The University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center (HSC) continues to blaze new trails, making an impact in the healthcare world, from researchers discovering a cholesterol-lowering vaccine to the discovery of contaminated drinking water exposing millions to health risks to Mountain Medicine Center and employees’ life-saving efforts to save a bicyclist in its efforts to always deliver more.

Below is the UNM HSC's 2023 Year-in-Review, a select list of highlights involving students, faculty, and staff accomplishments. Click on the headline to read the full story for each listing.

UNM Researchers Discover Cholesterol-Lowering Vaccine
Nearly two in five U.S. adults have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Untreated, high cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are two of the top causes of death in the U.S. Worldwide, cardiovascular diseases claim nearly 18 million lives every year, according to the World Health Organization.

UNM Research: Contaminated Drinking Water
A new study published by University of New Mexico researcher Johnnye Lewis with colleagues from across the U.S. warns that water from many wells and community water systems contains unsafe levels of toxic contaminants, exposing millions to health risks, including cancer.

UNMH Employees Save Bicyclist
The morning of Sunday, Oct. 29 wasn’t too different for Albuquerque resident Nicholas Juskiewicz and Brandon Behrens, a trauma surgeon at The University of New Mexico Hospital. Jusckiewicz put on his cycling kit and headed to Albuquerque’s Old Town area to start the Day of the Tread 61-mile bicycle ride. Behrens, just finishing an overnight shift, did the same.

Teen Shooting Victim to Become Nurse
In the sunshine of a crisp, fall day, on The University of New Mexico campus, a beautiful young woman sitting on a bench in her medical scrubs smiles and laughs. Her face lights up as she talks about her future, her plans to one day become a nurse. While every student has their own unique story for wanting to pursue a career in health care, Sonia Brito’s journey is much different. It started the night she nearly died. She was just 16 years old.

ICU Nurse Receives Award
Medical ICU nurse Ian Cady humbly sighs as he reads a letter written by a family member of one of his former patients at The University of New Mexico Hospital. The family member who wrote the letter was the son of Cady’s patient. The letter earned Cady the “New Mexico Nursing Excellence’s Touch a Life” Award. The award gives patients and their families an opportunity to recognize a nurse who has left a lasting impact.

UNM Health Expands Gender-Affirming Health Care
With anti-transgender legislation mounting across the country, University of New Mexico Health clinicians have expressed interest in expanding access to gender-affirming care for transgender New Mexicans. Molly McClain leads Deseo, a clinic run out of the UNM Southeast Heights Family Health Clinic. There, she treats young transgender patients who experience gender dysphoria, which is discomfort or distress caused when a person’s gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth.

Mountain Medicine
When you think of a doctor, you probably think of clinics, waiting rooms and walls of equipment. But what about helicopters, hiking, climbing steep rocks and rappelling? That’s where The University of New Mexico International Mountain Medicine Center (IMMC) comes in. They equip medical providers and rescue teams, across the globe, with the necessary training and tools to save lives in places where police cars and firetrucks cannot always reach.

UNM Researchers: Knee Arthritis Treatment
In a novel study, University of New Mexico researchers have shown that injecting a patient’s own fat cells into arthritic knees is more effective at reducing pain and preserving function than other treatments. The practice of administering micro-fragmented adipose tissue injections has been around for some years and is FDA-approved, but its effectiveness has never been systematically studied, said Dustin Richter, MD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation and director of the UNM Sports Medicine fellowship.

UNM Researchers: Wildfire Smoke
Smoke from the massive wildfires still burning in northern Canada has cast a pall over much of North America this summer, leading to health concerns for older people and those with chronic respiratory conditions. But a new paper published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation by University of New Mexico Health Sciences scientists gives new cause for alarm, finding that wildfire smoke can trigger inflammation in the brain that persists for a month or more.

UNM College of Nursing Midwifery Grant
The reality for many patients in New Mexico is that they are rural and underserved. Rural life in one of our state’s many diverse communities offers citizens culturally rich lives steeped in personal interchange and connectedness, but when it comes to health care, these citizens need providers educated and prepared to address specific challenges they face. The University of New Mexico College of Nursing’s Christine Cogil, associate professor, has been awarded the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration for Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW), a multifunctional grant that will help educate the future of nurses prepared to treat the rural and underserved.