Researcher putting a slide under a microscope
By Michael Haederle

Changing Roles

Dr. Richard Larson to Retire as Vice President for Research at UNM Health Sciences

Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, vice president for research at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences and tenured professor in the Department of Pathology, has announced his retirement, effective Jan. 15, 2023.

“Please join me in congratulating Dr. Larson on his upcoming retirement from UNM,” said Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, executive vice president for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System. “He is nationally recognized as an academic leader, senior executive, tenured professor, educator, researcher, business developer and MD/PhD with extensive academic health care leadership.”

Ziedonis said he will soon launch an internal search process to select an interim vice president for research and map out the process of conducting a national search for Larson’s successor.


Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD
It has been a real honor and privilege to have served UNM and to have been able to make an impact of the lives of people and communities in New Mexico
Richard Larson, MD, PhD

“It has been a real honor and privilege to have served UNM and to have been able to make an impact of the lives of people and communities in New Mexico,” Larson said.

Larson has served in many important leadership roles at UNM Health Sciences during his 26 years at the university. His longest-standing role has been leading and building the research mission over the past 18 years, first as senior associate dean and then vice chancellor/vice president for research.

During his leadership tenure, the research mission has grown from $85 million in extramural funding in 2004 to nearly $240 million today. As executive vice chancellor for 10 overlapping years, he served in the second-highest position at the HSC, and had broad responsibilities that advanced our institution.

Larson also led efforts to create the New Mexico Health Care Workforce Committee, which compiles a detailed annual report on and analysis of the number and distribution of health care providers throughout the state that is submitted to the New Mexico Legislature and governor annually. The committee’s work played a role in securing state funding for expanded College of Nursing enrollment and additional residency slots in the School of Medicine.

Larson is a tenured professor in the Department of Pathology who has also maintained his own program of research, in part focusing on developing novel methods to detect, target and treat disease using nanoparticles and developing handheld sensors for point-of-care testing.

His scientific achievements span more than 120 publications and numerous patents – several of which have been licensed – and that have resulted in two sustaining companies, including an IPO on the Australian stock exchange.

Larson has personally obtained more than $150 million in extramural funding as principal investigator, including scientific applications related to basic science, applied science, engineering, clinical trials, workforce analysis, construction and community-based research.

He is most proud of having won a Scientific Director's award from the Defense Intelligence Agency for the development of the biosensor, a handheld device aimed at protecting first responders from select agent exposure.

Since 2005 Larson has also served as principal investigator and director of the UNM Clinical & Translational Science Center (CTSC), which maintains critical core services that support faculty development, research and education across the university.

“The Clinical & Translational Science Center has had a transformative impact on clinical and translational research and educational missions at UNM Health Sciences,” Larson said. “I am very grateful for the outstanding work by all the faculty and staff involved in this effort. With so much support, this center will continue to have tremendous impact.”

In 1998 Larson helped launch, operate and govern TriCore Reference Laboratories, which is now one of New Mexico’s largest businesses. He was a TriCore’s medical director for five years and has served four terms as chair of the board.

He co-led an initiative to analyze pipeline programs that target students of color. The study examined biomedical research workforce and student diversity and suggested best practices. The white paper on enhancing diversity was published and shared nationally with all member universities.

For 12 years he held a variety of leadership roles that expanded or initiated the MD/PhD program, a master’s in Clinical Research, and a combined BA/MD/PhD among others – all programs with high graduation rates and increased quality and diversity of students.

His involvement in the Legislature and economic development led to the creation of the New Mexico BioScience Authority – New Mexico’s first public-private partnership designed to build the bioscience industry in New Mexico. He currently serves as president.

Outside of his university duties, Dr. Larson co-founded Cancer Services of New Mexico, a non-profit organization that each year serves more than 1,500 New Mexicans suffering from cancer, free of charge. It is the largest program of its kind in the nation. He currently serves on its board and the board of the Cancer Services of New Mexico Foundation.

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