For the sixth consecutive year, the UNM School of Medicine's Rural Medicine program was ranked second in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Arthur Kaufman, M.D., chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, believes his department's growing reputation nationally and internationally in the training of health professionals for rural practice reflects a belief in the wisdom of New Mexico's rural communities in identifying their own priority health needs. "Most medical schools assume that rural communities need what they have an expertise in providing," he said. "At UNM, we've worked hard toward first, identifying, then changing our programs to address what is actually going on within the state."
Businesses will settle in - and the elderly will retire - to a small community if there is adequate health care access, he said. Studies have shown that each physician recruited to a rural community will employ 18 individuals directly and indirectly. Thus the department has worked hard to train physicians and other health professionals to serve in rural areas while providing a successful practice relief (locum tenens) program so that rural physicians can take time to continue their education, take long overdue vacations and fill in for emergency sick leave.
Studies have also shown that people who train in rural communities are much more likely to stay once their education is completed. All four of the professional training programs within the department (Family Practice residency, Medical Student program, Masters in Public Health program and Physician Assistant program) have a rural-orientation. In addition, the department has recruited more than 200 rural doctors and physician assistants who serve as community-based teachers for medical students, residents and physician assistants. With the help of state legislative funding, the department has been able to decentralize much of its Family Residency program to rural communities, including the establishment of three rurally based family practice residencies in Santa Fe, Roswell and Las Cruces.
The results have been impressive in the past five years, 50 percent of the Albuquerque program and 80 percent of the graduates of the rurally based programs have chosen to practice in rural New Mexico. "We've found that by listening to the community - and working to change in response to the state's needs, we have been able to develop stronger programs where everyone benefits. Our students are more satisfied with their education while the state's citizens in rural areas have better access to quality healthcare," said Kaufman.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322