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Home » Uncategorized » CHI welcomes two new board members

CHI welcomes two new board members


Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020; Silver City, NM: The Center for Health Innovation (CHI) pleased to welcome two new board members who are familiar faces to the organization which serves as New Mexico’s Public Health Institute.  After years of serving on committees to shape CHI’s programs, community health leaders John E. Kutinac, MPH, MBA, and Joaquin Baca, MSPH, join the board to guide the nonprofit to future success.

“We are very excited to have such great talent join the CHI Board. Both Mr. Kutinac and Mr. Baca are passionate about advancing social justice and health in New Mexico. Their experience, skill and connections will be of great benefit to CHI,” said Susan Wilger, CHI Chief Executive Officer.

“I’ve always been impressed with CHI’s work, ever since I heard about its efforts,” said Baca, a Senior Health Equity Policy Analyst for the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Center for Health Equity. “It’s an honor to be part of the board.”

Joaquin Baca

Baca served on the committee that developed CHI into one of the few rurally-located public health institutes in the county during his time at New Mexico Department of Health’s (NMDOH) Office of Health Equity and the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Office of Community Health.

In his new position with AMA, Baca brings a national perspective to CHI’s efforts that have included, since its inception, development the health care workforce in New Mexico. The U.S. Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA) lists 24 counties – out of the state’s 33 counties – as “high need” health professional shortage areas for primary health care.

“For years we worked with partners like CHI to decentralize university resources into community health hubs across the state, very much like the Cooperative Extension service model,” said Baca. UNM Health Extension Regional Offices hires people in communities across the state and works to the end of system-based interventions to address social determinants of health. CHI is one of the eight HERO locations across the state.

NMDOH has funded CHI to expand their academic detailing program state-wide this year. The program brings cutting-edge research, in this case on opioid prescribing, directly to health professionals saving them time, increasing access to alternative pain management strategies, and positive patient outcomes.

Baca said of CHI’s efforts, “We can have a huge impact on health outcomes in this innovative way of addressing substance use disorder and reducing opioid use by providing evidence based best practices directly to healthcare providers.”

Baca is committed to contributing to the board’s stewardship of CHI and expects it “will continue to innovate and find better ways of creating solutions leading to better health outcomes across New Mexico, but especially in rural parts of the state, which is one of our greatest attributes, but also can be one of the most challenging, when it comes to things like accessing healthcare.”

Baca has played a key role in advancing equity issues, he previously facilitated cultural competency courses for medical school students at the UNM School of Medicine and developed a course on Advancing Health Equity for the university’s Master of Public Health program.

New board member Kutinac plans to lend his expertise of community health and health care to the CHI board.

John E. Kutinac

Currently employed as the NMDOH Southwest Region Health Promotion Program Manager where he leads a team of Health Promotion Specialists in the region, and he is also supply coordinator the pandemic response for the region.

Speaking while transporting supplies for the COVID-19 response, Kutinac looks forward to addressing the social determinates of health to “create a stronger New Mexico with health and wellness for all.”

“As the public health institute, CHI has their finger on the pulse of New Mexico on health and health policy,” Kutinac said of why he chose to join the board.

Kutinac has served for over a decade on the CHI advisory board for the New Mexico Southern Area Health Education Center, which covers the state’s 13 southern counties with health care continuing education and opportunities for professionals and community members.

Previously, Kutinac worked with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces on their medical residency program and has seen the need to further develop medical residency programs to fill the health care gap which daily impacts the lives of resident, much less during a pandemic. 

“We have to look at the structures in place that support health. Older patients in Grant county are a prime example of the difficulties rural seniors face. To access specialty health care, they need to travel to Las Cruces or Albuquerque, or El Paso, Texas, then the question becomes how are you going to get there and the cost associated with it,” said Kutinac of the larger systemic issues of rural health care access with which the state grapples.

Kutinac sums up the issue, “It’s not just let’s get them [rural seniors] health care, but it’s a matter of how and from a physician standpoint recruiting more isn’t always the option, and professionals have to buy-in to living in a rural area.”

Retaining physicians in rural communities can be a problem, but studies have shown rural residents who pursue a medical degree tend to return to the rural areas to practice their profession. CHI has worked diligently to promote health professions to rural students and guide them through the ins-and-outs of the process of seeking medical degrees.

“Growing our own health care professionals makes sense and I’m so excited to be part of those efforts,” said Kutinac. “We can build collaboration, and I hope to bring that big picture to the board.”

Kutinac added, “New Mexico might not have all the money in the world, but we have a whole lot of committed people to do great things!”

For more information contact Wilger at (575) 597-0039 or or visit: