Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Dermatologists are in high demand in New Mexico and nationally, but the University of New Mexico recently lost accreditation for its dermatology department and faces at least two years before it can be revived.
Dr. Martha Cole McGrew, the executive vice dean with the School of Medicine, said the department was beset with vacancies. Three key employees, including the residency director and the chairman, left or retired within the past year, leaving the department with one full-time and one part-time faculty member.
That led to issues supervising residents and the eventual withdrawal of accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education earlier this year.
“The lack of faculty caused increased stress in the system, and we just can’t educate residents adequately without an adequate number of faculty,” Cole McGrew said. “And in order to get faculty, we’re going to have to make this a much more attractive job.”
Of the seven residents, two finished their training. But the remaining students had to seek new residencies elsewhere.
The lack of an accredited program in New Mexico can affect dermatology services for local patients, said David Peng, M.D., the chair of dermatology at the University of Southern California and the former director of Stanford University’s resident program. He added that doctors often stick around in the area where they finish their residency. New Mexico is now losing those potential dermatologists, and local health care providers may have to recruit doctors from out of state.
According to a report presented to the Board of Regents, the accrediting body had concerns about faculty supervision, the learning environment, rotation schedules and evaluations in the dermatology program.
Administrators attempted to fill the vacant positions and hired a search firm, but that proved fruitless.
“They’re a very hard group to recruit,” Cole McGrew said. “One of the things we’re going to have to do is just pay people a much higher salary.”
Cole McGrew said UNM would have to offer at least a $400,000 salary to a residence director, but even that number is on the low end.
Greg Heileman, associate provost for curriculum, said it’s common for some problems to come up in the accreditation process, but it’s rare for a department to lose its accreditation altogether.
The UNM health system will continue to offer dermatological services. The remaining faculty are still treating patients, and Cole McGrew said the hospital has brought in short-term doctors, though they’re expensive to employ.
Cole McGrew said the goal is to hire a new residency director for the dermatology program by the coming fall and have the department staffed by next summer. At that point, it would take about another year to complete the accreditation process.
UNM is not alone in its struggle to hire dermatologists.
Peng said there’s a large need for dermatologists in the nation and few programs training them.
Peng was aware of the UNM program closure; some of the residents interviewed at USC. “It’s a loss for our field overall,” he said.