AHEC Scholars Program

AHEC Scholars is a national program developed by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration and state AHECs (National AHEC Organization). It is a program for health professions students interested in enhancing their skills in interprofessional practice in rural or underserved settings. 

For more information, contact Kaye Norris.


WWAMI is an enduring partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. The WWAMI name is derived from the first letter of each of the five cooperating states. The WWAMI program's purpose is to provide access to publicly supported medical education across the five-state region. The UW School of Medicine maintains a Dean's Office in each of the five states. These offices oversee clinical medical education for the School of Medicine within their regions, providing support services for the local clerkships and students rotating among them.

WWAMI Program History and Philosophy

A significant part of any given student’s education occurs within the WWAMI region in communities utilizing a combination of both full-time and volunteer teachers.

How It Works

Each of the participating states designates a specific number of medical school seats.  Montana is allotted 20 seats each year.  These seats are supported through a combination of appropriated state funds and student tuition which cover the full cost of medical education.  The tuition paid by students in Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho is the same as that paid by Washington state residents.  This allows for publicly supported medical education in states where no freestanding medical school exists. 

Outcomes of the program at the University of Washington School of Medicine and WWAMI indicate that, over 30 years, 61% of graduating students stay within the five-state area to practice.  Over the course of the past 20 years, very close to 50% of graduating students have chosen to pursue careers in primary care.  This is particularly important since 35% of the population in the WWAMI region lives in rural, generally underserved areas underscoring the importance of primary care.  Upon graduation, an estimated 20% of WWAMI graduates will practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) following graduate medical education.

RUOP - Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program

The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) is a program of the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSM) in partnership with the WWAMI Programs and AHECs in Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming and Washington. R/UOP provides a four-week opportunity for students between the first and second years of medical school to be placed with a physician preceptor in a rural or urban underserved clinical site. R/UOP encourages primary care careers in underserved communities by providing students with hands-on experiences in clinical practices; in addition to exposure to the rural or underserved community. Preceptors are practicing physicians in rural sites or urban clinics serving the underserved. Physicians serving as preceptors are primary care physicians (Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology and General Practice). The UWSM appoints R/UOP physicians as Clinical Preceptors - and - after two years of service as a R/UOP preceptor, physicians are eligible for appointments as clinical faculty at the UWSM.

In Montana, yearly R/UOP placements are organized and placed.  This coordination consists of matching the medical students with rural or underserved preceptors who have already been selected by the Montana WWAMI Clinical Dean, Dr. Jay Erickson.  With the assistance of all regional AHEC offices, housing and travel support is provided to the students.  

 TRUST- Targeted Rural and Underserved Student Track

The TRUST Program was started at the WWAMI Program at Montana State University in May 2008. It is an initiative of Jay Erickson, M.D. (Director of Clinical Education in Montana and Assistant Dean at the University of Washington School of Medicine). The overall goal of the TRUST Program is to increase the number of Montana WWAMI students choosing primary care residencies and returning to practice in rural and underserved areas of the state. Objectives of the TRUST Program are to: (1) create an integrated pathway for Montana students interested in rural or underserved medicine, (2) use existing programs, as well as new programs, to create a continuum that selects, educates and supports Montana students with an interest in rural or underserved medicine through medical school and into residency training, (3) develop a targeted admissions process that chooses Montana students likely to practice in rural or underserved areas of Montana, (4) enhance medical school curriculum so that it encourages students to enter primary care or other specialties of need in rural or underserved practices, (5) develop a continuity mentorship that will support and encourage Montana students interested in rural/underserved care throughout their medical education experience, (6) create specific clinical experiences that will expose students to the satisfaction, challenges and life style of a physician practicing in rural and underserved areas and (7) expose students to the issues of rural and underserved practices with on-line discussions, attendance at regional and national rural or underserved conferences - and - a formal class on rural health care delivery systems.

Montana students selected for participation in the regional WWAMI Program of the University of Washington School of Medicine have the option of applying for the TRUST Program. If selected for TRUST, these students are assigned to a rural physician preceptor/mentor and do a clinical rotation in a rural community prior to matriculation in medical school at Montana State University. The students continue to be affiliated with this rural physician throughout the four years of medical school - and - during the third and four years these students will do all of their clinical clerkships in Montana.

The need for primary care physicians to practice in rural communities is a national issue which is being addressed by some medical schools - and - it needs to become a focus of state and federal governments, health professions organizations, and communities. Recent publications have stated that “the persistent shortage of physicians in rural areas continues to have a major impact on access to care for those living in small communities.” In the United States, one in five persons live in rural areas, while only 9% of all physicians practice in rural communities. In Montana, the problem is even more critical because approximately 66% of the population lives in rural and frontier areas. Through the TRUST Program, the WWAMI Medical Education Program at Montana State University proposes to increase the number of medical students choosing primary care as a specialty and after residency training making decisions to practice in rural and frontier areas of the state.

The TRUST Program is a collaborative initiative of the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Montana WWAMI Program at Montana State University in partnership with rural physicians, rural hospital administrators, community health center administrators, Montana Family Medicine Residency Program, Montana Medical Association, Montana Hospital Association, Montana Academy of Family Physicians and the Montana AHEC/Montana Office of Rural Health.


For more information on these programs, contact Lisa Benzel at



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