What the Heck is AHEC?

This is the fifth installment of
The Weekly Newspaper’s Social
Service Spotlight feature continuing
through the summer months.

The Florida Keys Area Health Education
Center, acting as a strong
link in the safety net for the state’s
medically underserved communities,
could also be described as
a hub connecting the spokes on
one of the wheels in the Monroe
County vehicle.

They have educational programs
right in the classrooms of
our school beginning in Kindergarten

– from learning proper oral

hygiene to safety and first aid and
even encouraging high school
who express an interest in healthcare
careers – students how to live
healthy lives and the consequences
of their actions when they make
unhealthy choices.

The organization also hosts
health fairs, skin cancer screenings,
osteoporosis screenings and educational
programs at little or no
cost for adults to continue living
healthy lifestyles.

Keys AHEC also partners with
area medical schools, including
the University of Miami Miller
School of Medicine, Barry University
and Florida Keys Community
College, to manage medical
students, physician assistants
and other allied health student
rotations, thus helping them
experience work and life in a rural
setting, learn and develop clinical
skills and treat the medically

A critical element of their offerings,
particularly in Monroe
County, is the Healthy Aging
workshops that keep the growing
population of older residents
healthy and active.

The overall benefit of Florida
Keys AHEC’s myriad of programs
within the community – besides
the obvious one of increased
access – is the reduced costs of
healthcare for the community.
From the students…

Last year, Florida Keys AHEC
CEO Michael Cunningham adeptly
responded to pleas from the
school system to help a local student
receive desperately needed
dental care.

Though her mother had been
struggling to save the money for
her daughter to receive dental
care, the family had recently lost
their home, and the nearly $1,000
tab for three root canals, antibiotics
and prescriptions was simply
beyond their reach.

AHEC was able to facilitate
emergency dental care for the
student, who was exceeding in
school despite the physical pain
of a severe abscess, with a local

…to the mothers…

Sabrina Baker, a 30-year-old
expectant mother in Key West, had
smoked for 13 years. In the beginning
of her third trimester, Sabrina
said her habit was becoming

“I was starting to show and
my baby was starting to kick,” she
remembered of the pivotal point
she decided to change her life.
“I only wish I would have done it

She bought her last pack of
cigarettes the day she went to
see Scott Irwin, Certified Tobacco
Treatment Specialist.

“I knew I was going to go
through withdrawal symptoms,
so he gave me the patch and an
inhaler,” she explained. “I’ve actually
weaned myself off the inhaler, and
I have yet to even put on a patch

Sabrina continued that though
her husband had pleaded with
her for quite some time to kick the
habit, she’d finally decided on her
own volition to quit smoking.
“At first, I thought I’d just pick
them right back up again after my
daughter is born, but now, the
taste, the smell…the thought of it
makes me sick!”

…to the senior population…

Carol Schryver, 62, of Key Largo,
joined the Enhance Fitness classes
by default. Her husband, Ken, on
occupational therapist began
teaching the class more than
a year ago at Founder’s Park in

She noted the health benefits
among the class participants –
one woman’s a diabetic and since
she started exercising with Ken,
her doctor has been astounded
at the overall improvement in her

“We have people in the class
who’ve had wonderful benefits
with health issues,” she commented.

“There are people who’ve lost
weight, but most of all, we have a
good time.”

The Schryvers believe in the
program so much that Ken’s
taught his 90-year-old father the
exercises specifically designed
for the 55 and older population.
Among them are sit-and-stand exercises
designed to improve range
of motion.

“Ken’s father used to have
problems bending down and putting
on his golf shoes, but now his
abilities have improved tremendously,”
Carol enthused. “For Christmas
last year, we gave our parents
weights so they will continue their

…and the providers that
administer care…

ARNP Advanced Registered
Nurse Practitioner, Robin Neville, is
finally at a point in her life where
she can focus on the best aspect
of her career as an nurse – patient

“I don’t have to deal with charting
anymore or seeing 40 patients
a day,” the former RN explained.

“Nurse practitioners are known
taking the time to educate patients,
and that’s what I love to do.
We can take the time to listen to
patients and help put the missing
pieces together. It’s nice to
help provide care to those in the
Middle Keys who have no health

Neville volunteers her time with
the Medical Reserve Corps as well
as participating in Fishermen’s
Hospital’s annual Health Fair in
partnership with AHEC.

AHEC also offers Health Fairs
and screenings at local businesses
like the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative.
Randy Chaney, Director of Human
Resources, said the nurses
and volunteers with AHEC are always
flexible in providing osteoporosis
screenings and heart healthy
programs around their employees’

“They have come in at 7 am
before our crews go out, and stay
around during the day to help
accommodate our workers,” he
commended. “We’re a self-insured
company, so anything we can do
to help reduce our costs is great
for us. Several of our employees
have taken advantage of the Quit
Smoking Now program, and the
nurses have even caught a few
cases of skin cancer.”

To learn more about the multitude
of programs, wealth of information
and library of knowledge
available through Florida Keys
AHEC and its partner, visit www.

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