Strategic Plan 2022-2024


Dear Colleagues:

This strategic plan represents a turning point for the Health Education Center (HEC). The new plan acknowledges and honors the history of Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) while laying out a bold new pathway forward that addresses the changing needs of the communities we serve.

AHECs were created almost 50 years ago when academic medical centers were viewed as “Ivory Towers” out of touch with the community. Rural communities and inner cities faced a growing shortage of health care professionals, especially primary care providers. AHECs placed health science students in underserved communities where they learned to appreciate the rewards and challenges of practice. The hope was that these community-based interprofessional clinical experiences would entice students to consider future practice in those underserved areas.

Community-based learning has excited some students to envision a future for themselves in those communities and, combined with pipeline programs for high school and college students, has helped shape a health care workforce more prepared to serve and more reflective of the populations of underserved communities.

However, the health problems faced by underserved communities have not been solved. Communities still struggle to attract and retain the health care professionals they need. Beyond sheer numbers, these communities need health care professionals willing to serve all who are in need regardless of the ability to pay; respectful to all patients regardless of race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, legal status, or disability; and, committed to achieving racial equity, social justice, and allowing every person to achieve the highest possible level of health.

Our strategic plan builds upon the foundation of workforce development, with a greater commitment to keep racial equity and social justice at the center of our efforts. The new plan calls upon the board and staff to make HEC a more activist organization, grappling with the root causes of illness, and advocating for solutions. The plan envisions expansion of our fee-for-service programs, which will provide for more financial stability and discretionary funds. These financial resources will enable HEC to expand programs and better serve our communities.

With this strategic plan as our touchstone, we face the challenges of today with optimism, determination, and courage.


Stephen R. Smith, M.D., M.P.H., Chair

HEC Board of Directors

Members of the Planning Team

Setu Vora, M.D.                                                                                                       Michele Scott

Laurie Herring                                                                                                         Stephanye Clarke


The planning process was launched in April 2021.   The goals of this process were to create a shared vision and a plan to realize this vision. A third-party consultant (Fio Partners, LLC) was engaged to provide experience and input to the efforts.  Fio gathered data from internal and external sources to capture observations of the organization from a variety of perspectives.  Activities undertaken or developed over the course of the process included:

  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Board Survey
  • Financial Analysis
  • Staff Focus Group
  • High School Student Focus Group
  • AmeriCorps Member Focus Group
  • Management Assessment Guide (Self-Assessment) for both CIC and its Affiliates
  • Partner Survey

The information gathered was shared with the Board of Directors members for use in a virtual full day retreat in September 2020.  At the retreat, Board members provided input to the overall strategic direction reflected in the plan, as well as provided input into suggested goals, strategies, and tactics. Staff leadership worked with Fio to consolidate this input and transform the information gathered into a three-year strategic plan to guide HEC. 


Several key themes emerged through the information base that was compiled to support HEC’s Board in the planning process.  These themes included the following:

Fee for Service as a Means to Expand HEC’s Capacity, Resources, and Impact

AHECs have needed to become increasingly entrepreneurial over time in order to extend their impact beyond traditional funding streams and amounts.   HEC has been successful in this area creating fee-based (or fee for service) type programs in the areas of Community Health Worker (CHW) training and in Medical Interpreter training.   In both cases, these programs have been well received by participants and by the community.  CHW training, in particular, has been a leading light for HEC. HEC was first in the market to provide Community Health Worker training/certification and is well-positioned to provide continuing education opportunities for community health workers.  Furthermore, HEC is well connected in their local communities, increasing the likelihood that HEC will be able to grow this program despite increased competition in this area. 

Being Viewed as a Strong and Preferred Partner is a Plus

Community stakeholders consistently name HEC as a strong and preferred community partner in their work.  The organization is viewed as community oriented, seeking to find the best solution for the community, trusted, and respected.  This goodwill and strong reputation are important assets for HEC as it seeks to move forward in expanding its program reach and impact. 

HEC’s Deep Roots and Connections in the Communities it Serves Are Unique Among AHECs and an Asset to Be Explored

Around the nation, most AHECs are known for their programs, services, and offerings.  Much of this is due to the origin of the AHEC Movement, which came about as more of a “top-down” approach to addressing the shortage of primary care physicians and the misdistribution of health professionals, which resulted in imbalances in the healthcare system and subsequent inequities in access to and quality of healthcare services.  HEC is unique in the AHEC movement in that it has much more of a “bottom-up” approach to this work, focusing on community listening, community engagement, and community partnerships.  These community roots are a distinctive for HEC; the ability to engage and convene the community in trusted relationships is a unique and sought-after asset among many community organizations.  Understanding how to best utilize this asset is a great opportunity for HEC moving forward.

Planning as an Opportunity to Define and Refine our Priorities and Focus

There is a shared sense among the Board and staff leadership that this moment is an opportune time to launch a strategic plan.  The addition of new members of the Board, the emergence from the pandemic, and the increased attention on public and community health, health disparities and inequities, and the importance of community engagement and trust are creating a sense of urgency that can propel the organization forward with renewed focus and energy for impact.

The Organization is at Inflection Point in Terms of Staffing and Capacity

Similarly, there is shared recognition that the HEC now needs to invest in its capacity to grow in order to increase its depth and breadth of impact.  As HEC and our communities have come through the pandemic, there is a shared understanding the organization is well-positioned (financially, reputationally, and programmatically) for sustainable growth.  To deliver on this growth requires HEC to invest in expanding the staff team and other areas of infrastructure.

Role of the Board as True Partner to Management

As HEC executes its programmatic and relational strategies to expand and deepen impact, there is a concurrent opportunity for the Board of Directors to similarly evolve to support these efforts.  Part of this is beginning to shift from a Board that provides management oversight to a Board that serves in more of a governance role.  Some of the activities of the Board that can play in this new role include serving as community connectors for HEC, acting as ambassadors for HEC, and advocating for increased resources on behalf of the organization’s programs and initiatives.  The recent addition of new Board members, who are not wedded to past Board practices, may help propel the Board to move in this direction more seamlessly. 



To eliminate health disparities through recruiting, training, and sustaining and supporting health professionals from diverse backgrounds, community engagement, and advocacy.


We envision a Connecticut where:

  • All residents have the opportunity to thrive
  • Pathways are open to all who seek to pursue a career in health care
  • The health care system and its workforce represent and reflect the people they serve
  • Communities are healthy, inclusive, supportive, engaged, and connected
  • Health care services are available and accessible for all who need them when they are needed
  • All residents, particularly children, are valued and supported in envisioning their future.


  • Our program graduates are equipped to reach their highest potential and continue to be engaged as champions and supporters of The Health Education Center
  • Racial and social justice and health equity are central in all of our programs so that our health career professionals heal, not harm.
  • We are thriving with sufficient and diverse funding sources
  • We are viewed as a leader in training, recruiting, and providing continuing education opportunities
  • We are at the forefront of engaging people and communities in current and future healthcare challenges.
  • We are top of mind in our community as a partner, community health resource, and connector.

Collaborative: We work in partnership with our colleagues, community organizations, and community members.  We strive to listen to one another and look to find mutually beneficial solutions and strategies in our work.

Equitable - We believe that all people — regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ZIP code, health and ability status, or any other consideration — have equal dignity, value, and opportunity to participate justly, fairly, and completely in our programs and services and in the care that they receive from their medical providers. 

Inclusive - We recognize that our community and our work is stronger when the voices of all are heard, considered, and incorporated into our decisions and actions. 

Empathetic - We meet people where they are and treat them with dignity and respect.  We strive to treat others as they would like to be treated.

Trust - We recognize that individual, community, and organizational relationships built on trust and mutual respect are essential to our impact.  We are honest, ethical, and transparent in all of our interactions

Excellence - We are committed to providing high-quality programming, services, and experiences for all that engage with HEC.  We strive to be best in class in all of our endeavors. 

2021 - 2024 PLAN GOALS - SUMMARY

Goal 1:  Grow Our Impact in Our Region Through Expanding the Reach of Our Current Portfolio of Fee for Service Programs to Enable Residents from Communities Outside Our Region to Participate

Strategy 1: Identify Target Markets Outside of Our Region to Market and Provide our Fee For Service Programs

Potential Tactics:

  1. Community Health Team Training
    1. Monetize interprofessional education clinics and practicum offerings for participants outside of the local region
  2. Become Model Partner
    1. Join statewide boards or committees to expand partnerships
    2. Attend conferences to expand network and stay abreast of industry standards and systems’ needs
    3. Provide in-kind assistance as introductory connection to new agencies serving target residents
  3. Environmental Scan 
  1. Conduct annual evaluation of potential partners and residents’ needs
  2. Ongoing review of target markets’ strategic plans and key initiatives to assess linkages
  3. Actively participate in collecting data for regional Community Health Needs Assessments

Strategy 2: Concurrently Seek to Increase our Market Penetration of Fee for Service Offerings Within our Region

Potential Tactics:

  1. Regional Collaboration
    1. Formally join regional collaboratives with agencies that may benefit from trainings
    2. Offer contract support for regional grant applications

Strategy 3: Ensure that program enrollment and design prioritize students participating in HEC programs reflect racial and ethnic diversity, as well as socio-economic diversity and the underserved

Potential Tactics:

  1. Design and implement an outreach and engagement strategy to reach priority populations
  2. Provide supports and assistance as needed to maximize student success in HEC programs
  3. Review and revise all program curricula to ensure that they include explicit competencies that call out inequities and provide approaches to reduce inequities
    1. Update curricula as needed to ensure that it is culturally relevant and reflects social, economic, racial, and political issues – curriculum needs to reflect it
    2. Review program policies and practices through an equity lens

Strategy 4: Reinvest margin generated through our fee for service programs to pilot, test, and scale new offerings in our core communities

Potential Tactics:

  1. Matrix of Prioritized Pilots with Audiences
    1. Combine Medical Interpreter and CHW Core Competencies Trainings for bilingual CHWs that meets International Medical Interpreters Association accreditation and Connecticut CHW certification requirements
    2. Expand youth programs in high schools not funded by existing grants
  2. Fellowships Based on Health Fields 
    1. Year long programs with scheduled site visits, mentorships, professional development, and hands on training
    2. Publicly highlight fellows graduation, assist with career development and maintain alumni support for future cohort funding

Strategy 5: Continue to Provide our Contracted and Required Services Within Our Region

Potential Tactics:

  1. Strengthen Current Pipeline Offerings
  2. Maintain Meaningful Partnerships
  1. Develop process for engaging existing contracts to maintain and grow relationship
  2. Reward current contracted partners for referrals that generate new business


Goal 2: Expand our Relationships Within and Outside Our Region to Further Deepen Our Connection to Underserved Communities

Strategy 1: Develop and Implement a Marketing Plan that Supports the Expansion of Our Offerings Outside of our Region and Increases the Overall Brand Awareness of HEC Within Our Region

Potential Tactics:

  1. Branding
    1. Complete the rebrand launch of HEC that was interrupted by the pandemic
  2. Marketing Communications
    1. Develop collateral materials (e.g., Spanish-language newsletters, infographics) to support stakeholder engagement and program participant recruitment
    2. Establish a media relations strategy
    3. Expand our communications channels
    4. Embed our impact in our communications and messaging
  3. Consider the creation of a marketing plan for HEC in the latter years of the Strategic Plan

Strategy 2: Build the Capacity of our Fund Development Efforts to Increase Our Philanthropic Support

Potential Tactics:

  1. Internal Knowledge and Skill Building
    1. Provide training for board members that provides common and foundational knowledge and information regarding nonprofit philanthropy
    2. Build knowledge and skills of leadership staff in the area of philanthropy, including donor prospecting, cultivation, gift solicitation, and stewardship
  2. Increase Giving
    1. Build a network of potential donors through network mapping
    2. Expand our giving options for donors
  3. Develop an Annual Philanthropy Plan for HEC in the latter years of the Strategic Plan

Strategy 3: Align and focus our partnerships toward achieving our mission and vision for impact, racial equity, and social justice

Potential Tactics:

  1. Assess current partnerships and prioritize around equity and strategic goals
  2. Educate current and future partners on the importance of achieving racial equity and social justice
  3. Identify and fill gaps in our relationships within our service region
  4. Partner with other organizations to advocate for policies and programs to achieve racial equity and social justice
  5. Develop and implement a relational strategy outside of our service region to support the expansion of our fee for service offerings
  6. Build organizational capacity to engage in partnership development and stewardship
  7. Continue deep listening in our service region to identify new needs and opportunities for fee-based services.

Strategy 4: Establish and Execute an Advocacy Agenda within Our Region and Across the State

Potential Tactics:

  1. Build relationships with elected and appointed officials
  2. Provide board and staff training regarding advocacy
  3. Analyze state and federal health legislation for its impact on racial equity and social justice and provide educational input to legislators
  4. Continue work with other AHEC partners related to statewide advocacy efforts and community partners regarding advocacy efforts for shared interests
  5. Develop relationships with media to amplify our advocacy messaging


Goal 3: Recommit Our Board and Staff to Achieving Racial Equity and Social Justice

Strategy 1: Engage board and staff in activities to enhance their understanding of issues of racial equity and social justice

Potential Tactics:

  1. Establish a joint board/staff subcommittee to develop recommendations f0r shared learning that
    • Include emerging best practices
    • Acknowledge harm and trauma
    • Create inclusivity
    • Promote truth and reconciliation needed first
    • Increase awareness of implicit and explicit biases
  2. Consider an equity audit to assess organizational policies and procedures

Strategy 2: Promote efforts that reduce systemic racism that causes health harm

  1. Participate in events that celebrate social justice and equity in our region
  2. Provide public information related to health disparities and the impact of systemic racism on health access, cost, quality, and outcomes for individuals and communities


Goal 4: Invest in Our Internal Capacity to Support Programmatic Expansion and Organizational Growth

Strategy 1:  Evaluate Our Staffing and Consultant Model and Structure to Enable our Growth

Potential Tactics:

  1. Annually assess current staff and staffing model to align with organizational priorities and commitments
  2. Supplement our team as needed
  3. Strengthen training for staff and link how well the staff person applied the training to the organization’s performance appraisal process
  4. Formalize the recruitment and hiring process and the training and onboarding of new staff as HEC begins to grow.

Strategy 2:  Strengthen our Information Management Functions to Both Streamline our Data Management and Increase Our Use of Data for Decision Making

Potential Tactics:

  1. Explore investing in a data system that better meets program and funder requirements and supports organizational decision making
  2. Provide on-going professional development opportunities for all staff in Information Management


Goal 5: Further Develop Our Board to Extend Our Reach and Impact Within and Beyond our Primary Service Area

Strategy 1: Establish and Implement an Annual Board Training Program

Potential Tactics:

  1. Create intentional Board education programs that that build Board member knowledge in the following areas:
    1. Governance practices
    2. Fund development
    3. Program knowledge
    4. Key trends impacting the organization

Strategy 2: Continue to Assess the Skills and Experiences of our Board and Develop a Pipeline to Support Board Expansion and Succession Planning

Potential Tactics:

  1. Determine the array of competencies, experiences, and relationships that the Board needs to drive impact.
  2. Survey Board members to better understand areas of strength and gaps in terms of competencies, experiences, and relationships and develop a recruitment strategy to fill these gaps.
  3. Consider creating a separate Board Governance and Nominating Committee to focus on board development

Strategy 3: Evaluate the Current Role and Structure of the Board and Clarify Roles and Expectations of Board Members

Potential Tactics:

  1. Review bylaws to ensure currency with organizational and board practices
  2. Consider committee structure to increase engagement
  3. Explore role definition with new President to ensure clear lines of authority, responsibility, and accountability

Implementation Approach

The Strategic Plan is a living document that is a road map by which the staff and Board of Health Education Center should be held accountable.  The plan should be utilized to create annual goals for the organization.  Progress against annual goals can be monitored by ensuring regular updates on plan progress at Board of Directors meetings and consistent reporting on desired key results, noted below.

In addition, a detailed implementation plan will be used to track progress against the selected strategies and tactics for the first year and then updated accordingly for each successive year.  

Key Results

The implementation of the Strategic Plan is envisioned to enact a set of measurable key results.  For each goal, the table below outlines key areas of measurement and proposed key results.  The proposed key results are based upon areas of measurement that currently exist within the organization where progress can be tracked.  In these cases, targets were developed by senior management. 

In some areas, baseline data, as well as the management capacity to measure and report on progress, will need to be created as part of the first year of implementation.   It is envisioned that a dashboard of key results would be created to track progress against key results and be reported to the Board of Directors periodically throughout implementation. 

 Goal 1:  Grow Our Impact in Our Region Through Expanding the Reach of Our Current Portfolio of Fee for Service Programs to Enable Residents from Communities Outside Our Region to Participate

Key Areas of Measurement: Financial Indicators, Program Indicators, Expansion Indicators

Key Results: Revenue Mix/Diversity, Top Line Revenue Growth, Program Enrollment (# and diversity of participants), Program Results (overall outcomes and disaggregated results), Outcomes of trainees (e.g., certification rates, employment), # communities reached, # of new programs or curricula developed

Goal 2: Expand our Relationships Within and Outside Our Region to Further Deepen Our Connection to Underserved Communities

Key Areas of Meaurement: Increased Awareness, Increased Philanthropic Support, Expanded and Deepended Partnerships, Key Leaders in Underserved Coommunities Indentified, Advocacy results

Key Results: # Press mentions/press releases, Amount raised, # of donors, Donor Retention Rate, # of collaborative grants participating in, # of program sites, # of new partnerships (MOUs), # of meetings with key leaders, Testimony provided, # Contacts with Elected Officials.

Goal 3: Recommit Our Board and Staff to Achieving Racial Equity and Social Justice

Key Areas of Measurement: Joint Committee Results, Equity Audit

Key Results: # of meetings, # of recommendations emergening from committee, resullts of recommendations, Audit results (baseline), Improvement in identified audit areas (future)

Goal 4: Invest in Our Internal Capacity to Support Programmatic Expansion and Organizational Growth

Key Areas of Measurement: Staff Indicators

Key Results: Staff retention rate, #hours of staff training/professional development, Annual staffing review results, # of FTEs

Goal 5: Further Develop Our Board to Extend Our Reach and Impact Within and Beyond our Primary Service Area

Key Areas of Measurement: Board Engagement, Board Ambassadorship

Key Results: Annual Board survey results (engagement, practices, etc), # hours board training, $ generated from Board support and outreach for philanthropy, # new/prospective Board members in pipeline

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