By Cindy Foster

UNM West Fills In

Keep an eye out on the UNM West parking lot - it's empty now, but things will be filling up this summer as The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center expands research, clinical and educational offerings at the Sandoval County campus.

This fall a new community behavioral health clinic and a College of Nursing program will both begin at the location in Rio Rancho's City Center. UNM is also collaborating with Central New Mexico College (CNM) to provide a unique medical assistant education program, says UNM West program director Laura Burton, PhD.

Along with the new clinic and program, faculty and staff of UNM's Transdisciplinary Research, Equity and Engagement (TREE) Center, a new behavioral health center piloting research in underserved communities, are already moving into their office spaces on the UNM West Campus.

"UNM West is a unique conglomerate university-wide in that we have parts of many programs here," says Burton. "What makes it challenging for us is that all of these programs have their own regulations, policies and procedures and state and federal regulations."

Making all the pieces fit together in a coherent way will involve everything from collaborating with participating institutions to retrofitting some classrooms, according to Burton.

"Our goal is to utilize this space in ways that serve our educational goals as well as meeting community needs for more health care now," she says.

New Mexico has been fighting a health care provider shortage for years and reports consistently show that rural areas suffer disproportionately from health provider shortages, but the crisis is also creating new opportunities for other educational programs.

Health care employment is expected to grow by 18 percent over the next decade, with most of that growth coming in new types of medical support staff, according to an October 2017 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

UNM's partnership with CNM will create a new certificate-training program for medical assistants.

"Right now, if a student wants to be a medical assistant they have to go through a private school and that can come with a very high tuition cost," Burton says. "Our curriculum will be providing a much more robust program to really enhance skills and knowledge of the medical assistants, yet they will be able to receive an education with much lower tuition rates."

Burton says the ultimate goal at the UNM West Campus is to create additional healthcare programs linked with clinical training opportunities within Sandoval County while providing training students will take back to hometowns throughout the state.

Categories: Education, Health, Research