UNM Health System leadership cutting the ribbon
By Michael Haederle

Joint Report

UNM Hosts Ribbon-Cutting for New Orthopaedics Center of Excellence in Rio Rancho

The University of New Mexico Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation officially opened its doors Wednesday on the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho Campus. The state-of-the-art facility will unite clinical, educational and research activities under one roof.

The two-story, 50,000-square-foot structure, located adjacent to UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC) in Rio Rancho’s City Center, includes exam rooms for patients to consult with surgeons, an extensive orthopedics research laboratory and a rehabilitation facility.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 1, brought together civic and university leaders, including Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull and Sandoval County Commissioner David Heil.

The $21 million project was funded through Rio Rancho’s gross receipts tax revenues, with some of the money coming from cash on hand and $15 million from bonds raised against future tax receipts.

The new center is the “crown jewel” of UNM health facilities, said UNM president Garnett Stokes. “This kind of efficient innovation is entirely consistent with our role as New Mexico’s only Research-1 university.”

Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, executive vice president for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System, described the “synergy” that will emerge between the new center and SRMC. “It is where we put together all our missions, our clinical excellence, our research, our teaching our community engagement into one building.”

Michael E. Richards, MD, MPA, senior vice president for clinical affairs and interim dean of the UNM School of Medicine, praised Jamie Silva-Steele, SRMC’s president and CEO for her role in facilitating the center’s construction in the midst of the COVID pandemic. “It’s really difficult to overstate the demands that have been placed on the teams here at SRMC,” he said, “but that did not stop them from fulfilling the mission. They still delivered on helping us put this building together.”

Silva-Steele was also credited by Robert Schenck, MD, chair of UNM’s Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, for helping to get the project off the ground. “Our idea was to create a clinical space that allowed learners to work together and do research at the same time,” he said.

Most of UNM Health’s joint replacement surgeries, including total hip, total knee, foot and ankle, elbow and shoulders, are already being performed at SRMC.

The new facility will also provide ample space for the department’s research team, headed by Michael Decker, MD. It houses a lab that will be run by biomechanical engineer Christina Salas, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation. It also includes room for a cadaver lab and two Biosafety Level 2 workstations.

The new facility is a major step forward in a 30-year master plan for the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho campus. Long-term plans call for additional centers of excellence to be located in the vicinity.

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