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Home » Uncategorized » Local doctors educate future physicians

Local doctors educate future physicians

UNM’s Dr. James McKinnell held weekly discussions with UNM BA/MD students Mya Grimes, and Mikaela Bayardo which included meeting with New Mexico Representative Rudy Martinez who visited on health policy issues. BA/MD student Aaron Sellers sits next to Charlie Alfero, CEO of Center for Health Innovation, who discussed rural health care issues.

Friday, June 28, 2019; Silver City, NM: Simply stated New Mexico needs more doctors. The state has the oldest doctors’ population in the nation, with over one-third of practicing physicians over the age of 65, according to a Merritt Hawkins’ physician surveys. Also, New Mexico ranks ninth in the nation for doctor shortages in this year’s Senior List report that focuses on future doctor shortfalls by state.

However southwest New Mexico doctors are working to address this shortage, partnering with the University of New Mexico (UNM), to “grow our own” by offering opportunities for today’s college students to be mentored into tomorrow’s physicians.

This past month, three pre-medical students from UNM lived, learned and immersed themselves in rural life in Grant County as part of their BA/MD program sponsored by UNM and supported by Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC) and Frontier and Rural Workforce Development New Mexico (FORWARD NM) Area Health Education Center, a program of the Center for Health Innovation.

“We learned the deeper meaning behind becoming a physician, and the importance of being community advocates,” said Mya Grimes, a Clovis native who spent June in Silver City as part of a summer rural internship required by UNM’s BA/MD program. The program accepts 28 students a year, with 20 spots specifically reserved for rural New Mexicans offering a full scholarship for their undergraduate studies and a coveted spot at the prestigious UNM School of Medicine upon their completion of the program. In return, the students commit to practicing medicine in rural New Mexico once they earned their medical degree.

Grimes along with her fellow UNM juniors, Mikaela Bayardo and Aaron Sellers, shadowed physicians, lent a hand at HMS’ Jump Into Summer and served as peer-to-peer mentors for 33 high school students at the Teen Academy for Health Sciences hosted at Western New Mexico University (WNMU)

In between all that, they found time to play tourists with a visit to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and attend community events like the Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo and Fiesta Latina.

The program couldn’t offer this experience to UNM students without the participation of local physicians who offer their time as mentors to the college students.

“They see a little of everything and the cases that come into a rural clinic,” said Dr. Pedro Armendariz, MD, who recently completed his medical residency at HMS, “from the simple day-to-day visits to complex cases that need to be referred to specialists.”

“We show them the good, the bad and the ugly of family medicine,” said Dr. Susan Bauer, DO, a physician at HMS who also recently completed her medical residency.

Raised in the military, UNM pre-med student Sellers was surprised by the long-term connection physicians had with many of their patients, “On military bases I saw a different pediatrician at every doctor’s visit. Dr. Etheridge has adult patients he has seen since they were five years old.”

“We teach them the HMS way, the rural way, of advocating for our patients,” said Dr. Darrick Nelson, MD, HMS Chief Medical Officer and Family Medicine Residency Program Director.

According to Dr. Nelson, “HMS was intentionally designed as an education facility.” Located on Pope Street, HMS’ Silver City Community Health Center has served as a site for over 408 individual medical rotations offering a total of 160 weeks of education since opening its doors.

Sellers said he learned more than medical information during the program, “We saw the importance of doctors in their community, like Dr. Brian Etheridge who exemplifies the role of a physician by serving on the New Mexico Pediatric Society to support legislation to help children, and sees all his patients receive books from Imagination Library of Grant County.”

Hailing from Abiquiu, NM, UNM pre-med student Bayardo said after her experience in Silver City she plans “to play a more active role in the community when I return home.”

The pre-med students also shadowed GRMC’s cardiologist Dr. Norman Ratliff III.

These rural medical training opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the investment by local medical providers serving as faculty to provide an innovating pipeline which educates the next generation of physicians.

“Our goal is to train the providers of the future and entice them to work in rural New Mexico,” said Dr. Helene B. Silverblatt, MD, UNM Executive Director of Area Health Education Center

The program has proven successful. UNM pre-med student Sellers had never visited the southwest corner of the state but he said, “It’s so beautiful here, the kind of place you could raise a family.”

Those are the sentiments that have local doctors invest their time to hear from the students.

For more information on medical rotations and shadowing programs available contact Salgado at (575) 597-0030 or email: