June 24, 2016; Silver City, NM: A team of University of New Mexico (UNM) students, on tract to become future physician, worked with the Silver City Gospel Mission this summer to create a mental health screening tool for its clients. On Thursday, the students shared their experiences in Silver City during a presentation at Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS) Silver City Community Health Center.
Isabella Cervantes, Elijah Johnson, Sally Midani, and Dang Vu, are in the UNM’s Bachelors to Medical (BA/MD) program. The premedical program offers a direct track to medical school for students who are committed to practicing medicine in the state’s medically under-served communities. By funding the program, the New Mexico Legislature hopes to send doctors, raised and educated in our state, to where they are most needed to alleviate physician shortages.
As part of the program, students live and learn in the rural communities they may someday serve during the summer. In Silver City, FORWARD NM coordinates the students’ efforts, scheduling their time shadowing doctors at healthcare facilities and guiding them to nonprofits that can make use of their expertise.
Isabella Cervantes has enjoyed her time in Silver City, “The community is quaint, and the people are so nice and friendly to us.”
Dang Vu says he enjoyed the ruralness of Silver City compared to his home in Las Cruces. “Here there is a laid back pace, and we see people we know every day!”
This year, the students volunteered at HMS Family Support, the FORWARD NM summer academies, and HMS’ Jump Into Summer.
They also lent a hand at the Silver City Gospel Mission cooking meals, packing food baskets and organizing clothing for the charity store. They raised $120 in donations by selling mint grown in the Mission’s garden at the Silver City Farmers Market. The donations were used to purchase socks, a desperately needed item at the Gospel Mission’s foot care clinic staffed by Western New Mexico University School of Nursing students.
Elijah Johnson said that the effort is part of the program’s focus on community service, “We’ve been working on a mental health screening for the Mission’s clients.”
According to Silver City Gospel Mission Executive Director, Randy Salars, “A majority of our clients have mental health issues, especially depression due to their economic circumstances. The screening can help raise our client’s awareness of the importance of mental health and aid clients to access our extended services, like counseling.”
Also, the students have spent time shadowing doctors at HMS and Gila Regional Medical Center.
Dang Vu said such experience is valuable while in the BA/MD program, “We learn the terminology used in the clinics and make professional connections for the future.”
Sally Midani said, “My favorite was working with Dr. Kristan Diaz-Rios at Hidalgo Medical Services. She had an incredible scope of knowledge to share with us.
In August, these four BA/MD students will be finishing their undergraduate degrees with curriculums specially designed to prepare them for the rigors of medical school, and ultimately, practicing medicine in New Mexico.
“The program is an excellent first experience to teach students about health care, and mutually beneficial as each year the students aid our community, like they did this year at the Silver City Gospel Mission,” said Alexandra Maus, FORWARD NM Workforce Program Specialist, who schedules the students.
Maus added, “By spending time in our community, the students are more likely to return and practice medicine here.”