University of Kentucky College of Medicine and UK Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Community Faculty Program presented Dr. Rick Voakes, a Bowling Green Pediatrician, with the Community Faculty Preceptor Award. The award, presented annually, is given for their outstanding contribution to teaching and for their contributions to the Community Faculty Program. This award represents appreciation from the University of Kentucky for the time, effort and energy they give to the future healthcare providers in this state and region. Without their commitment, the quality of clinical care students are exposed to would suffer tremendously. This award is one way the university can recognize outstanding community based faculty and thank them for their service.
All healthcare professions students at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville are required to do some of their clinical rotations in rural and underserved areas. These rotations are referred to as their AHEC rotation because the regional AHECs coordinate these rotations.
Veronica Drake is the Clinical Education Coordinator for the South Central AHEC located in the College of Health and Human Services at WKU. She coordinated 172 clinical rotations in FY 2010-2011 for students from UK and UofL in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, physician assistants, pharmacy, dietetics, clinical lab science, and dental hygiene. These students spent 819 weeks with community faculty in the 22 county region served by the South Central AHEC.
Community faculty are required to submit an application and be approved by each university before they are allowed to teach students. Students gain real world experience through these clinical rotations and the community has an opportunity to recruit them to return for their practice. It is a win – win situation.
According to Ms. Drake, Dr. Voakes has been a member of the community based gratis faculty for both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville for 25 years. He is approved to teach medical, physician assistant, and nurse practitioner students. Students enjoy their clinical rotations with Dr. Voakes and they say he is an excellent preceptor. Many students say he practices what he preaches. Dr. Voakes has been an advocate for prevention his entire career. When he talks to his patients about the importance of healthy lifestyle choices including exercise he can point to his involvement in Disc Golf and his 4x Grandmaster World Championships and his induction in the Hall of Fame in 1995. He created a web site (www.health-bytes.com) before web sites became popular and he keeps it updated with current information. The menu currently contains 66 different health topics as well as a health quiz and News From Chestnut Place, his pediatric office. In addition to his career in medicine and his sport of choice, Disc Golf, Dr. Voakes is also a musician and an artist.
The old sayings, “experience is the greatest teacher” and “there is no substitute for experience”, are applicable to the role of the gratis faculty preceptor for all health professions students. It is important for students to be able to combine the knowledge from the classroom with the real world experience in the clinic setting. Community based faculty like Dr. Voakes do not get paid to teach students. They do it because students challenge them to think about what they do and why they do it and they love to teach. They also do it because it is the right thing to do. It is an honor for health professionals to be asked to give back to their profession in the form of teaching.