Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Torres Small Announce $1.5 Million For Rural Residency Development Programs

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) announced that the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will award approximately $1.5 million to Otero County Hospital Association located in Alamogordo, N.M. and Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services, Inc. located in Gallup, N.M. through the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program (RRPD). Both organizations will individually receive up to $750,000 over a three-year period to develop new rural residency programs while achieving accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The organizations were selected as part of only 27 total nationwide.

“All Americans, including over 685,000 New Mexicans who live in rural areas, deserve access to quality healthcare,” said Udall. “This funding is an important step toward expanding the rural physician workforce, which is desperately needed in New Mexico. Additional rural residencies are critical to growing and keeping rural physicians to ensure our more remote and underserved communities have access to the healthcare they need and aren’t forced to travel to urban centers for non-emergency treatment.”    

“When I visit rural communities across our state, I hear from many New Mexicans who tell me how access to health care at their local clinic or hospital has helped their families, and in some cases even saved their lives. These rural health providers face unique challenges delivering care in remote areas with less resources. In many cases, challenges are exacerbated by the struggle to attract physicians and medical professionals in the first place. These new residencies are a critical step in recruiting and retaining a new generation of doctors to serve our rural communities. I’m proud to support this effort to ensure all of our communities have access to lifesaving medical care,” said Heinrich.

“Health care should be a right for all – not a privilege for the wealthy few. It is unacceptable that rural New Mexicans are forced to drive hours just to see a physician. This critical funding will help retain physicians in rural communities and ensure that New Mexicans have reliable access to health care in their own communities,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. “This is important progress, and I’ll continue fighting to address rural health care disparities.”

“Rural New Mexicans need improved access to quality, affordable healthcare in their own communities. Every day I’m working so no person has to travel all night or across state lines to receive the quality health care access they need. The expansion of rural residency programs helps meet that mission. These programs have a proven track record of success and are shown to significantly increase health care access for rural communities. This latest grant will enable the Otero County Hospital Association to train the next generation of rural primary care physicians and help expand access to quality care in the places that need it most,” said Torres Small.

“Our Board of Trustees has encouraged us to develop a primary care physician pipeline for rural hospitals for some time now.  We have been exploring various avenues to achieve such a pipeline for the past five years.  This HRSA grant will make it possible for us to start a Family Medicine Residency program for medical students from this region, thus addressing the chronic shortage of primary care physicians in rural areas.   We are grateful for the opportunity to embark on such a major initiative,” said David Conejo, CEO of Rehoboth Mckinley Christian Health Care Services, Inc.

“Gerald Champion Regional Medical received notice from the Department of Health and Human Services that we are the recipient of a $750,000, 3-year, Rural Residency Planning and Development Program Grant.  Like most rural hospitals, primary care recruiting is a significant challenge and with the looming shortage of primary care providers, it is only going to get worse.  Adding the fact, that the New Mexico average age of physician is 60, number one among all States, we needed to find different answers.  Beginning in 2017, we have been blessed with the support of our Federal and State legislators.  Of particular note, in just getting us started on this journey, was the guidance from Dr. Oliver Hayes, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education, Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, Charlie Alfero, Director at New Mexico Primary Care Training Consortium and Dr John Andazola, Program Director for the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency of Memorial Medical Center. We look forward to our journey with Memorial Hospital of Las Cruses in establishing a Rural Family Medicine Residency Program here in Alamogordo.  We are particularly thankful for Dr. Leandrita Ortega and Shawnette Alford who have been leading our Family Medicine Residency efforts at GCRMC to provide a stable source of primary care providers for Otero County for years to come,” said Jim Heckert, CEO of Otero County Hospital Association.

The full breakdown of HRSA’s grants is available below:

Otero County Hospital Association (Alamogordo) - $749,933.00

Rehoboth Mckinley Christian Health Care Services, Inc. (Gallup) - $750,000.00