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ASCC hosts Health Education Center

In addition to its regular academic programs, the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) hosts several agencies on its campus that provide valuable services to the community, such as the Small Business Development Center and the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

The most recent agency to make its home at ASCC is the American Samoa Area Health Education Center (ASAHEC), which became active in 2012 with little fanfare but plans to expand on its mission of providing assistance towards local health education in 2013.

ASAHEC is part of a wider network of over 54 Area Health Education Centers across the United States. An estimated 120 medical schools and 600 institutes of higher learning which include nursing and allied health studies work collaboratively with these Centers towards the goal of improving health among underserved and under-represented populations. American Samoa’s own Health Education Center has stated its official goal is  “to enhance access to quality healthcare, particularly primary and preventative care, by improving the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals through community/academic educational partnerships.”

Dr. Kelly Withy, Director of the Hawaii/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center who recently made a site visit to ASAHEC, explained that each Center is part of a federal grant program to improve the health professions workforce by recruiting, training and retaining healthcare workers. “Activities eligible for support under these grants include recruitment to health careers for teens, training of health care providers of all kinds, and continuing education to keep providers up to date,” she said.

ASAHEC projects are funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration through an agreement between the University of Hawaii and ASCC.

Ms. Sailitafa Samoa, who heads ASAHEC, has spent several months collaborating with ASCC Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Irene Helsham, who serves as the ASAHEC Executive Director, to carry out the objectives of the program. Some of her most recent activities have included developing, planning and presenting outreach programs to the middle school and high school students, as well as outreach efforts to identify and support ASCC students interested in healthcare professions or currently working in healthcare while pursuing a college degree.

She has also networked with the respective chairpersons of Nursing and Health and Health Science at ASCC, and officials with the LBJ Hospital, the Department of Health and the Department of Education on holding summer programs to introduce students to the many activities that fall under the umbrella of health and allied health. Samoa says she is also developing partnerships with the various departments at LBJ to identify their staff development needs and coordinate training to assist in meeting those needs.

Samoa brings to her leadership of ASAHEC a rich background in the health profession. She graduated with a BSN in Nursing from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and also holds a certificate as a Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner from Harbor-UCLA in Torrance, California. Currently licensed as a Registered Nurse and a member of the American Samoa Nurses Association, Samoa previously worked in health related and community building activities in Los Angeles County for more than 15 years. While she hopes to support all areas of local health care, Samoa’s takes particular interest in students who want to enter the profession. 

“I would like to encourage anyone to consider a health or allied health career,” she emphasized, and I want anyone reading this to know that if you are willing to commit yourself, you can succeed.”

Samoa works in close collaboration with the ASAHEC Community Advisory Board, whose current members include Chairperson Ipuniuesea Eliapo-Unutoa, DOH Occupational Therapist; Dr. Daniel Chang, ASCC Health & Human Services Chair; Ms. Lele Ah Mu, ASCC Nursing Department Chair; Mrs. Netini Sene, DOE Health & Science Coordinator; Dr. Robin Faumuina, Veteran Affairs American Samoa Medical Outpatient Clinic; Mrs. Toaga Seumalo, Chief Operating Officer, LBJ Patient Services; Rev. Tala Ueligitone,  LBJ Cardio-Pulmonary Manager;  Ana L. Hargett, Vice-President of LBJ Human Resources; Ianeta Ah Ping, LBJ Dietary Services Manager; Ofeira Nuusolia, Community Health Centers CEO;  Dr. H T Villarica, Dentist, Tafuna Health Center; and Dr. Helsham of ASCC. The Board also includes representatives from ASCC Land Grant, Emergency Medical Services and the LBJ Medical Science Laboratory.

Anyone interested in a career in health or allied health, or seeking more information on ASAHEC can contact Samoa via email at  or She can also be reached by phone at 699-1587.