Mary Kay Papen is the President Pro Tem of the New Mexico State Senate and a Democrat that represents District 38. I am concerned that the overnight dissolution of the board of directors of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) by the University of New Mexico (UNM) board of regents could jeopardize the long-term viability of the HSC as a leading national academic medical center. The speed of this decision raises red flags and could affect the accreditation of both UNM and the HSC, since accrediting bodies require institutional autonomy to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and assure its integrity. The HSC is New Mexico’s only accredited academic medical center, one of 126 in the nation that combine teaching, clinical care and research. It includes: the state’s only school of medicine, five of whose departments rank among the top 40 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant-funded departments in the nation; colleges of nursing and pharmacy; a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center; and the Clinical and Translational Science Center, one of only 62 NIH-funded medical research institutions in a national consortium whose goal is to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients.
A sudden overhaul in governance of the state’s largest public medical institution has left several people questioning the motivations behind the changes and its aftermath. One such skeptic is Mel Eaves, a now-former community member of the board of directors that made recommendations on the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. HSC operates the university’s medical school, nursing school, two hospitals and the cancer center. This piece also appears in the March 23 edition of the ABQ Free Press. To Eaves, the motivation for the overhaul stems from other entities wanting a piece of HSC’s $220 million sitting in reserves, earmarked in part for the construction of a new hospital to replace the campus’s current adult hospital, which was built in the 1950s.
Terry Brunner is an Albuquerque resident and these views are his own There’s a disturbing trend going on in New Mexico of major public policy issues being pursued without adequate public input and evaluation. The recent decision by the University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents to bring control of the Health Sciences Center under their authority and the City of Albuquerque’s pursuit of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project are two recent examples. In both cases the public felt shortchanged. The UNM Regents rushed through a decision affecting UNM’s nationally-recognized health programs with one public hearing. A proposal of this magnitude was surely in the works for a while.
University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents will next week consider dissolving the board that governs its Health Sciences Center in what will likely be a contentious hearing. Update: On Monday, the Board of Regents voted 4-2 to proceed with the takeover. The story continues as originally written below. Currently, the Health Sciences Center (HSC), which includes University of New Mexico Hospital, the state’s largest hospital, is governed by a board of directors separate from the university’s Board of Regents. Previously, the Health Sciences Center was governed by a committee of the Board of Regents. The proposal also adds the “executive vice president” title to the HSC Chancellor and subjects much of that position’s authority to the UNM president.