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WCC partners with UW to improve health care for rural and urban underserved communities

Post Date:06/19/2017 9:26 a.m.

Bellingham, Wash. – Whatcom Community College has been selected by the University of Washington and the state Department of Health to advance leadership in health care education for western Washington.

As the new Area Health Education Center (AHEC), Whatcom works with regional partners to improve health care quality and access for rural and medically underserved communities. AHEC recruits students and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, and provides those health care professionals working in rural and underserved areas with accessible professional development.

“This significant opportunity to partner with one of the nation’s leading medical schools is an endorsement of our leadership in health care education,” Dr. Kathi Hiyane-Brown, president of Whatcom, said. “It also speaks to our success in working with local businesses and organizations to expand health programs, as well as meeting employer needs.”

Whatcom’s robust health education programs include nursing, physical therapist assistant, massage therapist and medical assisting. The College has added a new chemical dependency counselor program for mental health professionals, responding to community needs.

Initial projects for AHEC include the following:

  • Identify and promote health care training programs and initiatives that support underserved populations in western Washington;
  • Facilitate work groups with the goals of re-establishing a rural nursing distance learning program and increasing diversity in the nursing workforce in Washington State;
  • Recruit working professionals to serve as mentors to second-year medical students;
  • Create continuing education for health care providers in underserved areas, with topics including wound care, palliative and integrated care, and health information technology;
  • Develop the next generation of providers by promoting health care careers to high school students;
  • Collaborate with the Washington Work Group and training programs to recruit medical, dental and behavioral health students for clinical practice and residency positions in these rural locations.

Congress developed the AHEC program in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations.

About Whatcom: Whatcom Community College is a regionally and nationally accredited college with an accomplished faculty and staff who serve 11,000 students annually. On its campus in Bellingham, Wash., and through online courses, Whatcom offers transfer and professional-technical degrees as well as basic education, job skills training, and community education classes. The College is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. For more information, visit

Contact: Marisa Ellis, Whatcom Community College PIO, 360.383.3310,

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