A University of New Mexico physician who created an international movement to improve health care in rural and underserved communities will receive the 2016 UNM Presidential Award of Distinction.
UNM President Robert G. Frank, PhD, will honor Sanjeev Arora, MD, during the university's May 14 commencement ceremony at WisePies Arena aka The Pit. Arora, a Distinguished Professor at the UNM School of Medicine, is the director and founder of Project ECHO, an innovative telementoring model that gives rural health care providers access to specialists via video conferencing technology.
“Dr. Arora is a true visionary, one who dares to dream of how things could be – and he has the rare combination of skill and determination needed to make these dreams into reality,” Frank said. “His contributions to the health care industry, especially the creation of Project ECHO, continue to shape global standards in the medical community.”
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is different from traditional telemedicine models in which specialists provide direct care or consultation to patients via video conferencing. Under the ECHO model, specialists at a large medical center consult with primary care providers in rural or underserved communities on how best to treat complex conditions. This mentoring and training – through teleECHO video conferencing clinics – expands access to care, and research has shown that it is improving care.
Arora, a liver specialist, developed the program in 2003 to help family doctors, nurse practitioners and other primary care providers better treat hepatitis C patients who lived in rural New Mexico and could not easily travel to Albuquerque to meet with a specialist. The model has since expanded to many medical specialties and has been replicated all over the world, including at other academic health centers, the Veterans Administration and U.S. Department of Defense.
Arora is the seventh awardee of the Presidential Award of Distinction, established by Frank in 2013 to recognize outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service or humanitarian endeavor. It is commemorated with a bronze medallion displaying the UNM Presidential Seal on one side and a howling lobo on the other.