A Bachelor of Arts to Doctor of Medicine student A Bachelor of Arts to Doctor of Medicine student

UNM's Combined BA/MD Program Grows Native New Mexican Doctors

Program aims to get more physicians practicing in rural and underserved areas of New Mexico.

How does one plant a successful garden? Start with native seeds grown in native soils – such seeds are acclimated to the environment and have been proven compatible. Increase opportunities for success by adding essential nutrients. Pay careful attention to surrounding conditions and make necessary adjustments, and watch things blossom.

UNM's Bachelor of Arts to Doctor of Medicine, or BA/MD, program recruits talented high school seniors native to New Mexico from across the state who show proclivity and passion for health sciences. Each "homegrown" class enters the UNM College of Arts & Sciences and works through the program's distinct undergraduate curriculum, supported by scholarships and financial aid programs, specialized advising and tutoring, faculty and community mentoring and other student services.

This innovative approach to growing native New Mexican physicians guides a diverse group of 28 high school seniors annually from throughout the state into a progressive undergraduate curriculum at UNM. Those BA/MD students who are in academic compliance through UNM undergraduate school, according to specific standards, earn a reserved seat in UNM's nationally ranked School of Medicine (SOM). There, students intent on practicing in the state embark on a medical school curriculum and training focused on the healthcare needs of New Mexicans specifically.

Admission to the SOM BA/MD Program is based on an applicant's history of New Mexico community involvement and volunteerism, academic excellence, honors and awards, letter of recommendation and more. There are 28 spots awarded each year; and after four years, the program has shepherded more than 100 students from smaller communities in the state, like Bloomfield, Clayton, Tohatchi, Las Vegas and others.

The program enjoys a more diverse, robust applicant pool each year, including 140 high school seniors from across New Mexico for the 2010-2011 incoming BA/MD class. Of the 170 students admitted to the program since 2006, approximately one-third is from the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area, including Rio Rancho and Corrales. The remaining two-thirds of BA/MD students have come from rural towns and cities across the state.

"The very things that attract people to New Mexico, our rural nature and cultural diversity, challenge us to provide adequate medical care in the far reaches if the state," remarks Paul Roth, M.D., UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences and School of Medicine Dean. "With generous support from the State Legislature, the BA/MD Program will continue to support aspiring physicians in underserved areas to pursue an exceptional education an UNM and return to their communities to practice medicine."

"We need to recognize and nurture the real academic talent in our small towns, while developing practicing physicians in underserved areas of New Mexico," adds Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott, the Health Sciences Center's Vice Chancellor for Diversity, and SOM BA/MD Executive Director. "The BA/MD combined degree program creates unprecedented opportunities for high school seniors in our state to pursue a medical degree with tremendous academic and social support throughout the process."

Developed in 2005, the program provides a homegrown approach to delivering outstanding physicians to underserved areas of the state. "Ideally, our BA/MD students better understand and appreciate local cultures, empathize with regional health issues, and have extended family nearby," Romero-Leggott explains. "It's critical to our state's health needs that we support diverse, aspiring physicians in underserved areas to pursue an exceptional education at UNM and return to their communities to practice medicine."

For more information on UNM's BA/MD combined-degree program, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/som/combinedbamd/ or call 1-877-977-BAMD(2263). In Albuquerque, call (505) 925-4500.

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