Greensboro AHEC – Story Spotlight

Greensboro AHEC – Story Spotlight

2020 Residency Graduate Counted Among Campbell’s First Class of Osteopathic Physicians

Angela Riccio, DO, plans to support rural communities with her move to a Western N.C. practice.

Greensboro AHEC, part of the NC AHEC Program, has been training the next generation of physicians in our community-based residency programs since 1974.

Angela Riccio, DO, Cone Health Family Medicine Residency Graduate, Class of 2020
Angela Riccio, DO, Cone Health Family Medicine Residency Graduate,
Class of 

On June 19, 2020, Greensboro Area Health Education Center (Greensboro AHEC), in collaboration with Cone Health, celebrated commencement for 19 residency and fellowship graduates, as they marked the completion of their programs with a virtual graduation ceremony. This year’s ceremony was limited in scope due to COVID-19, but the graduates were recognized for more notable reasons.

Among them is Family Medicine resident Angela Riccio, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), who earned her medical degree as a member of the inaugural class of Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSOM) in 2017.

“We could not be more proud of our inaugural class,” says Jim Powers, DO, Interim Dean of CUSOM. “We congratulate them and thank them for choosing to be founders with Campbell University.”

Campbell’s medical school is North Carolina’s first to offer a degree in Osteopathic Medicine, a holistic medical field that combines the needs of the patient, current practice of medicine, and interconnectivity of the body’s ability to heal itself.

“I often get asked, ‘What is a DO?,’ usually in the hospital elevator,” says Dr. Riccio. “We’re the same as regular doctors, but we focus on preventing health problems by treating different areas of the body with Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) to help reduce pain and restore function. I think it has a bright future. Cone Health employs many DOs, and I never feel Angela Riccio, DO, Cone Health Family Medicine Residency Graduate, Class of 2020 singled out or disadvantaged. And the philosophy of osteopathic medicine naturally produces more primary care doctors, which, hopefully, will lessen the need over time.”

After graduation, Dr. Riccio looks forward to the next step in her career: moving with her husband to support a family medical practice in Franklin, a western N.C. community with a rural population that could benefit from her type of care.

“It was my time at Campbell that made me fall in love with North Carolina and want to stay,” says Dr. Riccio. “Campbell appealed to me because it was in a rural N.C. area, and I aligned with their goal of producing physicians dedicated to primary care.”

“Angela is an example of our mission fulfilled,” says Dr. Powers. “She came to North Carolina for medical school and spent her first two years in Buies Creek and her clinical rotation years at Cape Fear Valley Health in Fayetteville. We were proud to have her among our inaugural alumni to enter a residency program in primary care in North Carolina, and now we celebrate with her as she goes into the practice of Family Medicine in Franklin.”

“I hope to bring up-to-date care to patients there,” says Dr. Riccio, “Western N.C. seems to have a higher than average need for providers. It will be challenging to learn what resources the community has and how to navigate those resources to provide the best care.”

While Dr. Riccio is excited to finish her residency, her graduation won’t mean the end of her medical education. She is currently interested in learning more about telemedicine, which she says has gotten “a big push” from the COVID-19 pandemic and could help increase healthcare access to patients in rural areas, an issue she knows about.

“It was my time at Campbell that made me fall in love with North Carolina and want to stay. Campbell appealed to me because it was in a rural N.C. area, and I aligned with their goal of producing physicians dedicated to primary care.”

– Angela Riccio, DO

“My hometown of Blairstown, N.J., had about 5,000 people, and the closest hospitals were 25 minutes away,” says Dr. Riccio. “It made emergency room needs difficult. But it was a great place to grow up, and it was a huge driving factor for me to want to live and practice in a rural setting. In Franklin, I hope to be able to minimize referring patients to specialists that may be overwhelmed by volume or difficult for patients to get to.”

As for her long-term future as a doctor, Dr. Riccio says she will never stop learning.

“This job requires lifelong learning to stay on top of new recommendations,” says Dr. Riccio. “I try to reflect each day to learn from or consider how I could do things better next time. My goals are to continue bettering myself as a doctor.”

And while she says she learned countless lessons from her patients and mentors during her residency, she credits her fellow residency graduates with lending her the most support.

“Intern year was notoriously difficult, and having others to lean on who were going through the same thing was most helpful for me,” says Dr. Riccio. “It’s been a long, hard road, but looking back now on our three years together, I can see how much we’ve all grown professionally. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

The 2020 class of residents held their virtual graduation ceremony on Friday, June 19, 2020. Want to show your pride for your graduate? You can congratulate the graduating class by posting to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – just include the hashtag #GreensboroAHECGrads with your message and tag us at @GreensboroAHEC.

Are you a healthcare professional or student pursuing a career in health? What does improving healthcare access in rural communities mean to you? Let us know by posting your message to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag #RuralHealthcareMatters and tag us @GreensboroAHEC. Thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting Greensboro AHEC!

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Connection Academy Builds Relationships Among Health Care and Human Service Providers

During this time of Medicaid transformation, the NC Department of Health and Human Services has identified four social determinants of health or healthy opportunities that will be actively addressed. The four opportunities are: housing, transportation, food insecurity and interpersonal violence. In the fall of 2018, Greensboro AHEC hosted a conference on healthy opportunities that focused on these four determinants. The energy, passion and concern of the more than 200 participants who attended that conference spilled over into a follow-up training that was led by Greensboro AHEC. Born from the evaluations and community planning members was the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy (“Connection Academy”).

Connection Academy Discussion GroupStarting in January of 2019, interested participants were asked to complete a survey to join the inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy. A diverse cohort of 56 participants who worked in either health care, food insecurity, housing, interpersonal violence or transportation were invited to join a three-month longitudinal education event. The intent of the Connection Academy was to build relationships across individuals in healthcare and community human service organizations. The participants represented 38 unique organizations across seven N.C. counties. Participants attended three face-to-face sessions and three informational webinars. Topics covered include: the identification and merging of the healthcare, public health and human service models of care; understanding the barriers of the regulatory world; the NCCARE360 platform; Healthy Opportunity screening forms; and N.C. Medicaid transformation.

Connection Academy Brainstorming Possibilities

Over the Connection Academy’s three months, participants joined in meaningful connections across local organizations, held crucial conversations around racial equity and wealth divide, shared real-time information on statewide initiatives and provided tangible examples of projects addressing healthy opportunities in the community.

“The beauty and benefit of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was that it brought together people from a broad range of human services and health care organizations to focus on the important intersection of health services and human services organizations addressing social drivers of health, in order to achieve better health outcomes," said one participant. "I liked the fact that the sessions went deeper than conversation and included reflection, interaction and group projects. It was remarkable to hear diverse viewpoints, but a shared vision of better health outcomes for all. I came away with partnerships and action steps that I can implement right away.”

In the future, the success of upstreaming healthy opportunities to improve health outcomes will rely on meaningful connections between human service and healthcare providers in all counties across North Carolina. The inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy is just the beginning of Greensboro AHEC’s journey to meeting NC AHEC’s mission of bridging academic institutions and communities to improve the health of the people of North Carolina with a focus on underserved populations. 

The Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was made possible by a NC AHEC Investment in the Future grant and a collaborative effort between Greensboro AHEC, Cone Health Healthy Communities, Cone Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Greensboro, Guilford County Health Department and the Alamance County Health Department.

Connection Academy Group Photo

Focusing on Social Determinants of Health: Transportation, Food, Housing and Toxic Stress

Michelle and Aswita

Greensboro AHEC partnered with numerous local organizations to host more than 200 healthcare professionals and human service providers from across North Carolina at the “Focusing on Social Determinants of Health: Transportation, Food, Housing and Toxic Stress” conference on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Presenters and participants from nonprofit organizations, hospitals, behavioral health agencies, public health departments, emergency medical services, schools and grassroots organizations in urban and rural communities identified strategies to address social determinants of health. Dynamic keynote presentations by Michelle Gethers-Clark, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro, and Aswita Tan-McGrory, deputy director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, provided an imperative call to action. An engaging performance and debriefing from Theater Delta, a theater group for social change, provided a glimpse of the impact and interconnectedness of social determinants of health. Interactive breakout sessions from community leaders focused on six key areas of social determinants of health: transportation, food, housing, toxic stress, racism and wealth divide.

Representatives from several community agencies were also available throughout the day to provide resources. Planning for this program involved intentional collaboration between multi-disciplines within Greensboro AHEC including Continuing Professional Development, Practice Support and Technology Services. The program was also a collaborative effort between Greensboro AHEC, Cone Health Healthy Communities, Cone Health Foundation, Cone Health Office of Inclusion and Health Equity, United Way of Greater Greensboro, Guilford County Health Department and the Greensboro Housing Coalition.

National AHEC Organization: 2018 Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice

The Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice is provided in honor of Andrew W. Nichols, MD, MPH. He was a visionary who lived a life of service in pursuit of justice and health for all, and, most specifically, for the disadvantaged. Dr. Nichols established and directed Arizona’s statewide system of Area Health Education Centers, the State Office of Rural Health and the Arizona Health Education Training Center(HETC) program. Dr. Nichols was also a driving force in the National AHEC Program, was a tireless advocate for our programs before Congress. The award is given to an individual, a specific project or an organization in the AHEC network that exemplifies Dr. Nichols' vision and persistent service in pursuit of social justice. The award was presented to Shawn Houck, RN, MSN, and Jeffrey Walden, MD, of Greensboro AHEC in July at the 2018 NAO Biennial Conference in Washington, D.C.

2018 NAO Andy Nichols Award for Social JusticeBrief overview: Guilford Refugee Health Coalition Development Project

This project was the creation of the Guilford Refugee Health Coalition developed by Shawn Houck, MSN, RN, and Jeffrey Walden, MD, of Greensboro AHEC, which comprises eight community agency partners, including the Cone Health Congregational Nursing Program, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Center for New North Carolinians, Church World Service and African Service Coalition (two local refugee resettlement agencies), Cone Health Center for Children, the Cone Health Office of Inclusion and the Cone Health Family Medicine Refugee Clinic. North Carolina has historically been, and remains, one of the top ten states in the country for resettled refugees, and Guilford County receives the second-highest number of refugees in the state, at around 1,000 persons in 2016. This target population often includes individuals with compromised health status who require advanced support measures to effectively navigate cultural and linguistic barriers in a vastly different healthcare system.

While refugees are generally eligible for more benefits than other groups of immigrants, they face more acute barriers to healthcare, including language, literacy and cultural differences. The pilot project is in Swahili, and the toolkit will be translated in future languages most commonly cared for in the community. As the first project of this coalition, a refugee health literacy toolkit/navigation directory has been created to help newly-arrived refugees in Greensboro navigate a new healthcare system. Establishing a health presence can lead refugees to become productive U.S. citizens with earlier work development status for sustainable community settlement. This toolkit serves as an integration piece across agencies for communication and patient support needs, while also facilitating useful community healthcare information to the refugee community target population.

REACH Program exposes students to rural community medicine

Greensboro AHEC’s Rural Educational Approach to Community Health (REACH) program is a 2-week summer residential program for first and second-year Medical students, Nurse Practitioner students and Physician Assistant students. The program is held in Asheboro, N.C., and exposes students to rural community medicine through several learning experiences. The REACH Program allows students to shadow and network with rural health providers, experience the richness of community and gain knowledge through interdisciplinary training. Another great aspect of the program is the “cultural” component that exposes students to an array of art, museums and local eateries. This experience allows students to develop an appreciation for history and culture that can be found in a rural setting.

REACH Program 2018Participant Adrienne White, RN, is a Nurse Practitioner student from UNC Wilmington. Adrienne currently works as a part-time nurse and has a passion for serving people in need. Her focus as a Nurse Practitioner will be on health literacy, preventative care and disease management. Tonya Baldwin, REACH program coordinator, was happy to present Adrienne with a certificate of completion on June 29, 2018. Students are required to submit a reflection essay and present a poster presentation at the end of their experience in the program.

“Small town. Country Living. Rural communities can be found all across North Carolina. It is important that healthcare providers understand and are aware and capable of meeting the needs of this patient population. The REACH program opens the doors to fulfilling this need," says Adrienne.

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