New medical school accepts first students
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) in Las Cruces has accepted its first students.
BCOM, which began construction in late April at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Research Park, has already received more than 2,500 applications from throughout the United States and other countries for the 162 slots available, BCOM Founding Dean Dr. George Mychaskiw, said.
The medical school is scheduled to open in August 2016.
There are “four, good, well-qualified candidates” for every available seat in a medical school nationwide, he said.
Each week, Mychaskiw and his staff are interviewing 36 applicants for entry into the school.
“We’re very selective about who we look at,” Mychaskiw said. The school wants to have a student body that “reflects the diversity of our community.”
BCOM, he said, is the only medical school in the United States with a bilingual mission statement. That mission statement was important to Valencia Rogan, 24, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who was interviewed for a BCOM slot Aug. 14. Rogan, who wants to specialize in primary care or internal medicine, said she would benefit from the school’s diversity.
Imelda Mahmuta, 23, of Cleveland, Ohio, said the school’s mission statement also reflects “what I want to do in medicine.”
She has a background in Spanish and was glad to see that BCOM offers its curriculum in that language. She wants to study primary care.
Mohammad Memon, 23, of Chicago said BCOM will offer a “great choice of programs.” Memon, who also has a background in Spanish, said he wants to study internal medicine or cardiology, and plans to use his medical degree to “give back” to his community.
BreAnna Houss, 24, of Iowa City, Iowa, said she is interested in BCOM because of its location in a region “that really needs healthcare providers.” She wants to practice in a rural community, and is looking at pediatrics, neo-natal care or gynecology as possible career options.
Mahmuta, Memon and Houss have interviewed at the school.
Good grades are a factor in selecting students for the school, Mychaskiw said, but maturity and motivation are also important. The school wants to graduate students who view “medicine as a privilege and a tool for social justice,” he said.
The staff will be satisfied if graduates become family doctors in a colonia Southwest or surgeons in New York City – “as long as they keep that sense of social responsibility,” he said. The hope is that many will stay in New Mexico, Mychaskiw said. “We want doctors who will be working here in Las Cruces 30 years from now.”
‘All under one roof’
BCOM is “going to be the most contemporaneous medical school in the country,” Mychaskiw said, as it puts cutting edge technology and an outstanding staff and faculty “all under one roof.”
Mychaskiw said Paul Umbach of Tripp Umbach, a nationally recognized medical consulting firm, “could not believe the financial structure and community support” that BCOM already has in place.
BCOM is a unique public- private partnership among its chief investor, Santa Fe entrepreneur Dan Burrell; NMSU; the state; the medical community throughout the region; and the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.
“BCOM has developed a clinical education network with hospitals, medical centers, federally qualified health centers as well as well hundreds of physicians (to serve as clinical faculty) in Las Cruces, El Paso, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua,” according to BCOM’s website, http:// bcomnm.org/. “This network will support a comprehensive selection of generalist and specialty clinical clerkship experiences for third and fourth year medical students as well as providing the basic infrastructure for our OPTI (Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institution) and graduate medical education development.”
The school will provide residency programs in family and internal medicine, psychiatry, anesthesiology, orology, surgery, emergency medicine, OB/GYN, OMM (osteopathic manipulative medicine) and sports medicine, with other disciplines in development, according to the website.
Construction of the 80,000-square foot school is “ahead of schedule,” Mychaskiw said. Staff will begin occupancy next May, furniture will arrive in June and the school will be ready to open for the fall term in August 2016.
The $32 million stateof- the-art facility will feature a fully equipped library, an anatomy lab and seven simulation rooms that include very high-tech mannequins. BCOM Director of Simulation Samuel Gutierrez said the mannequins can breathe, sweat, drool and even bleed; and they can speak – English and other languages.
The school also will also have training clinics and will include local actors portraying patients with a wide range of symptoms and conditions – and sometimes speaking languages other than English – to help students learn how to become good doctors and to be culturally sensitive, Mychaskiw said.
“It’s a smarter way to learn,” he said. And that’s key for Mychaskiw and his entire staff: focusing on “how people learn best” and what makes them the best doctors.
‘A great place to be’
Justin McHorse, assistant dean of multicultural affairs, marketing and communications and a native of Taos Pueblo, said BCOM’s mission is “aligned with our cultural values.” Being a part of the school, he said, “does allow me to give back.”
Robert Ketchum, PhD, BCOM’s associate dean for academic affairs and pre-clinical education and professor of biomedical sciences, was BCOM’s first employee. He moved to Las Cruces from Denver to accept the position. “I was just amazed when I read the documentation,” he said. It’s the “best thing I’ve seen (for) a startup operation. It’s a great place to be.”
Other staff include Michael Morehead, EdD, recently retired NMSU dean of the College of Education, who is BCOM’s associate dean for Administration, Learning, Evaluation and Outcomes; and Dr. Oliver W. Hayes, associate dean for Clinical Affairs, a nationally known authority on the clinical education of medical students and residents. He came to BCOM from the Genesys Healthcare System in Grand Blanc, MI. Las Cruces Adrian Alba is admissions director. Dan Burrell is BCOM executive chairman. Las Cruces real estate broker John Hummer is executive director and CEO. Directors include Jaime Aguirre, Chet Burrell and John Jetter. The board of trustees also includes NMSU President and former governor Garrey Carruthers; Angela Throneberry, NMSU’s senior vice president for Administration and Finance; John Cruickshank, CEO of Lovelace Medical Group; John Harris, CEO of Memorial Medical Center; Suzan Martinez de Gonzales, CEO of La Clinica de Familia in Las Cruces; Las Cruces Dr. William T. Baker, who is NMSU athletics team physician; Denton Park, CEO of MountainView Regional Medical Center; and BCOM’s Mychaskiw.
“We’re putting together a really good team,” said Ketchum. See a full list of faculty and advisors at http://bcomnm.org/aboutbcom/ the-team/.
To thrive, a community needs education, health care and economic development, said Mychaskiw. BCOM will provide all three. It will generate an estimated $80 million a year for Las Cruces and $120 million for the region, and will create 350 new jobs, Mychaskiw said. And, each BCOM graduate who practices medicine in New Mexico will generate about $1.2 million and nine new jobs, he said.
At BCOM’s April 27 foundation-pouring ceremony, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said the school will help address a health care shortage in 32 of the state’s 33 counties. She called the school “a milestone for Doña Ana County. It’s important to have a facility like this. As our health care system continues to change, our demand for health care professionals will only continue to grow.”