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Pediatrics association to use UNM training program

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An association that represents 60,000 pediatricians plans to adopt a video conferencing and Internet-based training program developed by the University of New Mexico to deliver specialty care in remote areas to children with complex illnesses.

The American Academy of Pediatrics will serve as a “superhub” that trains universities to use UNM’s Project ECHO model to expand access to advanced care for children with conditions such as epilepsy.

The announcement marks a major expansion of Project ECHO that will extend use of the model around the world, said Dr. Sanjeev Arora, a UNM physician who created the model to offer hepatitis C treatment to people in rural New Mexico.

Project ECHO uses video conferencing and other Internet tools to train mid-level providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, to treat complex diseases under the supervision of specialist teams.

The influential American Academy of Pediatrics recognized the model’s potential for treating childhood medical conditions in rural and underserved areas around the world, Arora said.

“They want to improve care for all children, not just the rich children,” he said. “They want to improve care for poor children, rural kids, everyone. There’s an alignment of missions here.”

For two decades, UNM has trained universities and large medical systems in 11 countries to serve as ECHO “hubs,” providing teams of medical specialists that can train mid-level providers to treat dozens of complex conditions, ranging from HIV to bone disease and epilepsy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics partnered with UNM’s Project ECHO in 2013 to develop a program for treating pediatric epilepsy.

In October, the association announced plans to form a “superhub,” modeled after UNM, that trains other universities on how to create ECHO programs to treat a variety of pediatric illnesses.

The aim is to extend pediatric care to an estimated 1.5 billion children worldwide that lack access to quality health care, Arora said.

“We are thrilled to have the American Academy of Pediatrics as our partner,” he said. “This is a groundbreaking step in using the ECHO model to advance pediatric care globally.”

The academy is the fourth superhub under UNM’s leadership. Others are located at the University of Wyoming, Northern Ireland and India.