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NMSU, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico partner to expand health care workforce

Through a $500,000 gift to New Mexico State University’s College of Health and Social Services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico will play a pivotal role in expanding the workforce of nurses and social workers in New Mexico.


A nursing student works in a lab.
Seattle Eberwine, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2018 from New Mexico State University, assesses a simulated pediatric patient in the NMSU School of Nursing Skills and Simulation Center. A $500,000 donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico will help NMSU’s College of Health and Social Services expand the health care workforce in New Mexico. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)
A woman and man walk to a class.
Sharneece Pratt and Stephen Montoya, who earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing in 2019 from New Mexico State University, walk to a class in the NMSU Health and Social Services Building. NMSU’s College of Health and Social Services will use a $500,000 donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico to create a new faculty position in the School of Nursing and fund 40 scholarships for students in bachelor-level nursing and social work programs. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

The college will use the gift to establish a new faculty position in the School of Nursing and fund 40 undergraduate scholarships for seniors in bachelor-level nursing and social work programs who have committed to working in New Mexico for at least one year after they graduate.

“Expanding the workforce in New Mexico is critical given the significant number of residents who are receiving health care coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion program,” said Sharon Huerta, BCBSNM vice president of New Mexico Medicaid Operations.

“BCBSNM recognizes the need to strengthen the workforce, and thus we have proudly partnered with NMSU’s College of Health and Social Services to develop innovative ways to expand the New Mexico workforce,” Huerta added. “The workforce expansion project strives to increase the number of students who successfully graduate and enter the health care field in New Mexico. This project aligns with BCBSNM’s commitment to increase access to health care and promotes the health and wellness of our members and communities.”

Earlier this month, Huerta, along with representatives from CHSS and the NMSU Foundation, participated in a virtual check presentation, viewable at https://youtu.be/QskLegyfAXQ, to commemorate the new partnership between the university and BCBSNM. The gift represents the largest donation to CHSS in the past 15 years.

“We are very grateful for our corporate partners like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. They are making an investment in an industry that has a great need for nurses and social workers,” said Derek Dictson, president of the NMSU Foundation. “We are so appreciative for this gift and their partnership with the College of Health and Social Services. It will have a lasting impact on our students and our state.”

Part of the gift will fund a new faculty position – called the professor of practice – in the School of Nursing for three academic years, beginning in the fall. An individual with extensive professional and leadership experience will serve in the new position, with the goal of preparing nursing, nurse practitioner and social work students for New Mexico’s workforce.

“The NMSU School of Nursing has always been closely connected to the community in southern New Mexico,” said Alexa Doig, director of the School of Nursing. “This new position will allow us to strengthen our partnerships and expand our impact in the region.”

Additionally, the professor of practice will work to expand the School of Nursing’s teaching capacity and increase undergraduate and/or graduate nursing student enrollment, thereby adding additional nurses to New Mexico’s workforce.

The curriculum taught by the professor of practice also will include at least one guest lecturer from BCBSNM, who will provide an overview of the state of New Mexico’s Medicaid managed care program, currently known as Centennial Care 2.0.

The gift also will fund 40 scholarships of $5,000 each for seniors in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program or the Bachelor of Social Work program during the 2020-2021 school year.

For scholarship consideration, students must have declared a major in nursing or social work and be classified as a senior-level student. They must also pledge to gain health care-related employment in New Mexico immediately following graduation, preferably in behavioral health, and remain employed for at least one year.

“The most inspiring thought for me is knowing that people who want an education can get one,” said Sonya Cooper, interim CHSS dean. “Scholarships like these help eliminate one of the biggest barriers to this dream – the financial barrier – and I applaud BCBSNM for providing such a substantial gain toward this end. I’m thrilled that students will be enrolling in these valuable disciplines with some financial help, and enter our workforce to benefit all New Mexicans.”