Meet Mary J. Mitchell, Executive Director, Manhattan Staten Island AHEC
Presented by the NAO membership committee
Why are you a member of NAO and how long have you been a member?
I have been a member of NAO for the past 17 years. Shortly after I was hired as the founding Director of the MSIAHEC my statewide Director introduced me to NAO and suggested that I attend the national conference. Once I attended, I was certain that I should become a member.
What membership benefits do you value and why?
Of most importance, to me, is the strength of the legislative advocacy efforts. The NAO Public Policy Committee has consistently engaged and informed the membership of their work on behalf of the national network. Secondly, is the opportunity for center directors to learn and grow into leadership positions, serving and representing our entire membership. This is an extremely valuable benefit.
What is your organization’s vision/mission?
MSI AHEC is missioned to work towards increasing diversity in the health professions. We are committed to developing and delivering high level health professions education, exposure and experience for underrepresented students, in our region’s medically underserved communities.
How is your center achieving your mission? (What types of programs do you have that you’d like others to know about?)
Historically, MSIAHEC has achieved its mission, primarily through student recruitment, and outreach activities for participation in one of our three pipeline programs.
- SHIP - a six-week summer hospital-based internship, for under-represented high school and early college students who are interested in the health professions
- HCIP – a six-week summer internship for upper level college students focused on community-based health related organizations
- CHE – a six-week summer internship program for second year medical students focused on developing an understanding of the significance of community health for practicing physicians
There is a complimentary 15-hour curriculum developed to support the internship experience for each program.
As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, and all of the restrictions, this summer was quite different. In this uncertain and extremely challenging time we were very concerned about how we would meet MSI AHEC’s mission and program deliverables.
Doing what we do best, my Program Director and I developed a comprehensive curriculum, and coordinated with partners, to launch our Summer Virtual Health Bootcamp for the high school/early college students, and the Virtual Friday Lecture Series for our medical students.
Our diverse group of students were professional, ready to learn, listen and participate. They were engaged, enthusiastic and encouraging to each other and us.
Our presenters covered topics including exploring health careers, health disparities, public health/COVID, community health advocacy, epidemiology, and emergency medicine. Instructors spoke to our medical students about structural racism, trauma informed care, developing community-based health care, and more.
This challenge resulted in great success! We have now developed a brand new program area for MSI, which we plan to build on going forward.
Please generally and briefly describe the population your region serves in terms of socioeconomic status, demographics, and geography. Is it considered to be frontier, rural, suburban, urban?
MSI AHEC’s geographic area is urban. We are in Manhattan, New York based in the Central Harlem. Our students come from East and West Harlem, Washington Heights/Inwood, Chinatown and the Lower East Side; and in Staten Island in the Port Richmond, St. George and Stapleton neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are predominantly Black, Hispanic or Asian with more than 20% of its residents living below the federal poverty income levels. Disproportionately, residents in these neighborhoods also have significant health problems, including high rates of HIV/AIDS, asthma, and diabetes, as well as other socioeconomic hardships such as living in densely populated or poorly maintained housing.
How long have you been with AHEC and what roles have you had?
I have been with AHEC for 17 years. I am the first and only Executive Director of the MSI AHEC. I have worked to support the NAO on many levels. I am a past President of the National AHEC Organization (NAO), and founder of the NAO Diversity Committee. I have also served as Secretary of the Board of Directors, and former Chairperson of the NAO Center Director Constituency Group.
I have been the NY State representative to the NAO Policy Committee for many years, and the Advocacy Liaison for the New York State AHEC System, for the past three years.
What is one of your favorite stories/memories from your AHEC experience?
One of the standout moments for me with AHEC was the NAO conference where the Diversity Committee presented a “Student Panel” Plenary Session. It is important that NAO Leadership recognize and keep front and center our future health care professionals.
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