The AHEC network was launched in 1972 by federal legislation in response to the Carnegie Report on the workforce, which found severe shortages of health professionals existing nationwide. The LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans received a grant from the national AHEC program in 1989 to establish the Louisiana AHEC system. SWLAHEC was formed in 1991 to fill a recognized need for better coordination of regional health and education programs to benefit the residents of southwest Louisiana.

SWLAHEC has a 22-year history of administering numerous grants and contracts to coordinate, implement, and evaluate community-based health and education programs for target populations. Service programs currently cover the areas of career exposure, health promotion, wellness education and community health support services. SWLAHEC has administered over $39,489,707 in grants and contracts through 2012.

This history highlights SWLAHEC’s accomplishments over its first 22 years. The italicized words are the names of SWLAHEC programs or events. The years listed indicate when a program, event or contract was launched.


  • The Associate Dean of Louisiana State University Medical School, Warren Plauche, MD, facilitated the formation of an Executive Board for the new southwest regional AHEC, funded through a Federal grant administered by The LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans  He enlisted Dr. Eli Sorkow, former director of the LSU Family Medicine residency program in Lake Charles, as the first President for the Executive Board.  The organization was incorporated on March 7, 1991. Together, the new Board selected the first executive director, Gary Ravetto, MA, and the agency grew to a staff of five handling several new outreach activities by year’s end.
  • The first outreach programs included the establishment of the AHEC regional medical library at University Medical Center in Lafayette, the Primary Care Elective 120 summer rotations for medical students, continuing education for health care practitioners, and high school biology teacher trainings in genetics.  Most of these programs continue today.


  • Additional members were added to the Board of Directors to create a 15-member volunteer Board.  Through Board relationships, additional regional service assessments were undertaken.
  • The first AHEC of a Summer high school career mentoring program was implemented in Beauregard parish.
  • A Nurse Anesthetist fellowship was sponsored by SWLAHEC.
  • The regional medical library at UMC started circulating accredited continuing medical education videos for loan.
  • The elementary school health career theatre troop started its regional tour performing Helping & Healings & Other Great Feelings for third grade classes.


  • Healthcare reform was making headlines nationally with the backing of President Clinton’s administration.  In partnership with congressmen and health care agencies, SWLAHEC hosted regional forums on Healthcare Reform in Lake Charles and Lafayette.
  • Assisted Xavier University of Louisiana in offering a “Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesiology” completion program at Savoy Medical Center in Mamou, LA.


  • The internet began making the news and SWLAHEC initiated on-site physician trainings for establishing computer-based access to a blackboard of continuing education and medical news.
  • The medical library acquired its first computers and CD-ROM stacks to run the National Library of Medicine’s searchable database of Medline.
  • Health career education expanded with the Histoires et Chansons , a program pairing French speaking nursing home residents and school children.
  • The National AHEC Center Directors Association recognized AHEC of a Summer with an award for “Excellence in Health Careers Recruitment.”


  • SWLAHEC launched the first Medical Job Fair of Louisiana in New Orleans.
  • Began receiving Learn and Serve funding from the Lieutenant Governor’s office to assist in the operation of SWLAHEC programs.


  • The SWLAHEC Career Communications Center library collection, developed through a Louisiana Workforce Development grant , opened in the SWLAHEC office.
  • The AHEC of a Summer program was replicated by other Louisiana AHECs.
  • Medical Applications of Science for Health (MASH) was started as summer camps in the Biology departments of McNeese State University and University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette).
  • The Louisiana Rural Health Association recognized the Medical Job Fair of Louisiana as the “Outstanding Rural Health Program for 1996.”


  • The first New Doc on the Block, a community welcome reception for medical residents at UMC, was held.
  • Began regional HIV Prevention education through street outreach with a contract from Louisiana’s Office of Public Health (OPH) HIV/AIDS Prevention (HAP) program. Since then, SWLAHEC’s HAP Team has been providing street outreach and venue-based outreach services, along with prevention materials availability programs to minority populations in the Lafayette area of OPH Region IV.
  • Jeanne Claire Solis was named as Executive Director/CEO.


  • Lake Charles office opened.
  • Began housing LSUHSC senior dental students who rotated to southwest Louisiana to train in clinics.
  • Equipment and supplies were donated to help launch the new Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic.
  • Launched 123 Grow program as multi-disciplinary care for infants and toddlers at risk for developmental disabilities.
  • Contracted with the Louisiana OPH in Region V to staff the position of Liaison for Children’s Special Health Services.
  • Received a grant from the Rapides Foundation to develop the Rural Prevention Services Network (RPSN), a consortium of health providers in Allen Parish which addressed senior health issues.
  • Began serving as fiscal agent for the Region V Turning Point Initiative, created to transform and strengthen public health agencies for the 21st century.
  • First Day with the Docs program, which gave high school students a chance to spend a day at the LSUHSC School of Medicine N.O., was held.


  • Assisted in launching The Health Enrichment Network and Aquatic Therapy Center in Allen parish.
  • Awarded first three-year AmeriCorps program grant (2000-2003).
  • The medical library received a grant from the National Library of Medicine to provide computers, training, workshops, and internet access for its 10 outreach sites.
  • Began implementing the Governor’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Grant – T.W.I.S.T (Teens Working in Skills Training) Program.
  • Implemented a program through the Governor’s Program on Abstinence – Get Real.
  • Began serving as fiscal agent for the Lafayette Community Healthcare Consortium.


  • Began TAR WARS Tobacco prevention education for 4th and 5th grade students.
  • SWLAHEC entered into a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide HIV education to youth ages 15-24.  The Resources for HIV/AIDS Prevention (RHAP) project provided street outreach education and small group interventions utilizing the “Becoming A Responsible Teen” (BART) curriculum. This program was in existence from 2000–2004.
  • Contracted with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to provide staff for the Louisiana Women, Infants & Children supplemental nutritional program (WIC) program in OPH Regions IV and  V.


  • Began piloting a physician recruitment program for rural and underserved areas.
  • Tar Wars trainings conducted for Family Medicine residents.
  • Implemented Project CARES with Office of Mental Health and Lafayette Parish Schools to reduce violence among youth.
  • Participated in piloting the Louisiana Rural Health Access Program (LRHAP) Chambers of Health in a seven-parish area in the south central region of the state. The Chambers of Health was based on the same concept as the Chamber of Commerce: like-minded people coming together to further a particular interest, which in this case was access to primary health care.


  • Launched Healthcare for Musicians, providing free healthcare for musicians.
  • Contracted with OPH for Injury Prevention personnel in OPH Regions IV and V.
  • Launched Defeat Diabetes program with funding from OPH to enhance the diabetes training of health professions students.
  • Began working with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ (DHH) Tobacco Control program to provide tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs in OPH Regions IV and V.


  • Awarded second three-year AmeriCorps grant (2003-2006) AmeriCorps.
  • Signed a cooperative agreement with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide the Substance Abuse and HIV Integration Project (SHIP).  The goal of this project was reduce substance abuse among young people, reduce the transmission of HIV among young people and, increase knowledge of their HIV status and make referrals for care as appropriate.
  • Began supporting the LSUHSC School of Medicine N.O. Rural Scholars Track.
  • Through LRAP, provided education, advocacy and technical assistance that resulted in funding awards of approximately $200,000 to support community partners working to improve access to health and prescription medicine, and initiate community health networks. Community health networks aimed to develop comprehensive health systems, new community capacity and infrastructure that allowed communities to improve access to primary health care services.


  • Participated in statewide merger of Med Job Louisiana and Medical Job Fair of Louisiana program.
  • Began Reach Out and Read Program which distributed books to kids through pediatricians’ offices.
  • Entered into a second cooperative agreement with the CDC under Program Announcement PA04-064 to implement the Community PROMISE (Peers Reaching Out & Modeling Intervention Strategies), as well as provide HIV prevention counseling, testing, and referral services. Acquired a mobile testing unit for these purposes.
  • Through a contract with Louisiana Workforce Investment Board 41, Exploring Careers in Health Occupations (ECHO) was instituted to give underprivileged high school students an eight-week introduction to healthcare careers by volunteering in a hospital, shadowing healthcare professionals and receiving classroom instruction.
  • Began grassroots education campaign to inform the community of the benefits of a smoke-free air ordinance for Lafayette Louisiana.
  • Social Networks for AIDS Prevention (SNAP) was a two-year demonstration project funded by the CDC that used social networks to identify persons with undiagnosed HIV infection and linked them with care and treatment.
  • Served as the lead agency for the Louisiana Medications Assistance and Information-Sharing Network (LaMAISN), which was established to provide education, communication and technical assistance opportunities for medications assistance providers within south central and southwestern Louisiana. Network members provided medications assistance services in an affordable and equitable manner to ensure residents in South Louisiana had assistance in securing prescription medications.


  • Approved for $1.2 million increase in AmeriCorps grant to serve victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • Received a grant from Disaster Relief International to support primary care services for hurricane refugees at public health units in Acadiana.
  • Housed New Orleans Musician’s Clinic after Katrina and served as its fiscal agent.
  • Administered Students Interested in Registered Nursing (SIReN) program.
  • Secured a grant from HRSA-Office of Rural Health Policy – Network Development Planning, which allowed LaMAISN to rebrand itself as InforMed-Louisiana’s Medication Access Network.  The goal of InforMed was to build the capacity of communities to access affordable medications for people in need.
  • Assisted in passing the Smoke-Free Air ordinance in Lafayette Louisiana, banning cigarette smoke in public buildings, private offices, and 25 feet away from any public entrance. This ordinance was one of the first 3 in the state of Louisiana.  The Lafayette Parish School System passed policy to create smoke free school campuses and LPSS owned buildings and vehicles.


  • Third three-year AmeriCorps grant received (2006-2009); continued hurricane recovery efforts.
  • Hosted launch meeting for and assisted in the establishment of the Louisiana Emergency Medical Units (LEMU).
  • Received a grant from the Foundation for the Mid-South to aid in hurricane recovery efforts and fund a youth related HIV project called “My Music Matters.”
  • Began grassroots education campaign to inform the community of the benefits of a smoke free air law for the state of Louisiana. Began cessation counseling for pregnant women.


  • Hosted and trained regional health care professionals to implement Fax-to-Quit tobacco cessation services within their healthcare facility.
  • Launched March of Dimes Mom & Baby Mobile Health Unit in OPH Region V.
  • Began serving as the coordinating agency for the OPH Region IV Cancer Coalition.
  • Through the Tulane Quality Start Program, SWLAHEC contracted research assistants to collect data at child care centers in Lafayette and Lake Charles that receive mental health consultation.
  • Established the Healthcare Recovery Training System (HeaRTS) to train more than 1,000 additional healthcare workers in south Louisiana to aid in post-hurricane recovery efforts.
  • Began working with 14 college campuses across the state in efforts to pass tobacco-free campus policies.
  • Held community workshops to educate the public and businesses about compliance with Louisiana’s new Smoke Free Air Law, which banned cigarette smoke in restaurants and other public buildings.


  • Awarded a statewide contract with the Louisiana Department of Education to operate the Louisiana Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter.
  • The Drug Education and Prevention of HIV (DEPTH) Project was the successor to SWLAHEC’s SHIP project and received funding through another five-year cooperative agreement with SAMHSA.  This project provides substance abuse and HIV prevention curriculums and community service activities to minority youth in residential and after-school programs, as well as their parents.  It also provides HIV counseling, testing, and referral services to program participants.
  • SWLAHEC’s second CEO Jeanne Solis resigned her position, and Margaret “Bootsie” Durand, MS, was named as her successor.
  • Purchased the building and parking lot at 103 and 106 Independence Blvd, which SWLAHEC had rented for nine years, as a permanent Lafayette headquarters.
  • HeaRTS received the National AHEC Organization’s biannual award for “Excellence in Health Professions Training”.


  • Received a grant from the Rapides Foundation to implement tobacco cessation and prevention services for Allen Parish.
  • Relocated the March of Dimes Mom & Baby Mobile Health Unit to OPH Region IV.
  • Began co-sponsoring the Family Friendly Mardi Gras – Alcohol and Tobacco-Free Zone.
  • ECHO II, in collaboration with Louisiana Workforce Investment Board 40 & 41, Acadian Ambulance and Goodwill Industries of Acadiana, was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. ECHO II provided 70 young adults, between the ages of 16-24, the chance to experience career opportunities in healthcare.
  • Started working with school systems in OPH Regions IV and V to implement tobacco-free school policies.


  • SWLAHEC contracted with the Louisiana DHH to provide staff for the state’s Nurse Family Partnership and Fetal Infant Mortality Review in OPH Region V.
  • HeaRTS II, a 12-month extension of the original HeaRTS program, was operated.
  • Worked with three hospitals in OPH Region IV to enact tobacco free policies.
  • Contracted by the state to staff a Covering Kids and Families program, which educates uninsured families on Louisiana State Medicaid Programs.
  • Middle school students participate in a four-day GEAR UP Health Careers camp in cooperation with the Lafayette Parish School System.


  • Contracted with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury to fill vacancies in the Region V Health Unit.
  • Awarded two contracts from the Louisiana Department of Insurance, Louisiana Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), which mandates Southwest Louisiana AHEC coordinators to provide information to Medicare eligible seniors who live in OPH Regions IV and V and to recruit and train SHIIP counselors who are community volunteers.
  • Inaugural year for PLAYday, a summer activities fair where parents could visit with organizations in person and sign their kids up for summer camps and other programs and activities. PLAYday is also a family fitness expo designed to educate parents and children how to get active, eat healthy and be fit so they can enjoy a great summer. The event was co-sponsored and hosted by Women’s & Children’s Hospital Kids Specialty Center.
  • Began a contract with the Lafayette Consolidated Government to implement a social norms project, Social Norming for Alcohol Prevention (SNAP), to address the community norms surrounding alcohol use and abuse by  youth in Lafayette Parish high schools.
  • Medical Students take part in the Louisiana Student/Resident Experiences and Rotations in Community Health (SEARCH) program, designed to provide opportunities for students/residents to experience a primary health care setting.
  • Post-secondary students enroll in the Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC), which provides students the opportunity to experience health careers, health promotion and disease prevention in medically under-served communities.
  • SWLAHEC received a grant to conduct The Teen Outreach Program (TOP) in OPH Region 5. TOP builds life skills, teaches youth about healthy behaviors and provides them with a sense of purpose.
  • The Preventive Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program became a partner with the Department of Health and Hospitals’  Tobacco Control Program for the Louisiana State Tobacco-Free Healthcare Project. Through this partnership, SWLAHEC awards four hospitals $150,000 each to provide tobacco prevention, education, cessation and policy change.  SWLAHEC’s role in the project is to grant funding, provide technical assistance and monitor progress of each hospital.
  • In July Southwest Louisiana AHEC was awarded a three year grant to implement prevention programs to persons at greatest risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV infection and other STDs in Louisiana Public Health Region 5 (Lake Charles area).


  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Challenge Grant Dare to be Healthy launched in Calcasieu Parish. DtbH takes a multi-pronged approach to help adults, families and children exercise more, eat well and learn about healthy lifestyles through numerous planned elements
  • SWLAHEC became the fiscal agent for the Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana, a coalition established in Calcasieu Parish to help improve the health of its citizens.
  • The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury adopted a resolution approving a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between the Police Jury and SWLAHEC to provide funding of $45,000 for delivery of services in coordination with the Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana.
  • The Career & Professional Education Department at SWLAHEC received a mini-grant to purchase OrganWise Guys, which is a method of teaching that uses dolls with removable, colorful stuffed-animal style organs to teach children the importance of what we eat and how it affects the body.
  • AHEC of a Summer is recognized for 20 years’ of operating.


  • SWLAHEC received a $75,000 grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission on October to combat fatal and injurious motor vehicle crashes among youth, 15-20 years of age, in southwest Louisiana through its SNAP program.
  • The federal CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) awarded a Health Insurance Exchange Navigator Grant to SWLAHEC to form a statewide consortium of the Louisiana AHECs to assist uninsured and underinsured persons with obtaining mandatory health insurance. The one year grant was nearly $1.1 million.
  • SWLAHEC contracted with the Louisiana’s Department of Health & Hospitals Center for Community and Preventive Health to provide WIC (Women, Infant, and Children supplemental nutrition program) staff in both Regions IV & V.


  • Nancy S. Roach, RN, a SWLAHEC employee who serves as the Maternal Child Health Coordinator for the Southwest Office of Public Health, landed a $6,000 SUID Case Registry Data to Action grant to bring a consultant to Lake Charles to train first responders to recognize unsafe sleeping conditions for infants and educate parents how to correct the problems noted.
  • The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health, STD/HIV Program announced in April that SWLAHEC was be the recipient for Region V’s funding for a new STD/HIV prevention grant. This award provided SWLAHEC with $80,000 a year for the next three years to provide STD and HIV prevention programming to persons at greatest risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV infection and other STDs.
  • SWLHEC was awarded a second Navigator Grant by CMS to continue the statewide consortium of the Louisiana AHECs to assist uninsured and underinsured persons with obtaining mandatory health insurance. This second award was just over $1 million dollars.
  • Contracted by the Louisiana DHH to pilot Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs to Children’s Health). The mission of Louisiana LAUNCH is to build a system that supports the health, wellness and social-emotional development of young children through partnerships with providers and families, training, and improvements in the coordination of services and policy change.


  • Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center has partnered with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to administer the Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative. Well-Ahead Louisiana is a campaign to improve the health and wellness of Louisiana citizens.
  • Southwest Louisiana AHEC has been awarded $133,094 by the LA Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) to implement a “Social Norming Campaign” to address the community norms surrounding alcohol use and abuse by youth in south LA. Project SNAP (Social Norming for Alcohol Prevention) will combine social norms theory and practices with social marketing techniques to create a unique prevention campaign that will be implemented in five public high-schools as well as LSU, Southern University, UL-Lafayette, and McNeese.
  • SWLAHEC was awarded the Linkage to Care Award, given to the organization in Louisiana who had had the highest percentage of newly diagnosed people with HIV linked to medical care and treatment.
  • CMS awarded a third Navigator grant to SWLAHEC to continue the statewide consortium of the Louisiana AHECs to assist uninsured and underinsured persons with obtaining mandatory health insurance. The new grant is for three years at $1.047 million per year.
  • Awarded an Agricultural Marketing Services Local Food Promotion Program grant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The project, titled Building Community Food Systems in Southwest Louisiana, was a one year planning grant and was conducted in collaboration with LEDA, LCVC and the Acadiana Food Alliance (AFA).


  • A $130,000 grant was awarded by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission to continue efforts to combat fatal and injurious motor vehicle crashes among youth 15-24 years old in southern and central Louisiana.  SWLAHEC uses these funds to sustain Project SNAP (Social Norms for Alcohol Prevention) in seven high schools and four colleges.
  • SWLAHEC was asked by the Louisiana Department of Health Hospitals to expand its Well-Ahead Louisiana coverage area (see 2015) to include three more OPH regions.
  • A grant was received from the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids for the Music And Mentoring Program, which is a unique approach to educating youth on tobacco prevention. The Music and Mentoring program used the popularity of local musicians to educate children on the harmful effects of tobacco use.
  • SWLAHEC was named one of two Nonprofits of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Nonprofits. The award was received during a luncheon at the LANO annual conference.
  • The organization’s 25th anniversary was observed with a reception at the Lafayette headquarters. Many former employees, partners and current staff members attended to toast SWLAHEC’s 25 year existence.
  • In July, a new program, Future Docs, was piloted. The program is for high school and college students interested in becoming a physician. The purpose of this program was to introduce students to medicine in rural areas, as well as to give them information about what it takes to become a doctor and the requirements needed and included many hands-on activities such as suturing, giving injections and acquiring new study skills.
  • SWLAHEC joined the Eat, Move, Grow! partnership, which is an extension of a promising practice curriculum named Growing Up Fit Together, developed and implemented by The Health Enrichment Network (THEN). SWLAHEC employs one of four Eat Move Grow! Louisiana coordinators, who works with K-3rd grade teachers in rural schools in Southwest Louisiana, instructing them on how to integrate healthy lifestyle education into the classroom.

And the beat goes on……..

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