Message from the Executive Director:


“Honestly, I didn’t have any obstacles.”
Dr. Muriel Petioni, (1914-2011) – known as mother of Harlem’s health.


Thank you for your interest in the Manhattan Staten Island Area Health Education Center (MSI AHEC) and welcome to our website.

The COVID 19 pandemic of 2020 has had devastating consequences across the world and in our communities. In the United States more than 200,000 have died, disproportionately people of color. The pandemic further exposed racial disparities in health care and has had an immediate impact on MSI AHEC.

MSI AHEC’s work is to address the disparities by increasing diversity in the health professions. We are committed to developing and delivering high level health professions education, exposure and experience for underrepresented students, in our region’s medically underserved communities. Historically, we have primarily met our mission through our three primary in-person internship programs with a structured curriculum and placements at health care organizations and hospital facilities throughout New York City.

While the reality of COVID 19 made our work all the more significant, at the same time the restrictions imposed made it impossible to do our work, as we traditionally had. One of our challenges was how do you “reach” out when you can’t “go” out? For MSI AHEC we faced this obstacle directly.

Doing what we do best, my Program Director and I developed a comprehensive curriculum, and coordinated with partners, to launch our Summer Virtual Health Bootcamp for the high school/early college students, and the Virtual Friday Lecture Series for our medical students. We had close to 100 students enroll in our 2020 summer programs. Our diverse group of students were professional, ready to learn, listen and participate. They were engaged, enthusiastic and encouraging to each other and us. Our presenters covered topics including exploring health careers, health disparities, public health/COVID, community health advocacy, epidemiology, and emergency medicine. Instructors spoke to our medical students about structural racism, trauma-informed care, developing community-based health care, and more.

Our work to implement meaningful virtual programs was a great success this summer and continues. For example, in November, 2020 we will begin our 6 series webinar program and learning exchange on COVID 19. [Check back on this website on or before October 15th for registration information.]

I encourage students to use the information here as you pursue the health profession of your choice. I encourage parents to use this website to identify resources that will assist your children in achieving their career goals, and I encourage professionals in all areas of health care and experience to join us in providing opportunities for underrepresented individuals to experience and learn from the health care industry.

As Executive Director of MSI AHEC I am thankful to all the frontline health care professionals who continue to provide leadership, science and direct care to those impacted by COVID 19. I am especially thankful, as well, to the next generation of professionals as you start out or continue on your own career journey. Stay focused and inspired, keep learning and know that your path is paved by those who have walked it before, refusing to be stopped by obstacles – such as Dr. Muriel Petitoni, for whom our Champions of Diversity award is named. I hope to hear from you as MSI AHEC expands our website resources, learning opportunities and increases diversity in health care and improves access to care in medically underserved communities.

Mary J. Mitchell
Executive Director


Our History and Purpose


The Manhattan Staten Island Area Health Education Center (MSI AHEC) was incorporated in May, 2004 to address health care disparities through increased workforce diversity, and improve access to health care by providing education services particularly for medically underserved communities. The MSI AHEC is part of both a national program, with centers in 46 states, and a New York statewide system, developed in 1998, with four regions designed to support nine centers throughout the state. New York’s ninth and newest AHEC is located in the heart of Harlem and serves the counties of New York (Manhattan) and Richmond (Staten Island).

There are approximately 1.5 million people living in Manhattan, and just over 440,000 on Staten Island. The populations in both Manhattan and Staten Island are diverse; according to the 2000 census the populace in Manhattan is defined as: 46% White, 27% Hispanic, 15% Black, 9% Asian and 2% Other; in Staten Island, the populace is defined as: 71% White, 12% Hispanic, 9% Black, 5% Asian and 2% Other. There are 9 school districts within the geographic boundaries of Manhattan and Staten Island; these districts fall into 3 public school regions: 7 (SI), 9 and 10 (Manhattan). With the New York City public school system in disarray, its failures disproportionately affect students of color (38% of students are Latino; 34% Black; 14% White), many of whom are from impoverished backgrounds (approximately 70% of students in Manhattan/Staten Island public schools receive free/reduced price lunch).

AHEC helps to promote minority interest in the health-care professions through programs like the Summer Health Internship Program (SHIP), which provides high school and college students exposure to the health field. Such initiatives are extremely important in Manhattan and Richmond Counties, where minorities are underrepresented in the health care professions, and many live in Medically Undeserved Areas (MUA) or are designated as Medically Undeserved Populations (MUP); in Manhattan these areas have been identified in Clinton, East Harlem, Central Harlem, Washington Heights/Inwood, portions of Chinatown and the Lower East Side; in Staten Island it is primarily in regions of Community District 1. Additionally, in Manhattan there are 2 population groups and 3 geographic areas designated as Health Professional Shortages Areas (HPSAs) are designation by the Health Resources and Services Administration given to an appropriate area, population, or a facility serving either of those two); the areas are: Lower East Side, West Central Harlem, and Washington Heights. There are 4 community health centers in New York County designated as serving these communities. In Richmond, while there are no population or geographic area HPSA designations, there are 3 HPSA designated community health centers identified as working with the medically undeserved. The regions identified as MUA or HPSA have in common the vast number of minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos, living within their boundaries. These identified populations not only have significant health problems, including high rates of HIV/AIDS, asthma, and diabetes, but also numerous socioeconomic hardships. Of the over 1.5 million people in Manhattan, about 20% are living below the poverty level, and around 36% are below 200% of the poverty level; both of these rates are higher than at the state level (14.6% and 30% respectively). In Staten Island, these percentages are tempered and fall below that at the state level, with less than 10% of the population living below the poverty line and 21.8% living below 200% of the poverty level. These poverty rates, again, disproportionately affect minority populations, and are elevated in the Black and Latino communities in Manhattan and Staten Island. Available to students and health care consumers in the Manhattan/Staten Island AHEC area are:

  • 5 medical schools
  • 39 health professions schools
  • 54 health professions programs
  • 32 hospitals

Through its initiatives, MSI AHEC aims to increase the number of minorities in health care delivery, and develop professionals to serve those communities that need them the most.