Koch Family honored
Amy, Jamie and Nene Koch with UNM Hospital CEO Steve McKernan during a ceremony to honor the Koch Family. (Photo courtesy of the Koch family.)

The UNM Board of Regents voted Thursday, May 11, to honor former UNM Regent Jamie Koch and rename the UNM Hospital’s successful Project SEARCH program the Nene and Jamie Koch Project SEARCH Training Program at UNM Hospital.

While serving as a UNM Regent in 2013, Koch recommended the hospital create its own program after his daughter Amy completed a similar program in Texas.

“UNM Hospital employees and patients have both benefitted from this program. These interns have become great assets to our hospital and other businesses and organizations throughout Albuquerque,” said UNM Hospital CEO Steve McKernan.

In collaboration with APS, the Project SEARCH (which stands for “Special Education as Requirements in Charter Schools”) program accepts students with developmental disabilities who work as unpaid interns at the hospital in a variety of positions, including rehab services, the mailroom, food service and human resources, said UNM Hospital’s Recruiting Manager Phil Pelleriti.

The hospital and other local employers then hire the graduates when they successfully complete their training, he said.

UNM Hospital modeled its program after one that began at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. Since then, more than 300 programs have been created worldwide, said Pelleriti.

“Our trainees have shown they can complete jobs that involve complicated tasks,” he said.

At UNM, more than 30 people have graduated from the program since its beginning. It has been so successful that other local businesses and organizations are starting their own training programs, said Pelleriti.

The Koch family was also honored Tuesday night during the Spring 2017 UNM Hospital Project SEARCH Training Program graduation ceremony.