Aug 26, 2010

Denish Promotes Healthcare Jobs

Denish Urges First Choice to “Go Out and Grab” healthcare jobs

Health Reform Law Could Bring 10,000 New Jobs to New Mexico Over Time


September 29, 2010


By Michelle Melendez


ALBUQUERQUE – Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish recently toured the South Valley Health Commons as part of a visit to promote healthcare workforce development as a key part of covering thousands more New Mexicans under healthcare reform.


Denish held a roundtable discussion with representatives of First Choice Community Healthcare and of UNM Health Sciences Center, which assigns family medicine and dental residents to practice in health commons settings for real community experience.


“In these tough times when resources are tight, we have to stay focused on the opportunities coming our way,” Denish said, referring to the 7,000 to 10,000 healthcare jobs that could be created under the health care reform law over the next few years.

“We have to be prepared, smart enough, and courageous enough to go out and grab those jobs.”


First Choice CEO Bob DeFelice emphasized how the Health Commons Model is proving to be a great recruiting tool to attract physicians and dentists to work in neighborhoods.

“They see what kind of practice this is all about and they get to know the communities,” he said of the residents. “Now we have a list of dental residents waiting to work here.”


Health commons are sites where several different health organizations work together, in the same location, for the health and wellness of each patient and of the community as a whole. First Choice has pioneered the model in Albuquerque’s South Valley since 2006.


Denish toured the South Valley Health Commons with Dr. Saverio Sava, First Choice Medical Director; Dr. Bill Burns, First Choice Dental Director; and Dr. Santiago Macias, assistant Medical Director, who grew up in Albuquerque and chose to practice family medicine in his hometown.


They shared examples of how the “Commons” work:

  • ·         A community member who comes to exchange used needles one day decides to seek help for his/her heroin addiction and is seen that same day, whenever possible, by a counselor and a physician. They are given a “warm handoff.”
  • ·         A baby whose parent comes to WIC for nutrition education and assistance is offered a well-child checkup, on the same day whenever possible, to ensure the child has a regular doctor for developmental and annual check ups and  establishes a permanent medical home.
  • ·         A physician refers a pregnant woman to a dentist for prenatal dental care, which is often overlooked during pregnancy.


“People say, ‘I never knew this type of environment existed,’” said Dr. William Burns, First Choice Dental Director.


The biggest challenge is integrating all the health care, which takes more than just being located in the same building. The warm handoff requires good communication. When it works, it is good for patients, and fun and rewarding for providers because they can actually see positive change in their patients, Sava said.


Denish applauded First Choice and its partners for working together. “When money is tight, that’s the best strategic time to pool resources and force cooperation,” she said.


Denish described several initiatives that she is promoting that will help grow the healthcare workforce – from high school programs to a proposal to allow a lottery-type scholarship for adults who wish to change to a healthcare career later in life.


  • Project Lead the Way challenges high school students to pursue health careers
  • Atrisco Heritage Academy is partnering with a hospital to create a health track
  • The Diploma of Excellence for New Mexico requires four years of math instead of three, and three years of science instead of two, to better prepare students
  • Carve Your Path online mentoring helps students stay on track with their plans
  • Increasing nursing students and nursing educators at the universities and community colleges will lead to more New Mexico nurses entering the field
  • College Enrichment Center at Albuquerque High is producing LPNs
  • New Mexico Bridge to the Workforce Community College Scholarship would allow recent high-school graduates or people in the middle of their careers the opportunity to get training in one of eight high-demand career areas, including healthcare careers. The scholarship would cover the first semester of community college learning until the Lottery Scholarship kicks in
  • A $1,000 tax credit helps recruit providers to practice in rural New Mexico
  • Loan forgiveness would help recruit health providers to work in underserved areas
  • Return to Main Street financial incentives would lure medical professionals back to their home towns to practice for a minimum of four years.


Denish said all these initiatives and more are needed to help meet the growing need for healthcare professionals in New Mexico. And it is not just doctors, dentists and nurses.

Dr. Kathy Ganz, Clinical Compliance Director of First Choice Community Healthcare, stressed the importance of supporting all the people working as medical and dental assistants and other front line workers.


Denish agreed, “Hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans are going to get covered, and you guys are going to need help to do it.”





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