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Proud new doctors graduate from UNM

FOR THE RECORD: This story incorrectly reported which high school University of New Mexico School of Medicine graduate Renee Honeyfield attended. Honeyfield, who graduated from UNM’s Bachelor of Arts to Medical Doctor program, attended Gallup High School. Honeyfield will complete her internal medicine residency at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

“Now being admitted to the profession of Medicine, I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.”

In reciting that vow, 83 graduates of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center were welcomed into the medical profession Friday in Popejoy Hall – 71 as physicians, 12 with doctorate degrees in biomedical sciences.

“I’m very proud of all of you,” Dr. Paul Roth, chancellor of the HSC and dean of the School of Medicine, told New Mexico’s newest doctors. He also noted that the School of Medicine faculty worked nearly as hard as the students in reaching the center’s 47th convocation.

Renee Honeyfield smiles alongside other members of her graduating class at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Renee Honeyfield smiles alongside other members of her graduating class at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Among the new physicians were eight members of the Bachelor of Arts to Medical Doctor, or BA/MD, program. They comprised its first graduating class, although two of their colleagues finished in 2013, a year early.

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The program recruits high school seniors from around the state who show a proclivity and passion for medicine. Once accepted, they attend UNM for four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, then immediately move on to the School of Medicine for four more years. An agreement suggests they return to New Mexico to work.

Recently, Roth said BA/MD began 10 years ago as an epiphany. “I was looking back over our statistics and found the percentage of students from New Mexico who had come back here to practice had not changed in 16 to 18 years,” he told the BA/MD graduates at a backyard barbecue at his home earlier in the week.

After two years of planning, recruiting a group of students for the first class and obtaining funding from the Legislature, Roth saw the culmination of his efforts.

One BA/MD alumna who plans to return to New Mexico to practice after she completes her residency is Renee Honeyfield, a product of Gallup’s Raton High School. Shortly after donning her cap and gown Friday, she observed that New Mexico is where her family lives, and where she was born and raised.

Honeyfield plans to specialize in internal medicine following her residency at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. BA/MD has been “a blessing,” she said. “I wouldn’t have changed anything, done anything differently. For me, it was a perfect program.”

Another of the BA/MD graduates is Geneva Tranchida, whose husband, John, was one of the two former students who finished the program early. “I can’t believe this day is finally here,” she said. It was John who placed the academic hood over her shoulders during the ceremony inducting the graduates into the profession.

Tranchida, a graduate of Rio Rancho High School, will complete her residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

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Keynote speaker, Dr. Otis Brawley – chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and a professor at Emory University – urged the new doctors to always distinguish between what they know, what they don’t know and what they believe. Always seek the truth, he advised. Keep an open mind.

Brawley began medical school 15 years after smallpox was eradicated. When he was a student, HIV/AIDS burst onto the world’s consciousness. Doctors, he said, will always have to face such challenges.

One fact – “a shame” – that the new doctors will have to contend with, Brawley said, “is that people die because of a lack of health care, while others participate in a health care gluttony.” The focus for the future, he predicted, will be prevention.

“I feel truly good about this generation of doctors,” he said. “You are inheriting an imperfect system, but it’s one that can be fixed. … Go forth and do God’s work.”


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