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Burrell College ready for first class of 162 medical students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The new Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces is gearing up for its first class of 162 students.

The college’s $35 million, 80,000-square-foot building is now complete, with furniture scheduled for move-in this month, Burrell’s founding dean and chief academic officer, George Mychaskiw, said this week.

“We got the certificate of occupancy this week,” he told the New Mexico Biotechnology Association at a presentation in Albuquerque. “All employees will move in by July 18, and Aug. 8 begins the first day of orientation for students. Hard-core classes will start Aug. 13.”

The college, located on seven acres at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Research Park, is New Mexico’s first private medical school, and only the second in the state after the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Burrell is entirely financed by private investors, led by Santa Fe businessman Dan Burrell in partnership with the Rice Management Co., which oversees Rice University’s $5.6 billion endowment fund. Although most public attention has centered on Burrell, a well-known real estate mogul, Rice Management is actually the majority investor in the project, estimated to cost a total of $105 million, Mychaskiw said.

The new building provides state-of-the-art training facilities. That includes an anatomy center with a small dissection lab, plus large, virtual anatomy rooms equipped with three-dimensional imaging technology for students to gain experience with MRI, CT scans and ultrasound.

There’s also a simulation center with seven rooms, each one equipped with robotic mannequins that speak, breathe, drool and even bleed.

The training clinic, with 10 patient exam rooms, will include local actors on call to mimic real-life medical situations. Some will speak only Spanish or Navajo to reflect the realities of border communities or clinics near Native American reservations. In fact, medical Spanish studies are part of the college curriculum, Mychaskiw said.

The school received 5,000 student applications this year. Eventually, it expects to admit 300 students annually for a total of 1,200 in the four-year college.

About 25 percent of those selected this year come from New Mexico and the border region. Many are minorities. That can help encourage graduates to practice medicine in the region, since people from here who identify with local culture are more likely to stay after graduating.

The college expects many students from elsewhere to also end up settling here. The school has established partnerships with 35 hospitals and clinics in New Mexico, surrounding states and northern Mexico, where students will shadow doctors in their junior and senior years. And many will be offered residency opportunities there after graduation.

That could encourage them to dig roots here, helping to solve some of the critical physician shortages New Mexico faces, said Dr. Daniel Armistead, chief medical officer at La Clinica de Familia in Las Cruces, which is partnering with Burrell.

“When health care providers do undergraduate work and residency in the same geographic area, they are much more likely to stay in that area,” Armistead said.

By shadowing doctors at La Clinica de Familia’s rural community health centers in southern New Mexico, they’ll get real-life perspectives on local reality, said La Clinica CEO Suzan Martínez de Gonzales.

“They’ll get exposed to the challenges our patients have accessing care,” Martínez said. “Traditionally, medical students (get experience) in hospitals. We’re trying to move more of that out to clinics in the community.”

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