MHU Adult & Graduate Studies Student Among Inaugural NC AHEC Scholars

Michelle Riddle of Burnsville, a social work major at Mars Hill University, is one of 13 western North Carolina students accepted into the 2018-2020 NC AHEC Scholars Program. It’s a statewide initiative to create “a multidisciplinary team of health professionals committed to both community service and the transformation of health care in North Carolina,” according to the NC AHEC Scholars website. The program places an emphasis on students from underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged/rural backgrounds, and first-generation college students. The western region program will take place at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville.

“We’re excited to have Michelle and her fellow NC AHEC Scholars in this first cohort,” said Jacquelyn Hallum, MBA, MHA, regional director of the AHEC Scholars Program. “This program will give scholars a competitive edge with advanced multidisciplinary training and mentorship that complements each student’s chosen curriculum.”

Riddle says that multidisciplinary approach will be valuable as she moves forward in her career. “As a social worker, I don’t have any experience in the medical field, so this is going to open up the doors for opportunities in those fields,” she said.

As an NC AHEC Scholar, Riddle will complete 40 hours of didactic education and 40 hours of clinical training in the program’s six core competencies: behavioral health, practice transformation, inter-professional education, cultural competency, social determinants of health/population health, and collaborative care. She will also have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the community and at MAHEC’s state-of-the-art medical simulation center.

Riddle works for the Yancey County Department of Social Services and expects to graduate next spring with her social work degree through Mars Hill’s Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) program, which offers undergraduate classes for working adults, along with its three graduate degree programs.

She says some of her classmates came into the social work program already knowing the specialty areas they were interested in, such as clinical or medical social work. But while she didn’t come into the program with that type of clarity, she believes being accepted into the NC AHEC Scholars Program is part of a spiritually guided career path. “I’ve always said, ‘I want to be used.’ I want to be where God wants me. I want him to use me, and I’m dependent on him to open those doors up. And I feel like that’s what he is doing. He is opening and giving me opportunities,” she said.