More than 100 first-year UNM medical students are working in more than 30 communities throughout New Mexico, as part of a nationally recognized curriculum designed to give them real-world medical experience early on in their medical education. From Las Vegas to Las Cruces, the students are talking with patients, conducting physical examinations with their preceptors, and performing a community project designed to address specific community health care needs.

Through the UNM School of Medicine’s Practical Immersion Experience (PIE), medical students spend six weeks in primary care practices – predominantly family medicine practices, but also internal medicine practices and occasionally rural emergency rooms – to experience medical practice first-hand. Many of the practices are in rural and underserved communities.

“The PIE is a unique component of medical education here at UNM, teaching students about varying cultures, patient empathy and the general health care system, while having a significant impact on where students consider practicing once they’re out of school,” says Dr. Daniel L. Stulberg, professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine and PIE director. “They can quickly become attached to their patients and the communities in which they work. They also each participate in community projects like Project Heart Start, the Childhood Obesity Zip Code Project, the Vision Project, and other innovative programs benefit local citizens.”

The University of New Mexico’s program for rural medicine has enjoyed top-10 national rankings by U.S. News and World Report over several years, and ranked second in the U.S. in 2013 for the eighteenth consecutive year. UNM’s School of Medicine PIE Program is a six-week clinical experience at the end of the first year in medical school. During PIE, students work in rural communities caring for patients and evaluating their problems as a springboard for studying the sciences basic to medicine. Students also have the opportunity to view medicine from a community perspective and to experience the lifestyle of the community physician.

The UNM medical students are working in practices in Clovis, Española, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Taos, Rio Rancho, Hobbs, Pojoaque, Pecos, Carlsbad, Chaparral, Santa Rosa, Belen, Socorro, Bernalillo, Angel Fire, Isleta, Anthony, Aztec, Zuni, Estancia, Roswell, Hatch, Shiprock and Albuquerque.

For more information on UNM’s PIE Program, call 505-272-4590.