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About PEN-NC

Supporting and facilitating community-based ECHO™ projects with technical assistance and coordination resources.

The Project ECHO Network in North Carolina (PEN-NC) is a partnership between the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation (FHLI) and the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC). Leveraging NC AHEC’s technical assistance expertise alongside FHLI’s legacy incubating innovative programs, PEN-NC will serve as the first statewide network of ECHO™ projects.

The ECHO Model, originally developed out of the University of New Mexico, is a framework for virtual learning communities where peers can share support, guidance, and feedback. Learn more about ECHO™ projects.

At PEN-NC, we believe amplifying this model of virtual, peer-to-peer learning and connecting existing groups across the state will help reveal solutions to persistent barriers to better health faced in North Carolina’s rural, underserved, and marginalized communities.

Meet the PEN-NC Team

Dr. Jill Forcina


Karen Luken

Disability and Health Consultant

Want to learn more?

Sign up for PEN-NC updates to be among the first to know about our next steps as we work toward launching our full membership.

What is a Project ECHO?

A Project ECHO is a virtual learning community that allows subject matter experts and their peers to listen, share, and learn together. The ECHO™ model is meant to help spread and implement best practices across diverse professions and disciplines while continuously improving and expanding access to care. 

ECHO™ projects follow a “hub and spoke” model, where participant learners (spokes) are engaged via video technology and connected with subject matter experts (hubs) who serve as teachers and mentors. 

Over the past 20 years, ECHO™ has grown internationally to address multiple health conditions and human service needs across medical, behavioral health, and educational disciplines.


Core elements of the ECHO Model:

  • Technology to leverage scarce resources
  • Sharing best practices” to reduce disparities
  • Case-based learning to master complexity
  • Data – monitor outcomes to increase impact

Benefits of the ECHO Model:

  • Bringing expertise to rural and low-resourced communities and providers
  • Promoting rapid dissemination of best practices and promising practices
  • Decreasing the isolation often experienced by providers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PEN-NC?

PEN-NC is the first statewide network dedicated to the coordination of ECHO programs to promote collaboration, efficiency, and planned growth. By supporting and facilitating Project ECHOs, PEN-NC is working to address critical needs across North Carolina, including:

    • Increasing distribution of expertise across the state, especially in rural and low-resourced communities
    • Strengthening workforce development and capacity
    • Reducing racial, ethnic, and cultural disparities in healthcare and human services through a bi-directional flow of knowledge and expertise
Who runs PEN-NC?

 PEN-NC is a collaborative initiative managed by the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation (FHLI) and the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC), with funding and support from The Duke Endowment.

What does PEN-NC do?

By offering a centralized network for bi-directional coordination between ECHO projects across North Carolina, PEN-NC will offer technical assistance and resource coordination to help participants access the knowledge they need to best serve their communities. 

PEN-NC will also offer support for new Project ECHOs and communities interested in starting a local group.

How is PEN-NC funded?

PEN-NC received initial funding from The Duke Endowment with additional support from Healthy Blue of North Carolina.

What are the benefits of PEN-NC membership?

PEN-NC members will have full access to a coordinated network of ECHO projects across North Carolina, technical assistance and resource sharing, and nationwide connection with resource opportunities and experts including the University of New Mexico ECHO.

PEN-NC is currently engaged in a community-led development process, and as such the full benefits of membership will not be defined until our needs assessment process is complete. To participate in the needs assessment, click here to sign up for PEN-NC updates. 

How can I become a member of PEN-NC?

PEN-NC is currently in its initial needs assessment phase. Following completion of the needs assessment, which will capture input from ECHO project participants, community members, and providers across North Carolina, PEN-NC will announce and launch a full range of membership opportunities. 

If you would like to have your voice heard in PEN-NC’s development, click here and fill out our interest form.