UNM medical program keeps doctors in New Mexico

Posted at: 05/09/2014 6:50 PM
By: Jorge Torres, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico has dealt with a shortage of doctors and health care professionals for years.

The UNM School of Medicine saw the need, and eight years ago, it started a program to keep soon-to-be doctors in the state.

Today was the program's first graduation ceremony. Family and friends gathered to celebrate the achievements of more than 80 students who can now be called doctors.

Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott, the Vice Chancellor for Diversity at the UNM Health Sciences Center, says that they're looking to address the physician shortage needs here in New Mexico.

"We're going to do that by admitting a diverse class of students from across the state who are committed to serving the under-served areas of New Mexico," she said.

Under-served is an understatement. Almost every single county in the state has a health profession shortage. The only one that doesn't is Los Alamos County.

This is why UNM started the "Bachelor-of-Arts-to-Medical-Degree" program.

This is so that home-grown students like Renee Honeyfield from Gallup can be trained to focus specifically on the healthcare needs of New Mexicans.

"I definitely understand the physician shortage in New Mexico and the need for physicians here. It's always been one of my goals since I started medical school to come back and serve New Mexico," Dr. Honeyfield said.

She is one of eight graduating this year with the program that's graduated 10 so far. The students are all from the Land of Enchantment, including Ariel Scott.

"There's the statistic where you do residency is probably where you're going to end up staying so i'm just really excited to have this opportunity. I can't wait to work with the people of New Mexico and just give them my best," Dr. Scott said.

Congratulations, graduates! You're on your way to helping New Mexico become a better and healthier state.