HSC Domenici Center
The Domenici Center for Health Science Education at the UNM Health Sciences Center.
Credit: Sara Mota

At a time when the state is facing a severe shortage of health care professionals, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) has run out of classroom space. The General Obligation Bond (GO Bond) election on Nov. 4 seeks to address the crisis by asking New Mexico voters to approve bonds for the expansion of a health education facility that would allow the HSC to expand health education programs and enrollment.

Voters are asked to approve GO Bonds every two years. The approval does not increase taxes.

HSC officials estimate that they will need to increase health education programs by nearly 50 percent by 2018 to address health care workforce shortages.

An annual HSC report on the state's health care workforce presented to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee estimated that the state currently faces workforce shortages of 3,000 registered nurses, 236 nurse practitioners and 365 physicians. The report cited a lack of classrooms as the primary constraint for increasing health care training. In fiscal year 2012, for instance, the UNM College of Nursing turned away 154 qualified applicants because of insufficient space and resources.

Voting 'yes' for Bond C would approve $12 million in bonds for the HSC to build and equip a $30 million health education building, including laboratories, classrooms and study space in the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education. The remaining funds would come from $10 million pledged from the HSC Funding Committee and $8 million being sought from the State Legislature.

In describing the health education building project to state officials, Paul B. Roth, UNM chancellor for health sciences, noted that the State Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez last year funded an expansion in nursing programs and medical residencies to respond to shortages in the New Mexico health care workforce. 

"Completing the education building assures that the HSC can adapt to changes in the health care environment in New Mexico, meet accreditation requirements and appropriately schedule necessary classes," Roth said during a presentation last August. 

All three academic components of the UNM Health Sciences Center – the College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and School of Medicine –hold classes in the Domenici Center. Construction of the first two phases of the complex have been completed. GO Bond C, if approved, would help fund construction of the third and final phase of the project, an 85,700 square-foot facility that could open in the Spring of 2017.

It would house large classrooms to handle increased student enrollment and additional classes being offered. It would also provide large class labs for occupational therapy and physical therapy students and increase clinical simulation spaces for a variety of health sciences programs. Instructional class labs will support problem-based teaching and team-based active learning. There will also be spaces for student support and study.

Passage of Bond B, which supports state library funding, will also benefit the UNM Health Sciences Center. Last year, the HSC Library and Informatics Center received approximately $50,000 in Bond B funds. Academic libraries throughout the state can receive up to 25 percent of their funding from these bond elections.