In the Spotlight – Diane Mathews | Walterboro Live
5 mins read

In the Spotlight – Diane Mathews | Walterboro Live

By Scott Grooms

Lowcountry AHEC (Area Health Education Center) honors Diane Mathews as she retires after 27 years of service to the region.

AHEC is an Area Health Education Center. Mathews explains the mission of AHEC. “Our primary goal is to provide healthcare through medical careers, in rural and underserved areas, to find population parity. We do that through three primary services at the center level. First and foremost is the Health Careers Program. We have two coordinators who work with high schools and early childhood students to help them figure out what medical careers they want to get into. The next component is health professions students, and we have four student houses. AHEC has 12 underserved counties, and we have houses that we rent in Walterboro, Orangeburg, Beaufort, and Bamberg. Two coordinators work with the Medical University and other universities on their medical programs, primarily primary care, but also rehabilitation and anything at the graduate level. The last thing we do is continuing education for health care workers.”

Mathew adds, “I think one of the biggest things is that we’re doing more within the 12 counties. We’re working with more high schools and technical schools. We used to have one student residence hall, so we’ve expanded because we have 12 counties and we’ve gotten additional funding to increase our staff. We have 10, including me. We created our consortium, which was approved by the Board in 2006 for continuing education. We have almost all the hospitals in the 12 counties, and we have a few clinics and things like that. Healthcare has changed over the years, clinics are now owned by hospitals. Healthcare is changing, so AHEC has to change with it.”

Mathews was originally from Michigan and attended Michigan State in the clinical laboratory program. After living in Virginia, she moved to Charleston, where she found the Medical University and loved the master’s program. Her first AHEC office was in Hampton in 1994, and after becoming director in 2002, she moved the office to Walterboro to be closer to Charleston.

One of Mathews’ accomplishments is the Walterboro facility, “I think the thing I’m most proud of is building that building. We were in Hampton, we were renting. The board said, you know; this is crazy to rent. So we bought the land and built this and paid for it.

Mathews is proud of her staff: “We have a new position. She’s only been here a few months. But everyone else has been here for five, 10, 20 years. They’ve all been here a long time. We have Emily Warren and Kim Stevens from Williams, who coordinate medical students. Diana Karen and Jasmine Douglas run the continuing education program. Then Laci Green, who was in the Health Careers Program. Rhonda Johnson has experience working with historically black colleges and universities, which we’ve started working with, as well as technical colleges. Ashley Breland is our financial assistant, and Tracy Wilson handles customer service and phone calls.

Mathew enjoys his position at AHEC but is looking forward to retirement. He comes from a large family and is looking forward to spending time with his family. “I am one of six children from Michigan. I have two brothers and three sisters. Her husband Dave had two children when we started dating. They now have four children, and the oldest lives in Shanghai, China, teaching English. After marrying a girl from Shanghai, they have a son who will be four. Last year they went to China to meet their grandson. Their daughter Caroline works in Charlotte, and they have twins, Taylor and Tyler. Tyler is married, lives in Beaufort, and has a daughter, Juniper, and they are expecting a baby boy in July. Taylor lives in Houston.

Mathew will be moving to the mountains of North Carolina and says, “I’ve always liked the mountains, I’ll go hiking in the mountains, I have a sister who moved to Blowing Rock a few years ago and I can be close to my siblings. We already belong to a church there. So I’ll be working at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Boon, NC. There are a lot of opportunities with Appalachian State University. I like to ride my bike; I like to cook. I’ll be a busy person.

We asked her what she would like to see for AHEC in 10 years: “I would like to see that we have made a difference by bringing dentists and physicians into the community. Working in a family practice and watching people grow through your practice can be very rewarding, so I would like to see more rural and underserved communities have access to care here and not have to travel to urban areas.”