UNM eyes med school expansion amid lack of space

June 28, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is seeking funding to expand its medical school to battle the university’s well-documented lack of space.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( that school officials are seeking a $30 million expansion and will ask lawmakers for more funding next year. The university also is hoping to procure a private donor and get voters to approve bonds.

“(Students) are jammed in there like sardines — shoulder to shoulder, book bag to book bag. . Every single seat is filled,” Health Sciences Center chief information officer Holly Shipp Buchanan said. “So if you can imagine being in that type of environment, sitting for [auth] four hours in that class, it is not a conducive learning environment. And it’s definitely not in keeping with classrooms (at other universities).”

Buchanan, who also chairs an HSC committee on medical education, said UNM for years has been planning to expand its medical, nursing and pharmacy schools. It already has purchased a simulation center and new human anatomy lab, which have replaced classroom space.

In addition, Buchanan said New Mexico’s shortage of doctors and medical personnel is extreme, especially in rural areas.

UNM plans to increase its medical school class size by 50 percent by 2018 to meet demands.

It now has more than 1,800 students in all of its medical programs, including nursing, occupational therapy and other specialties.

One way the school is adding professionals in the state is through its combined BA/MD program, which puts high school students on track to a bachelor’s degree program that prepares them for medical school. If students succeed in the bachelor’s program, they go straight to UNM’s school of medicine. The idea is to train home-grown doctors to work in places where they’re most needed.

Last year, the first of that BA/MD class entered the medical school, increasing the school’s entering class size from about 75 to about 100 students for the first time, Buchanan said. There are about 330 students in the medical school alone.

The proposed $29.7 million building would connect to the Domenici Center and be built on the parking lot west of it.

A vote to use bonds would mark the second time UNM has tried to secure funding for its medical wing through bonds, HSC spokesman Billy Sparks said. The general obligation bond failed to pass in 2010 by 800 votes, stalling several key projects, he said.

If money does come through, UNM could start construction in 2014, with the new building ready for use by spring 2016. The proposed 85,000-square-foot building would complete HSC’s education complex.

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