South Dakota Area Health Education Center


SD AHEC History

Over 30 years ago, South Dakota had an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) with five offices statewide. This original AHEC was supported by grant funding until programmatic changes at the federal level altered the funding mechanism. This left South Dakota's original program with little monetary support, although the Yankton Rural AHEC remained a viable organization.


Following a statewide summit of stakeholders in 2008, work began on securing a grant to reestablish an AHEC in South Dakota, which was submitted in January 2009. Notification of the initial three-year award was received in August 2009.

The South Dakota AHEC program office was established in September 2009, within the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine's Department of Family Medicine. An advisory board and advisory panel were named. The board meets quarterly and the panel meets once per year. The Yankton Rural AHEC was re-established as an officially recognized center at this time, with its own advisory board and advisory panel in place.

In the fall of 2010, the program office made the decision to use a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in naming the second AHEC. The RFP was distributed widely, resulting in four applications with the South Dakota AHEC Advisory Board awarding the grant to the Collaborative for a Northeast South Dakota AHEC following a lengthy proposal review and site visit process. An advisory board and advisory panel were subsequently named.

A five-year competitive continuation grant was submitted to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in February 2012. The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine was notified by HRSA in August 2012 that the South Dakota AHEC had been awarded a five-year continuation to further the valuable work of developing and supporting the state's health care workforce.

During the fall of 2018, the program office began another Request for Proposals (RFP) process to create a third SD AHEC site. The RFP was distributed and resulted in the South Dakota AHEC Advisory Board awarding the grant in early 2019 to the Collaborative for a West River AHEC to be located on the campus of Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City. An advisory board and advisory panel were subsequently named.

The South Dakota Area Health Education Center is funded by Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce cooperative agreement #U77HP26850 through Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. Additional funding to support South Dakota AHEC is made possible through the contributions of its academic and community partners.

National AHEC History

The AHEC (Area Health Education Centers) program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The AHEC program helps bring the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs. The strength of the AHEC Network is its ability to creatively adapt national initiatives to help address local and regional healthcare issues.

The purpose of the AHEC program is to meet the needs of the communities they serve through robust community-academic partnerships, with a focus on exposure, education, and training of the current and future health care workforce, such as the development of an AHEC Scholars program.  AHECs have a continual focus on improving the health care system by working with academic institutions, health care settings (including CHCs), behavioral health practices, and community-based organizations. Through these longstanding partnerships, the AHECs employ traditional and innovative approaches to develop and train a diverse health care workforce prepared to deliver culturally appropriate, high-quality, team-based care, with an emphasis on primary care for rural and underserved communities.

AHECs are embedded in the communities they serve, positioning them to respond rapidly to emergent training needs of health professionals, health professions students, and interprofessional teams on issues associated with natural disasters, disease outbreaks (e.g. Zika), and substance use disorders.

Today, 46 AHEC programs with more than 261 centers operate in almost every state and the District of Columbia. Approximately 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools work collaboratively with AHECs to improve health for underserved and under-represented populations. The national AHEC network consists of more than 300 AHEC program offices and centers, serving over 85% of the counties in the United States, with more than 45 years of experience.

Vision, Values, Goals, Strategic Plan

VISION: The South Dakota Area Health Education Center (SD AHEC) fosters a continuum of interdisciplinary health professions education focusing on the healthcare needs of the most underserved in our state. This is accomplished through academic-community partnerships in collaboration with state agencies and organizations to improve the supply and distribution of a culturally sensitive, quality healthcare workforce.


Impactful. We empower students and professionals to reach academic and career goals in the healthcare field.

Collaboration. We collaborate with like-minded organizations to leverage programs and resources to assist students and healthcare agencies.

Integrity. We deliver what we promise to the students and healthcare agencies we serve. We are excellent stewards to financial resources and grant awards.

Quality. We deliver high quality training and work products.

Community Relationships. We partner with local healthcare agencies to connect students with careers.

Cutting Edge. We use cutting edge technology and processes in our training modules.

GOALS: SD AHEC is committed to providing the following services and resources for our stakeholders through the following:

  • Provide exposure to healthcare careers.

  • Provide experiential learning opportunities in rural, frontier, and tribal communities.

  • Provide career counseling.

  • Connect students to healthcare positions.

  • Provide continuing education opportunities.

Health Care Agencies
  • Increase local workforce capacity.

  • Connect prospective employees to health care agencies.

  • Provide interns to health care agencies.

Click here for STRATEGIC PLAN


Program Office

Susan AndersonSusan Anderson, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.
AHEC Program Director
Chair & Professor
Department of Family Medicine

Erin SrstkaErin Srstka, M.S., M.E.d.
Grant Specialist
Department of Family Medicine


Brock RopsBrock Rops, M.S.
SD AHEC Education Coordinator
HOSA State Advisor
Department of Family Medicine

Board of Directors

South Dakota AHEC Executive Council

  • Mary Nettleman, M.D., M.S., M.A.C.P. (VP Health Affairs/Dean, Sanford School of Medicine)
  • Lori Hansen, M.D. (Dean, Yankton Campus, Sanford School of Medicine)
  • Susan Anderson, M.D., F.A.A.P. (AHEC Program Director; Chair, Family Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine)

South Dakota AHEC Program Advisory Board

  • Mary Nettleman, M.D., M.S., M.A.C.P. (VP Health Affairs/Dean, Sanford School of Medicine)
  • Lori Hansen, M.D. (Dean, Yankton Campus, Sanford School of Medicine)
  • Nedd Brown, Ed.D. (Associate Dean, Graduate Medical Education, Sanford School of Medicine)
  • Sandra Durick (Interim Executive Director, Yankton Rural AHEC)
  • Wade Nilson, P.A.-C. (Program Director, Physician Assistant Studies Program, University of South Dakota)
  • Kari Potter, M.S. (Chair, Medical Laboratory Science)
  • Josie Peterson
  • Shelly Tennapel