The Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to serving rural and underserved populations. Building upon an initial foundation of eleven programs, today the national AHEC network has expanded to include 54 programs and more than 200 centers operating in almost every state and the District of Columbia.
The South Carolina AHEC system was created in 1972 as one of the original eleven programs funded by Congress. Begun through a consortium of four teaching hospitals, two medical schools, and four regional centers, by 1987, the SC AHEC network included a Program Office, six regional teaching hospitals, seven health education centers, and the state’s two medical schools, and its original focus on physician shortages had expanded to include programs and services addressing the state’s nursing, allied health, and minority recruitment needs.
In 2000, in an effort to become more efficient and cost effective, a strategic decision was made to reorganize the SC AHEC Centers, downsizing from seven to the four we have today. This resulted in little change for Pee Dee and Lowcountry AHEC. However, the former Catawba-Wateree and Midlands AHECs were merged to create Mid-Carolina AHEC; and the fourth Center, Upstate AHEC, was established by combining three Centers: Spartanburg AHEC, Greenville AHEC, and Upper Savannah AHEC.