Dr. Arthur Kaufman, a transformational figure in medical education and community health, has been named the UNM School of Medicine’s 2018 Living Legend – a designation created to recognize faculty members’ extraordinary contributions to the school and community.
Kaufman will be presented with the award Saturday evening, February 10, at a dinner at Hotel Albuquerque.
“I’m honored to be recognized,” says Kaufman, a Distinguished Professor of Family & Community Medicine and UNM’s Vice Chancellor for Community Health. “But important, lasting changes are rarely accomplished by any one individual.”
The New York City transplant was one of the founding members of Department of Family & Community Medicine in the mid-1970s. The young faculty members decided to place first-year medical students in medically underserved areas where, for four months, they experienced the real world of community health.
This curriculum merged problem-based learning with invaluable clinical experience, introducing students to different cultures and attitudes toward health while they provided supervised care in outlying communities. Medical schools across the country have embraced this model, and UNM’s Primary Care Curriculum and Rural Medicine program have long been ranked among the top in the country.
Kaufman considers this the first steps toward integrating public health and medicine in a frontier state.
He has also been a leading advocate for teaching medical students to address the social determinants of health – poverty, education, housing, health care access, clean air and water, social inclusion and the like.
That led Kaufman to create the HEROs (Health Extension Rural Offices) program, which connects UNM Health Sciences Center resources to towns and villages throughout New Mexico, moving the locus of control from campus to community.
HERO agents live in their communities, recruit the health workforce, address local health problems and introduce the latest research and health care practices. Kaufman adapted the model from the agricultural extension service system run by land grant universities, which places “ag agents” in every county in every state.
He has also worked to deploy community health workers into clinics, community agencies and managed care systems. Kaufman believes this has helped make New Mexico’s education and health care delivery system a more effective resource for patients, families and communities.
Like most Living Legends, Kaufman’s work will never be finished. “Change is slow, but we’re making progress,” he says. “In our model, we’re seeing downstream health problems significantly reduced.”