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South Central Texas AHEC holds annual awards ceremony

Posted on Thursday, July 03, 2008 · Volume: XLI · Issue: 13

Community partners and faculty members involved in the collaborative health initiatives sponsored by the South Central Texas Area Health Education Center were honored in May at an awards ceremony.
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Community partners and faculty members involved in the collaborative health initiatives sponsored by the South Central Texas Area Health Education Center were honored in May at an awards ceremony. clear graphic

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Fifteen individuals, faculty members and community partners were honored May 22 with awards from the South Central Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC), sponsored by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The first AHEC Legacy Award was presented, in addition to the second annual Richard A. Garcia Jr. Spirit of AHEC Award.

The South Central Texas AHEC is a regional, nonprofit organization funded by the federal government that offers health-related services in 12 counties surrounding San Antonio.

Through numerous community partnerships, the South Central Texas AHEC strives to:
  • Improve the health care for and health practices of residents in the region
  • Encourage local students to enter the health professions
  • Provide continuing education opportunities for community health professionals
  • Develop relationships with local health providers in order to provide clinical education opportunities for UT Health Science Center health professions students
South Central AHEC facilitates collaboration to improve community health
“The South Central AHEC collaborates with individuals, school districts, community health professionals, agencies, organizations and governments in the region to offer what is needed to improve health care, according to the needs of the communities,” Paula Winkler, M.Ed., director of the South Central Texas AHEC, said.

“The awards we presented represent just a fraction of the partners on campuses and in communities across South Texas that make the work we do not only successful, but meaningful and beneficial to the people of those communities,” Winkler said.

Richard A. Garcia Jr. Spirit of AHEC award
Tina Fields, Ph.D., M.P.H., former director of the Center for South Texas Programs at the Health Science Center, received the Richard A. Garcia Jr. Sprit of AHEC award. Dr. Fields was associated with the South Texas AHEC for six years and succeeded Garcia, who passed away in June 2006, until she retired from the Health Science Center May 1.

Garcia spent 15 years seeking federal funding and building the relationships needed to implement the South Texas AHEC Program, which he supervised through the Center for South Texas Programs. The South Texas AHEC includes the South Central Texas AHEC and four other regional centers that cover 38 counties in South Texas from San Antonio south and west to the Mexican border.

“The essence of Richard’s spirit can be boiled down to these three things: volunteerism, collaboration and community. The winner of this award, Tina Fields, completely represents this spirit,” said Theresa Chiang, Ph.D., Health Science Center vice president for academic administration, who presented the award.

AHEC Legacy Partner Award
Established to honor partners who have dedicated their lives to community service, the AHEC Legacy Partner Award was presented to Richard Alvarado. Although retired, Alvarado continues to lend his expertise to the South Central Texas AHEC.

He spent his career working in several capacities with the United Way including president of the United Way of El Paso County and positions with the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Alvarado became involved with the AHEC during a training session that resulted in the Mision Luterana Promotores Project, a former church and elementary school on San Antonio’s West Side that has been converted into an outreach location. It is the home of the Edgewood Family Network and is a place where the AHEC would like to establish more community health efforts. Alvarado has consulted with the AHEC board, facilitated trainings and is a founding member of Movimiento Now!, a collaborative community program to help improve the health of San Antonians.

Community partner awards
  • Edgewood Family Network, (Community partner, nonprofit award) — Martha Castillo and Don Arispe accepted the award on behalf of the grassroots community organization that is a major South Central AHEC partner. Some of the joint projects include community education programs on asthma, Lupus and the prevention of lead poisoning, as well as the Mision Luterana Promotores Project.
  • Jennifer Herriott, (San Antonio Metropolitan Health District award) — Herriott, a population-based services administrator at the SAMHD, was honored for her expertise in assessing and identifying the health needs in San Antonio, then initiating partnerships to improve the health of citizens. “We honor Jennifer for her commitment to the quest for optimal health for the community through her leadership, participation and passion for being a part of the solution for a healthier San Antonio,” Winkler said at the awards ceremony.
  • Dr. Oralia Bazaldua,, (Preceptor Partner award) — A pharmacist, Dr. Balzadua teaches, mentors and advocates for patients that Health Science Center’s health professions students care for. Educating members of the community about health issues is a strong priority for AHECs.
  • Millicent Marcha, (Community Public School Partner award) — Marcha, a science teacher at South San Antonio High School, teaches in the AHEC’s summer CATCH Academy (Community Approach to Careers in Health). The one-week program provides an orientation for high school students about the allied health professions. “She is truly dedicated to education as a tool for bettering oneself and teaches that daily from her own personal experiences,” Dr. Winkler said.
Faculty awards
  • Dennis Blessing, Ph.D., (School of Allied Health Sciences) — Dr. Blessing, professor and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, expanded the concept of the CATCH Academy to create the Learn, Lead, Advance to New Opportunity (LLANO) program. LLANO provides the opportunity for high school students to explore the depth and breadth of a health professions education.
  • Adelita Cantu, R.N., Ph.D., (School of Nursing) — In addition to her teaching excellence, Dr. Cantu, a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Nursing Care, has facilitated connections for the South Central AHEC with community agencies, educational colleagues and city and county leadership. “She also has a passion for the underserved and compassion for everyone she meets,” Dr. Winkler said.
  • Kevin Donly, D.D.S., M.S. (Dental School) — Dr. Donly, chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, is involved in AHEC collaborations throughout South Texas that help dental students see and better understand oral health care disparities there. Students have the opportunity to help improve the quality of care for the underserved through community service, while receiving their clinical education in South Texas.
  • James Tysinger, Ph.D., (School of Medicine) — Dr. Tysinger, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, contributes to the AHEC’s primary goal of educating students, faculty and community-based providers about medical and social issues of the underserved, by facilitating the Family Medicine Grand Rounds lecture series. The weekly lectures are presented on the UT Health Science Center’s Long Campus, but are also available to health professionals and health professions students via videoconference at several locations in South Texas.
  • Frank Moore, Ph.D., (UT School of Public Health, San Antonio campus) — Dr. Moore, an associate professor, was instrumental in ensuring the AHEC was included as a partner in the UT Health Science Center’s $26 million Clinical and Translational Science Award, an elite five-year National Institutes of Health award meant to accelerate biomedical breakthroughs and improve the health of people in South Texas through collaborative research.
AHEC Student Awards
Four Health Science Center physical therapy students — Joseph Elliott, Lindsey Roberson, Anissa Valerio and Brittany Williams — were honored for their work as CATCH Academy counselors. The four students shepherded 20 high school students through a weeklong career exploration camp last summer, then met with them periodically throughout the past school year for community projects and health career programs.

Shown in the photo are award winners from the South Central Texas AHEC and members of AHEC staff. They include (front row, left to right) Amanda Lopez, Dr. Theresa Chiang, Jennifer Herriott, Dr. Adelita Cantu, Dr. Oralia Bazaldua, Brittany Williams, Anissa Valerio, Mrs. Tysinger and Paula Winkler. In the back row (left to right) are Dr. Rahma Mungia, Millicent Marcha, Martha Castillo, Dr. Dennis Blessing, Dr. Frank Moore, Richard Alvarado, Dr. James Tysinger and Lindsey Roberson.

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