WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $1,999,587 to New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the University of New Mexico (UNM) for advanced medical training scholarships for low-income students who will serve medically underserved communities. The funds represent the first of a five-year grant to the universities to support nearly $10 million in scholarships for students to serve disadvantaged communities.
The scholarships will support the recruitment and retention of low-income students in advanced medical degree programs at NMSU and UNM. Supported programs include NMSU’s Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program and the UNM School of Medicine’s Occupational Therapy M.A. program. Each grant will also support the placement of program graduates in medically underserved communities to increase access to mental health services. While they do not cover the entire cost of attendance, these scholarships will help low-income students reduce their student loan debt.
The grant funding will help address critical health needs throughout the state. As of 2019, 32 of the 33 counties in New Mexico have a health professional shortage area (HPSA) in mental health. Additionally, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that New Mexico had 85 total mental health care HPSA areas across the state - New Mexico needs estimated 79 additional practitioners to work in those areas to meet the existing need.
“New Mexico’s medical and graduate students are the future of our state and the nation. As we have seen play out repeatedly, rural, Tribal and other underserved communities are often the last to receive necessary health care resources. This persistent pattern of disparity is unacceptable,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The grant received today is one step, of many, needed to bridge the health care divide between communities. Graduate students pushing the boundaries of science and medicine in the classroom will now have the opportunity to give back and reform the healthcare system in their own neighborhoods. As we continue to grapple with physical and mental health challenges during this pandemics, I will continue to use my platform as a member of the Appropriations Committee to fund these crucial programs.”
“We must do everything we can to support low-income students as they continue to pursue their education, especially in the wake of current, unprecedented public health challenges,” said Heinrich. “This investment will help NMSU and UNM recruit the best and brightest from all walks of life and ensure these individuals are equipped to provide critical health care services to underserved communities. I will keep doing everything in my power to fight for the funding and resources to support New Mexico’s institutions of higher learning as they continue to teach and prepare our next generation of health care professionals.”
“New Mexico’s students are our future, and we must ensure that students have ample educational opportunities here at home. I’m proud to announce nearly $2 million in federal funding for scholarships that will support rural and underserved students in achieving their educational goals. By completing their training in medically underserved areas of our state, these students will provide vital services to communities. They are also more likely to stay in these communities and continue to serve once they become medical practitioners. I remain committed to fighting for affordable higher education for New Mexicans to prepare the next generation of student leaders who will make our communities stronger,” said Luján.
“Students and young people in New Mexico are the doctors, nurses, and healers of tomorrow, but the cost of medical school is a barrier that keeps students from pursuing those careers and staying in New Mexico to serve their communities. What we’ve learned from this pandemic is that those who keep our families healthy are not only essential, but they make sacrifices for people they don’t even know – it’s selfless. As someone who is still paying my student loans, I know these federal scholarship grants will open the doors of opportunity for students to pursue careers in the medical field. Plus, we can also help address the shortage of health care providers in our state,” said Haaland.
“No matter where you live, New Mexicans should be able to get high-quality health care close to home. However, we face a shortage of physicians, especially in our rural communities. That’s why I’m committed to increasing the number of residency positions in rural areas, making smart investments in telemedicine, and ensuring our hospitals have the federal resources they need to keep their doors open. This grant takes important steps to address the urban-rural divide in health care by supporting critical programs at NMSU and UNM that will expand opportunities for future doctors to serve rural communities and make New Mexico their home. We must continue to work towards innovative solutions that ensure no rural community is left behind,” said Torres Small.
More information on the scholarships is below:
- NMSU - The scholarships will support the enrollment of six students in NMSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling M.A. program and the enrollment of 15 disadvantaged students in NMSU’s Counseling Psychology Program (CPP) per year of the grant’s duration. The CPP students will conduct doctoral training in HRSA-designated Medically Underserved Areas in southern New Mexico. The programs aim to place 40 percent of graduates in medically underserved communities to increase access to mental health services.
- UNM - The scholarship funds will support 80 low-income students annually for a Masters’ degree in Occupational Therapy at UNM, covering just over half the annual cost of tuition. This grant will increase the UNM School of Medicine’s scholarship pool by over 35 percent and increase funds available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds by nearly 43 percent. Occupational therapists provide therapy for those lacking in independent completion of their daily activities; from getting dressed to returning to work after an injury. There is a need for more practitioners to directly serve the rural communities in New Mexico. Additionally, these opportunities will further diversify the cultural representation of occupational therapists to more accurately reflect demographics represented by the State of New Mexico.