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Home » Uncategorized » New director charts future at mapping program

New director charts future at mapping program

Emily McRae, PMS, has been appointed as the Director of of Information and Special Projects at the Center for Health Innovation.

Friday, December 17, 2022; Silver City, NM: A new director, Emily McRae is charting an exciting future for the New Mexico Community Data Collaborative (NMCDC) – a program that takes public health data and maps it online to make the complex statistics more accessible and understandable to the public.

NMCDC is program of the Center for Health Innovation (CHI) – a nonprofit that is New Mexico’s designated public health institute – which has named McRae as the Director of Information and Special Projects.

Though McRae has worked as a contractor and then a data specialist at NMCDC, she recently graduated from the University of West Florida with a professional science masters (PMS) degree in geographic information system (GIS) administration. GIS is used to create, manage, and analyze maps of all types of data.

McRae originally studied geology at South Florida University, and there was exposed to possibilities of GIS mapping with topography maps of geologic layers. Afterwards during a stint with AmeriCorp in Santa Fe, she aided in mapping childcare facilities in the region.

“We were using Google Maps – which was highly ineffective,” McRae recollected of the experience. “I heard of NMCDC, and its founder Tom Scharmen, so I emailed him for help. I expected Tom to send a spreadsheet with the data sets, instead he invited me to come down and we built the map together. Tom was my GIS mentor; I was very lucky to have his guidance.”

Previous department director Joan Goldsworthy Appel is now a clinical informaticist at SYNCRONYS, New Mexico’s designated statewide health information exchange.

McRae hopes to expand the maps offered by NMCDC to include more infrastructure, economic variables, and housing – including the unhoused. “I want to bring the stories we know as a community but haven’t shared – bring a human aspect to mapping,”

She also is focusing on mapping the social determinants of health, the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Controls, social determinates of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.

She is also delving into how to make the NMCDC website, which includes over 2,000 maps, more accessible to the public. “For example, some of our maps are in color scales that are hard to see if you are colorblind. It’s super easy to pick different colors and make them easier to read,” McRae said.

McRae hopes to show people that maps can be applicable in their daily lives. Recently NMCDC partnered with the U.S. National Weather Service to create an up-to-date forecast map for snowfall in the state. “CHI is working with climate change and its impact on health factors, so we are implementing dashboards and tracking maps for the public.” The map is available at

“We are delighted to have Emily overseeing the NMCDC program,” said Dr. Stacey Cox, CHI’s Chief Executive Officer. “As anyone who has worked with Emily knows, her interest and knowledge in data is wide and vast and her dedication to community is powerful. Her experience with GIS adds a level of sophistication and clarity that supports communities in making better decisions.”

“I see a good future for the maps we can build at NMCDC, and I’m really excited,” McRae said of her new position.

For more information contact NMCDC at (575) 597-0023 or or visit: