Health Professions Education

First Choice plays an essential role in teaching and recruiting the next generation of primary care, behavioral health and dental providers in the state.  First Choice also serves as a teaching ground for medical assistants, lab assistants and pharmacy techs.  Several providers are getting loan repayment assistance through the National Health Service Corps in exchange for dedicating years of service to First Choice and its patients.


The UNM School of Medicine was recently recognized as one of the top 3 schools in the nation for primary care physicians. Read the article here. The awards recognize schools that, during a three-year period, graduate the greatest percentage of students who choose first-year family medicine residency positions.

First Choice is home to 12 UNM Family Medicine residents each year. The South Valley Family Health Commons is the continuity clinic site for these residents for three years, giving them valuable experience in caring for patients in a world class community clinic. Residents choose this site because of all the unique training opportunities it offers: The "Commons" is a model for integrating clinical medicine and public health. Residents work with community leaders to build a healthier community. Examples include providing fresh local organic produce to patients through a subsidized CSA (community supported agriculture) project, healthy cooking classes in English and Spanish,  literacy projects, exercise trail guides, and obesity projects.

The Commons is led by Augustine Chavez, MD, who is education director for the 12 residents and supervisor of the 10 full-time staff physicians. While all the residents and staff physicians care for children,  two pediatricians at the commons work exclusively with children and have a special interest in obesity prevention. A behavioral health and substance abuse counselor also practices at the South Valley Family Health Commons.

The South Valley Commons is an excellent site to practice obstetrics and pediatrics; and to perform colposcopies and minor office procedures. The Commons is also piloting a new diabetes initiative in collaboration with the UNM Telehealth Program, and uses and contributes to Project ECHO for several specialties.


Dr. Shaun Aries leads the internal medicine residency program at First Choice's Alameda Health Center.


All UNM Family and Community Medicine residents are eligible to devote a 4-week elective rotation to Wellness.


As part of the UNM School of Medicine Phase III Comprehensive Ambulatory Care Rotation, First  Choice's Dr. Shelley teaches a seminar called “Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Integrative Medicine.”  This interactive three-hour seminar covers legal aspects of communicating with patients about complementary and alternative therapies, research methodology in Integrative Medicine, and on-line information resources for Integrative Medicine.

As part of the UNM SOM Phase I Neuroscience Block, Dr. Shelley teaches a class called “An Integrative Approach to Chronic Low Back Pain.”  This class covers the definitions of chronic low back pain, as well as Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine; modalities for chronic low back pain which have evidence for equivalency with other modalities (more than placebo or no treatment); and local resources where these modalities are available for patients.


FCCH collaborates with the UNM Program in Health Psychology in education and research.  At the South Valley Family Health Commons, graduate students in health psychology can fulfill one of the practicum experiences by participating in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes.


First Choice is happy to assist our eligible health professionals with application for state and/or federal loan repayment or scholarship service obligation programs.  As a Federally Qualified Health Center system, we have excellent experience in appropriately incorporating health professional recruitment and retention incentives into our overall health professional compensation package.  Should you be interested, please don’t hesitate to contact Melissa Manlove, Chief Operations Officer, at (505)873-7474 or by e-mailing




Our Patient-Centered Healthcare Home makes you feel welcomed and cared for by a team that:

  • Knows your health history and goals
  • Communicates effectively with you and with each other
  • Gives you appointments when you need them
  • Coordinates the complexity of labs, prescriptions, referrals and insurance

We go the extra mile to help our patients get help paying for their health care.

  • We assist with Medicaid applications
  • We help patients find insurance on the Marketplace
  • We enroll patients in special programs when they are eligible
  • We provide a discount for services based on family size and income

First Choice Community Healthcare is a 501 c3 non-profit, community-based health center system that provides access to quality, patient-centered, comprehensive health care to all people who need it -- regardless of ability to pay. We are a health center grantee under 42 USC 245b and a deemed Public Health Service employee under 42 USC 233 (g)-(n).



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