Landscape of rural New Mexico
By Michael Haederle

Rural Doctors

Most Graduating UNM Family & Community Medicine Residents Will Remain in New Mexico to Practice

When 15 family medicine doctors completed their three-year residencies at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine this spring it was good news for rural communities around the state.

Thirteen of the graduating residents in the Department of Family & Community Medicine (FCM) opted to remain in New Mexico to practice – many of them relocating to clinics in small towns.

Two graduates decided to practice in Gallup, and two are headed for Indian Health Service clinics at Zuni Pueblo and the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M. Two will practice in Santa Rosa, one will be in Lovington and three are joining the First Choice Community Healthcare system.

“I think this may be the most incredible outcome to date for our residency,” said Arthur Kaufman, MD, Vice Chancellor for Community Health and a former FCM chair. “It fulfills the New Mexico communities' and Legislature’s desires regarding UNM’s residency program.”

Only three of the graduating residents are New Mexico natives, so the number who have decided to remain in the state to practice is particularly impressive, said FCM residency director Molly McClain, MD, MPH.

The high retention rate is no accident, McClain said. “We do a great job of selecting people and marketing appropriately for people, so the kind of people who do well here wind up staying,” she said.


Molly McClain, MD, MPH

If you really want to work with underserved communities, this is the best place to get that training

β€” Molly McClain, MD, MPH

FCM residents maintain their own patient panels, but they also serve rotations in rural settings – a reflection of UNM’s dedication to serving people in rural and underserved areas. “If you really want to work with underserved communities, this is the best place to get that training,” McClain said.

Colorado native Brianna Muller, MD, MPH, who joined UNM’s FCM residency following medical school at Oregon Health & Science University, echoed the sentiment: “For someone who went into medicine with the mindset of social justice and addressing health inequities, this is the place to be.”

Muller said she sought a residency “that embodied the intersection of medicine and public health. You take care of sicker people here than you would in a lot of places. It’s not a good thing, because they can’t get into the specialists that they need, (but) as a clinician, it keeps things interesting, and it requires you to learn a lot all the time.”

Most of Muller’s residency was spent seeing patients at the First Choice location in Albuquerque’s South Valley, where her command of Spanish came in handy, but she also served a rural rotation at the IHS facility in Shiprock, where she will soon be providing inpatient and outpatient obstetric care.

“I knew that I wanted to do the full scope of family medicine,” she said. “And I knew I wanted to do rural medicine. Spending time [in Shiprock], I absolutely loved it. I was really impressed by the clinicians there.”

UNM’s program is unique in its dual commitment to both family medicine and community medicine, Muller said.

“One of the things I value most about UNM as an institution is that everyone who is here wants to be here because of their values,” she said. “As a state, New Mexico is just a fascinating place to be. I feel lucky to stay.”

Categories: Community Engagement, Health, School of Medicine, Top Stories