By Mark Rudi

David Scrase Appointed to Gov.-elect Lujan Grisham's Cabinet

Longtime UNM Physician to Lead Human Services Department

David Scrase, MD, professor and section chief for geriatrics in The University of New Mexico School of Medicine, has been named to Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham's cabinet as the secretary of the Human Services Department.

Lujan Grisham announced the addition of Scrase to her cabinet on Friday. Scrase said he has known Lujan Grisham for 20 years and thinks her platform on health care is strong, and aligns with Scrase's main interest - health care policy and financing.

"I really wanted to explore with her options to help her with that," Scrase said. "It turns out this is the way it's going to work out - in a cabinet position."

Scrase will assume the role on Jan. 1 when Lujan Grisham takes office. As far as what he hopes to do in the role, Scrase thinks there is a great opportunity right now to expand Medicaid and get more New Mexicans insured.

"I think we need to do some things to work on bringing more health care to rural communities," Scrase said. "Particularly through trying to recruit new providers or create new incentives for people that are located in rural areas. And through things like our own university's Project ECHO, for example."

Insuring more New Mexicans, leveraging more federal dollars for Medicaid, increasing provider presence in rural areas and rebuilding the behavioral health care system in New Mexico are all on Lujan Grisham's health care policy agenda. Scrase said the Human Services Department would need to take a leap to make those things happen.

"I really enjoy public policy work and already am finding myself involved with that, which is a good thing," he said.

While Scrase is serving on Lujan Grisham's cabinet, he will be on leave from UNM, but will be a volunteer faculty member.

But Scrase vowed he will return to UNM when he is done serving on the governor-elect's cabinet and said he enjoyed working with Mark Unruh, MD, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD.

"One other thing I told them was I never actually left a job where I didn't feel my work was finished," Scrase said. "And in this case, I don't feel like my work is finished. There is still a lot left to do at UNM related to geriatrics. It was a very, very tough decision for me. But at the same time, I do feel like we can do a lot of good for the state and everyone in New Mexico."

"Given all my past experiences and background in health insurance and public policy, I felt like I should answer the call of the governor at this time."

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