UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center
UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center is a 72-bed community hospital in Rio Rancho, N.M.
Credit: John Arnold

The Rio Rancho City Council has approved a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the UNM Health Sciences Center (HSC) to expand health education programs at the University of New Mexico's West Campus.

“We believe this will be a key development for educating and retaining health professionals in the state,” said Jamie Silva-Steele, president and CEO of UNM Sandoval Regional County Medical Center (SRMC). The 72-bed community hospital is adjacent to UNM West, located at 2600 College Blvd NE in Rio Rancho.

With the 4-2 vote on Wednesday, the city agrees to be jointly responsible for providing $20 million to fund the expansion, including a new health education facility. Rio Rancho will provide $10 million through a Higher Education Gross Receipts Tax and the HSC is seeking legislative approval for $10 million in general obligation bonds to match Rio Rancho’s contribution. 

The MOU also provides for the HSC to assume full financial and operational responsibility for the existing UNM HSC West campus, as well as the proposed health education building to house classrooms, laboratories, clinical space and faculty offices.

Silva-Steele told city councilors that the HSC's plans call for a full range of UNM Health Sciences Center baccalaureate and advanced degree programs to be offered at UNM West, with the SRMC serving as a clinical setting for students.   

Initial Programs will include pre-pharmacy, medical lab sciences, nursing and emergency medical services. Future programs will include courses in population health, health informatics, occupational therapy and physical therapy, Silva-Steele said.

Earlier this week, Paul B. Roth, MD, UNM chancellor for health sciences, briefed members of the state Legislative Finance Committee on the importance of a UNM West campus devoted to health education. 

“We are proposing we dedicate the majority of teaching efforts on that campus to be in support of the health care workforce,” Roth said.

The HSC is also working with other community and county partnerships to identify and initiate educational programs that will be most relevant to the area, according to Silva-Steele.