CEPH AHEC Scholars participate in Maine’s Fisherman’s Forum

Three woman students pose for a photo
From left: Heidi Fox (D.O., ’26), Taryn Leach (Dental Medicine, ’25), and Sarah Engels, (Dental Medicine, ’25)

On March 3, scholars from the University of New England’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Care for the Underserved Pathways (CUP) program traveled to Rockport to focus on Maine’s fishing and lobstering community. They attended the Fisherman’s Forum, an annual event that fosters interaction, collaboration, education, and connections for supportive resources among working water people.

The group of AHEC scholars, which included students from UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) and College of Dental Medicine, collaborated with the University of Southern Maine’s School of Nursing to provide on-site health screenings for the fishermen and their families. The screening activities provided the students with the opportunity to practice working in interprofessional peer groups.

The AHEC Scholars led the hearing screening station, and, in just one afternoon, administered approximately 40 hearing screenings with follow-up referrals as needed. They distributed information about hearing health, along with ear plugs, to help participants take action that very day by using hearing protection.

Through AHEC, UNE’s Center for Excellence in Public Health may engage more deeply with the Fishermen’s Forum in the future, noting that the lobstering/fishing community is an important and often difficult-to-access population in Maine. The center also hopes to reach the coastal and island communities more consistently year round through multiple outreach initiatives and by exploring more collaboration with USM Nursing’s Casco Bay Community Partnership, as both schools share a mission to increase access and bring health equity to the island/fishing communities, as well as other underserved populations, within Maine.

“While the Fisherman’s Forum was virtual for the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s return to an in-person event demonstrated its value within the community, and the energy was palpable,” remarked Kate Norgang, clinical educator for public health practice. “The student-led participation gave us the opportunity to assess needs and strategize as we plan meaningful engagement with Maine’s fishing community going forward.”

The AHEC scholars pose at the forum.