013. In 2016, she received the South Carolina Pharmacy Association Ken Couch Distinguished Mentor Award.

Blake has been involved with interprofessional education at the College of Pharmacy since 2009 as a charter faculty advisor for the IHI Open School for the Health Professions chapter. She now serves as the co-director for the university's committee for interprofessional education for the health sciences, which includes faculty members and students from all five of the university's health science programs.

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Clint Blankenship, PharmD, PA-C, RPh, DFAAPA

College of Health Professions
Medical University of South Carolina


Clint Blankenship, Pharm.D., is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. He has served as the Academic Coordinator for the Division of Physician Assistant Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina since 2012. As an Assistant Professor, Dr. Blankenship, focuses on Pharmacology, Pharmacotherapeutics, Clinical Medicine, Physical Diagnosis, and Clinical Problem Solving.

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Teri Browne, PhD

College of Social Work
University of South Carolina


Associate Professor Teri Browne joined the faculty of the College of Social Work in in 2008, where she is also co-director of the Interprofessional Education for the Health Sciences. In 2017, Browne was inducted as a Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Fellow for her work as serving with distinction to advance the mission of the society. Prior to joining the University of South Carolina, Browne worked professionally for 18 years in New York, California and Illinois as a rape crisis counselor, Nephrology social worker and director of social work for a dialysis center.

Browne is currently principal or co-investigator on eight externally-funded research awards. This includes serving as co-investigator for two studies on kidney disease treatment and transplant access. Funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, she is working to improve patient care from the early stages of kidney disease to kidney failure and determining whether the changes lead to improved health. The goal is to provide a nationwide model to improve the treatment of patients and families’ well-being. Another study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to eliminate health disparities in kidney transplant access among African American End State Renal Disease (ESRD) patients in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina by implementing a Reducing Disparities in Access to Kidney Transplantation (RaDIANT) regional study to increase rates of referral and medical evaluation.

Professor Browne’s publications focus on nephrology (kidney diseases), health social work and enhancing interprofessional health education. She recently co-authored scientific journal articles on topics including, improving kidney transplant waitlists and reducing racial disparity, advancing social work education for health impact, and perceptions of long-term care residents candidacy for kidney transplantation. Her publications have appeared in scholarly journals, such as the American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Kidney Journal.

Browne has served as Co-Chairperson of the Council of Social Work Education SBIRT Consortium and the Society of Social Work and Research conference abstract cluster co-chair. She is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Nephrology Social Work since 2015. Active in the American Association of Kidney Patients, Browne is director at large for the board of directors and program chairperson for the annual meeting.

Browne received her Master of Social Work from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

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Anthony DeClue, PharmD

College of Pharmacy
Medical University of South Carolina


Anthony DeClue received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2016, where he now serves as an assistant professor in the department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences. He works as a community pharmacist for both MUSC Family Medicine as well as Walmart pharmacies. Currently, he serves on the national executive board for Phi Lambda Sigma, the Pharmacy Leadership Society. Prior to becoming a pharmacist, Anthony earned a Master’s Degree in English and, in addition to his passion for teaching and pharmacy practice, he maintains a love for literature and the humanities.

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Catherine Durham, DNP, APRN, FNP-C

College of Nursing
Medical University of South Carolina


Dr. Cathy Durham is the Director of the DNP Program and Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the College of Nursing. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Purdue University, Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Carolina and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Durham is an ANCC certified Family Nurse Practitioner.

She is currently the Chair of the advisory committee for the State Board of Nursing, the vice president for the Low Country Advanced Practice Association and a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Dr. Durham is also an active drilling Reservist in the US Navy and holds the present rank of Captain. Dr. Durham was selected as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Navy Reserve, Navy Medicine Education and Training Command and is responsible for the facilitation of education and training programs that serve the 7,000 Navy Reserve Medicine Personnel. In addition to her program director role, Dr. Durham is the primary investigator (PI) for Choose Well, a grant project focused on increasing education content and clinical experiences regarding contraceptive options for advanced practice nurses across the pediatric, family and adult geriatric tracks. Dr. Durham is also a PI for a new HRSA Behavioral Health grant which seeks to provide educational stipends for behavioral health nurse practitioner students and increasing interprofessional clinical rotations. Dr. Durham also has previous experience in telehealth and telesupervision in a rural underserved clinic.

Dr. Durham maintains active practice in primary care in the underserved. Her interests include primary care, chronic disease management, and work injury prevention.

Medical Departments

David Garr, MD

South Carolina AHEC
Medical University of South Carolina


Dr. Garr began his medical career as a rural family doctor in a practice that was established as a National Health Service Corps site. Common themes that have served as the underpinning to his career have been developing education programs that foster interprofessional collaboration, helping to reduce health disparities in rural and underserved populations, expanding the use of technology to aid in the access of health care, and studying ways to increase the quality of health care and the provision of preventive services to populations. As the Executive Director of the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) and the Associate Dean for Community Medicine, Dr. Garr has maintained a long-standing interest in and commitment to these priority areas. Dr. Garr is currently the director of MUSC’s Institute for Primary Care Education and Practice and the Co-Director for the Program for Community-Based Intreprofessional Education and Practice out of the Office for Interprofessional Initiatives at MUSC.

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Kristen Hood Watson, MD

College of Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina


Dr. Kristen Hood Watson is a Family Medicine physician at Medical University of South Carolina with a clinical interest in preventive health. Originally from Maryland, Dr. Hood Watson received her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She completed her Family Medicine residency at Trident/MUSC where she served as chief resident from 2013 to 2014.

Since graduation, she has focused on her interest in medical student education locally and nationally through involvement with the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM). She has served as the Family Medicine clerkship director since 2014. More recently, Dr. Hood Watson has become the Assistant Dean for Resident Inclusion and looks forward to collaborating on current diversity and inclusion efforts at the University as well as continuing to develop inclusion initiatives.

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Brian Keisler, MD

School of Medicine
University of South Carolina


Brian Keisler, MD, joined the faculty of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 2005 after completing a primary care sports medicine fellowship with Palmetto Health Richland, Columbia, South Carolina. He completed a residency with Cabarrus Family Medicine Residency at Northeast Medical Center, Concord, North Carolina, serving as chief resident during his final year. Dr. Keisler has a special interest in education and has won several teaching awards. Currently, he serves as the Director of the third-year medical student Family Medicine clerkship. Dr. Keisler has served on various committees for both the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Palmetto Health Richland. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. Keisler earned a bachelor of science in biology. He continued his medical education in Columbia, receiving a doctor of medicine from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Keisler is board certified in family medicine. His special interests include medical student education, hypertension, diabetes and sports medicine.

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Joni Nelson, PhD, MS

College of Dental Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina


Dr. Joni Dunmyer Nelson, a native of Ravenel, South Carolina, is an Assistant Professor and Deputy Director in the Division of Population Oral Health at the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine and also serves in a dual appointment role in the Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine. As a Health Promotion, Education and Behavioral specialist her research foci are qualitative research evaluation, social determinants of health equity, quality improvement science and collaborative care workforce models to reduce rural oral health inequities, in support of an interprofessional approach to improve population health outcomes. She is the program director for the Dental Safety Net Certificate Program and teaches a public health research methods course. She was appointed as a 2017 National Rural Health Association Fellow and serves as the National State Representative of South Carolina for DentaQuest Foundation’s Oral Health 2020 Network, an initiative to improve oral health for all.

Dr. Nelson is a graduate of the Arnold School of Public Health in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior from the University of South Carolina and received a Masters in Biomedical Sciences from the Medical University of South Carolina.

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Alicia Ribar, PhD, RN, FNP-BC

College of Nursing
University of South Carolina


She has practiced professional nursing for 26 years and has over 20 years of advanced practice nursing experience. She began her career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Toledo, Medical College of Ohio, and subsequently worked in a variety of clinical settings and roles. In 1998, she completed her Master of Science in Nursing at Wright State University becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. She is certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is recognized as an Advance Practice Nurse by the Ohio and South Carolina Boards of Nursing. In 2012, she completed her PhD in Nursing at Duquesne University concentrating in Epidemiology and transcultural health disparities. She has had active clinical practices in both acute care and primary care pediatric/family practice settings.


The South Carolina AHEC Scholars program is made possible in partnership with:

Medical University of South Carolina logo
University of South Carolina logo
Lowcountry AHEC logo
Mid-Carolina AHEC AHEC logo
Pee Dee AHEC logo
Upstate AHEC logo

SC AHEC has received federal funds from HRSA (Grant #U77HP03019) to assist in the development and implementation of the AHEC Scholars program.


South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium educates, recruits and retains healthcare providers for the state.

South Carolina AHEC is a state agency that was originally established in 1972.


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