AHEC Scholars Program

Interprofessional team meeting

About the AHEC Scholars Program

Are you interested in rural and underserved care? If so, consider applying for the SC AHEC Scholars program for an opportunity to collaborate with fellow health profession students from various disciplines and institutions across the state.

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.

The program consists of didactic and experiential training opportunities with a focus on 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®
  • COVID-19
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.
  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

Health profession students from various disciplines and institutions are encouraged to apply and 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

Students are eligible to apply to the South Carolina AHEC Scholars Program if accepted/enrolled in a graduate-level health professions education program in South Carolina and are able to participate in and complete 2 years of the AHEC Scholars program preferably coinciding with graduation.

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
  • Network with other AHEC Scholars in SC and across the nation
  • Stipends available to assist with professional development and travel expenses to rural clinical sites
  • Increased competitiveness for SC AHEC rural incentive grants
  • Certificate recognizing you as an AHEC Scholar and leader in primary care
  • Receive preference for innovative team-based clinical fieldwork placements/rotations

Applications are accepted in the Fall, Spring, and Summer of each year. Now accepting applications for our next cohort - deadline is September 10, 2021.

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 extensive 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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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.

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Laura Ernst, MPAS, PA-C, AT

School of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program
University of South Carolina


Laura Ernst graduated the University of South Carolina in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science – Athletic Training. She became a Certified Athletic Trainer and worked at a local high school as both the ATC and the Sports Medicine Teacher. During that time, her interactions with her supervising physician and his Physician Assistant, inspired her to go to Physician Assistant school. Laura worked at Palmetto Richland (now Prisma) hospital as a Patient Care Associate in the Level 1 Trauma Center/Emergency Department as she went back to UofSC to complete her prerequisites. She attended the Medical University of South Carolina Physician Assistant Program and graduated in 2007. She has since worked in the Emergency Department and for the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson for the last 10 years. She has been the Director of Clinical Education at the UofSC SOM PA Program since 2019. She graduated with her Masters in Adult and Higher Education in December 2019.

In Laura’s spare time, she likes to spend time with her family and boyfriend. She also has 2 cats that are spoiled rotten! Whenever possible, she goes to Disney World once or twice a year. Her interests include: Gamecock sports, history, architecture, traveling and gardening.

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Matthew Ewald, MPAS, PA-C

College of Health Professions
Medical University of South Carolina


Matthew (“Matt”) Ewald is currently an instructor at the MUSC Physician Assistant Program and serves as the program’s Clinical Coordinator for Operations. Matt practices clinically at the Medical University adult Emergency Room as a physician assistant since graduation from the MUSC PA program in 2011. He has was an active alumni and guest speaker for the PA program until he became a faculty member in 2016. Matt acts as PA student preceptor, didactic year instructor, and clinical year faculty in his diverse role at MUSC. Matt also is working with an endowment grant that targets building the healthcare workforce to serve the under-served. He has interests in providing PA students a diverse clinical year education, which includes rural rotation experience, medical simulation, and also student work-life balance.

Matt graduated from West Virginia University in 2008, with a degree in Exercise Physiology, prior to pursuing his career as a physician assistant in South Carolina.

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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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Ann Lefebvre, MSW, CPHQ

South Carolina AHEC
Medical University of South Carolina


Ann Lefebvre is the Executive Director for the South Carolina AHEC Program where she provides oversight and guidance for activities and services originating from the SC AHEC Program Office in Charleston and the four regional AHEC centers in Walterboro, Lancaster, Florence and Greenville. As Executive Director, Ann represents the SC AHEC at the local, state, regional and national levels, serving as an advocate and champion for health professions training, education, recruitment and retention for South Carolina. She has more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry and has worked to improve the quality of care delivered in various healthcare settings since 1999. Throughout her career, Ann has always been an educator by mentoring students and interns in her various roles, overseeing elective rotations for medical students, lecturing on health policy in graduate level courses and functioning as core faculty in the UNC Faculty Development Fellowship, the ECU REACH Program for faculty development and the I3 Residency Collaborative for more than 10 years. She received her master of social work degree from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC and she is a certified professional of healthcare quality and a black belt in Lean Six Sigma.

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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.

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Andrew Vaughn, MD

School of Medicine
University of South Carolina


Andrew Vaughan is a Family Medicine physician at Prisma Health in Columbia, SC. He is currently also on faculty with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He is originally from Lexington, SC and currently resides in Columbia, SC. Dr. Vaughan received his medical degree from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia Campus. He completed his Family Medicine residency training at Prisma Health where he served as chief resident from 2017-2018 and was awarded Resident of the Year in 2018 by the GME office of Prisma Health.

Dr. Vaughan’s professional interests including Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) in Primary care as well as outpatient procedures in primary care. In pursuit of these interests, Dr. Vaughan has been active in the development and implementation of continuing medical education courses in the fields of POCUS for both local and national institutions. Dr. Vaughan has also served as the Director of Undergraduate Medical Education for the Department of Family Medicine at Prisma Health since 2019 where he works to direct medical education clerkships for Medical Students, PA students, and athletic training students.

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Kimbley Stephens

Lowcountry AHEC


Kimbley Stephens is a Health Professions Student Coordinator for Lowcountry Area Health Education Center. She received a BSHS in Community Health from Georgia Southern University in 1998 and a MSEd in Health and Physical Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2005. She coordinates the clinical rotations of health professions students in rural or underserved areas of the Lowcountry. Kim is a National Health Service Corps Ambassador.

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Emily Warren

Lowcountry AHEC


Emily Warren has been a Health Professions Student Coordinator at Lowcountry AHEC for 18 years. Emily received a BS in psychology from the College of Charleston and a MSW from The University of South Carolina. She has been employed with Lowcountry AHEC since July 2000. Prior to AHEC, she worked as a medical social worker at Colleton Medical Center. Currently, she interfaces with South Carolina academic institutions to assist with identification of preceptors and clinical rotation sites. Emily facilitates various interprofessional activities including the Interprofessional Team Case Conference (ITCC) and the Pipeline Activity. She has presented with colleagues at several conferences recently on "Utilizing Telehealth Technology to Provide Community-Based, Interprofessional Clinical Practice Experience for Diverse Learners." Emily is a National Health Service Corp Ambassador.

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Casey Cato

Mid-Carolina AHEC


Casey joined Mid-Carolina AHEC in March 2019 as a Health Professions Student (HPS) Coordinator. She received her Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BAIS) degree with concentration in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the AHEC team, Casey taught grades 4K through 2 nd grade for 30 years. She is looking forward to working with the health professions students to help them have a great educational experience in the rural communities.

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Becca Hamilton

Pee Dee AHEC


Bio coming soon!

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Katrina Perry

Pee Dee AHEC


Bio coming soon!

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Tina Fulton

Upstate AHEC


Tina joined Upstate AHEC in 2005 as a Program Assistant/Marketing Coordinator and transitioned to a Health Professions Student Coordinator in 2010. As HPS coordinator, she collaborates with other staff to anticipate and meet the needs of health professions’ schools, students, and preceptors.

Tina has a multitude of experience from several different areas including administrative, information technology, and media relations. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Furman University in Business Administration and is currently working towards obtaining her MBA.

She is the mother of two very energetic daughters and enjoys volunteering in her church community.


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

Medical University of South Carolina logo
University of South Carolina logo
South Carolina Office of Rural Health
South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare
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.


  (843) 792-4431

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