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Home » Uncategorized » UNM Pre-med students guide Academy to success

UNM Pre-med students guide Academy to success

(From left to right) New Mexico Representative Rudy Martinez had a round table discussion on health policy and processes with UNM BA/MD students Mary Trynee-Canete, Arlin Bustillos, Hyesun Choi, and UNM’s Dr. James McKinnell.

Friday, August 10, 2018; Silver City, NMWho better to teach southwest teens about the ins-and-outs of pursuing a career in health care than college students immersed in one of the nation’s premiere family medicine program?

Three pre-medical students from University of New Mexico (UNM) offered their insights and expertise to the participants at the Teen Academy for Health Sciences, a summer academy offered by Frontier and Rural Workforce Development New Mexico (FORWARD NM) and Western New Mexico University (WNMU).

“We helped the Academy students with college preparation and career exploration, “said Arlin Bustillos, one of the three UNM pre-med students who also offered Academy students one-on-one time and mentoring.

“It was beneficial for us, because two years ago we were in the same boat as these students are, taking our ACT [American College Testing] and deciding where to apply for college,” added Bustillos, a resident of Estancia, a community about one-tenth the size of Silver City.

The UNM’s combined BA/MD degree program is designed to help address the state’s physician shortage by assembling a class of diverse students who are committed to serving New Mexico communities, according to their website. Participating students are guaranteed a coveted spot in the UNM School of Medicine, one of the nation’s top family medicine programs, once they complete their undergraduate degree and eligibility requirements.

“The BA/MD program takes 28 students a year, with 20 spots specifically reserved for rural New Mexicans,” said Mary-Trynee Cañete, another of the UNM pre-med students from Gallup. “All the students are committed to practicing medicine in rural New Mexico.”

“It was a refreshing experience for me,” said Hyesun Choi, another of the pre-med students from Albuquerque but originally from Korea. “Two years ago, becoming a doctor felt so out-of-reach for me, this mentorship reminded me of what I had accomplished, so I could offer the students guidance and hopefully, make the transition from high school to college easier for them.”

“It was a wonderful teaching experience at the Academy,” said Cañete. “We benefited and so did the high school academy students.”

The Academy students showed a mark increase in their ACT scores, with an average gain of 25 percent, and a better understanding of their college and professional interest thanks to the mentoring of the UNM pre-med students.

By the end of the Academy, 94 percent of the students had an idea of what profession they would like to pursue. Better yet, 88 percent of the Academy students reported knowing about scholarships and how to apply to make achieving their college dreams possible after interacting with the UNM students. The scores doubled from the initial survey given to students at the beginning of the three-week academy.

Part of the BA/MD program includes touring New Mexico in the summer to lend a hand with community enrichment activities in rural areas. “We have classmates in Roswell, Hobbs, Farmington and Las Cruces this summer,” said Bustillos.

FORWARD NM helped coordinate the pre-med students scheduled, including securing housing, scheduling shadowing with a variety of health care professionals and visiting with local officials.

“I’ve shadowed physicians in Albuquerque,” said Choi. “At the UNM hospital, the physicians see countless patients, usually new patients. Here I shadowed a rural family practitioner, Dr. Virginia Hernandez, and she has a great rapport with her patients, checking in with previous suggestions and knowing their families.”

The pre-med students shadowed Hidalgo Medical Services’ Dr. Virginia Hernandez, MD, and Dr. Susan Bauer, DO, and Gila Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Nathan Williams, an anesthesiologist.

“Shadowing is very important for students,” said Dr. Hernandez. “It gives them first-hand knowledge of what they will experience practicing in a rural community with the health disparities, access to care and social determinates of health.”

Dr. Hernandez added, “Teaching these students is my chance to pay it forward with the help I received during medical school. The reason I’m here is there is such a need in rural communities for family physicians. New Mexico is one of the top five states that is in dire need of rural physicians. I tell the students to remember where you came from and answer the need in your community.”

“I tell my patients to be proud of our community that prepares future doctors,” said Dr. Hernandez.

The UNM pre-med students also lent a hand at HMS’ Jump into Summer and participated weekly round table discussions with health professionals and local community leaders. They attended community events including the Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo, twice, and WNMU’s Fiesta Latina.

“Silver City was a very different place than Albuquerque, the people feel closer together here,” said Choi. “Everyone was so friendly and kind to us, and the Town’s hiking trails are very nice.”

For more information on the UNM BA/MD program visit: For more information on FORWARD NM contact Salgado at (575) 597-0030 or email: