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New med school to offer focus on border health

LAS CRUCES — The new Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine will have an additional component when school starts this fall: a health policy institute with a special focus on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Burrell Institute for Health Policy and Research will be the seat of national and regional conferences, host research fellows and produce a journal on “transnational” health focused on the unique concerns of border regions, according to Dan Burrell, a Santa Fe real estate mogul and founder of both the college and institute.

The institute will focus on “disease surveillance and registry, with a particular focus on the Hispanic population, health disparities and outcomes, the challenges of implementing the Affordable Care Act and bringing in new Medicaid recipients,” he said.

“We don’t have any health policy institute that is specifically focused on New Mexico, the cross-border region,” Burrell said. “It will be very focused on efficacy around health care delivery systems, transnational and border health. We have a very unique area in which we exist.”

The new institute will help satisfy the research requirements of the college’s accrediting institution, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, Burrell said.

The private, for-profit Burrell College will fund the institute — set up as a 501(c)3 nonprofit — at about $500,000 annually for the first five years. The institute will also be eligible receive grant funding, he said.

“Part of what the institute will be doing is hosting a series of conferences that bring together thought leaders from around the nation, region and the world to talk about disease surveillance, the emergence of new diseases and addressing the complicated health needs of under served populations in a time of changing health care,” said George Mychaskiw, founding dean and chief academic officer of the Burrell College.

Mychaskiw described the border region as a “bellwether of coming challenges to health care” due to the diversity of the population, the number of immigrants and poverty issues.

Myrna Deckert is chief executive of an El Paso, Texas-based organization on a similar mission: the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, whose aim is to promote health and prevent disease in the border region through education, research and advocacy.

She expects Paso del Norte will have a “collaborative” relationship with the Burrell institute.

“We are very much in favor of what they are doing,” she said. “I don’t think it hurts anybody to do more research than what is being done.”

Deckert said more data is needed regionwide, especially “broader population data, not just clinical data,” and data from Ciudad Juárez, the industrial city just over the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I would like to see (the institute) make recommendations, review best-practice programs around the country and see what could be implemented around here,” she said.

The $85 million Burrell College is being built on seven acres of land leased from New Mexico State University. A three-pronged agreement with the university also gives students access to NMSU housing, services and activities and includes an annual “brand-sharing” payment that will rise over four years to $500,000 annually.

Mychaskiw said the college recently accepted 162 students into its first class, which begins in August.

Burrell said the institute will serve as “a resource and educational tool to provide valuable data around policy.”

“I think we could become an incredibly valuable resource when policy is being considered,” he said, “and weigh in in a fact-oriented, nonpartisan way.”

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