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Dr. Tracie Collins Returns to Lead UNM College of Population Health

Tracie Collins, MD, MPHTracie Collins, MD, MPH, who has served as New Mexico health secretary for eight months, will return to her post as dean of The University of New Mexico College of Population Health at the end of July.

Collins last fall accepted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request that she serve the state in an official capacity and lead the New Mexico Department of Health through a challenging portion of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the understanding she might elect to return to her previous career after operationalizing and overseeing the agency’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. 

“I am grateful to my colleagues at the Department of Health and to the governor for her faith in me,” Collins said. “Our partnership has been the foundation of an incredibly successful vaccination drive. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to protect New Mexicans, especially with our emphasis on equity and reaching underserved populations. Although it’s time for me to return to my academic career, I look forward to continuing to work hand in hand with the governor and her administration to enhance public health throughout our state.”

The governor hailed Collins for her efforts on behalf of the state.

“We’d be delighted to have her forever,” she said. “At UNM, where our partnership will continue, she will be preparing and training the next generation of public health responders and leaders, and we all recognize how incredibly important that is for our state. These last months, we’ve decisively put the worst of the pandemic behind us, getting shots into arms all across the state, educating people about the benefits of the vaccines and saving lives.”

The Department of Health has kept New Mexico among the national leaders in vaccination throughout the spring and early summer, with high rates of first and second shots as well as vaccination supply usage.

Prior to coming to New Mexico, Collins chaired the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita. She joined the University of Kansas faculty in 2011 as department chair and Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Professor.

Collins received a bachelor of science in chemistry at the University of Central Oklahoma and earned her MD at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. She also completed an internal medicine residency at OU, followed by fellowships in ambulatory care and general internal medicine and a master of public health degree at Harvard University.

Collins joined the Baylor College of Medicine faculty in Houston, where she ran studies of patients in the Veterans Affairs health system suffering from peripheral artery disease. The circulatory disorder has become a longstanding research interest.

Collins continued her research at the University of Minnesota, where she became an associate professor in 2006. She served as a principal investigator for an American Diabetes Association-funded trial to address the role of home-based walking for patients with peripheral arterial disease.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase, MD, will step in to lead the Department of Health, in addition to his ongoing duties leading the Human Services Department. Scrase’s leadership has been an integral part of the state’s comprehensive COVID-19 response, and there remains significant overlap between the two agencies’ missions.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Dr. Collins, and I look forward to an ongoing partnership with her at UNM, as we navigate the final stages of the pandemic and work to invest in and protect the health of New Mexicans moving forward,” Scrase said. “The state of New Mexico, in partnership with the Medical Advisory Team and so many others, has been a national leader all throughout the pandemic. Under the governor’s leadership, we will keep up the hard work and ensure New Mexicans are as healthy and safe as can be.”

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