LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Students come to the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine from across the country, but this school is filling its seats with plenty of local students.
Twenty-five percent of incoming first-year medical students are from the surrounding area, and that's no accident. It's part of a special program to help the medically underserved in our region in the not so distant future.
Admissions Director Adrian Alba says, "The idea is to transform the local health landscape by educating students who are going to stick around, and work near home.
"When we choose students who are local and we bring them in here, we understand they have a higher chance of coming back and serving the community in later years. That's the overall goal - improve the overall healthcare in the southwest area, specifically Las Cruces," he says.
It's called "BEAR," or Burrell Expedited Admissions Pathway.
The college recently held its second "white coat" ceremony, when incoming students receive their white coats, making them official medical students.
Incoming first year student Amanda Chavarria is from El Paso, and says receiving hers meant a lot.
"The white coat to me is a representation of my duties as a physician to serve the underserved parts of El Paso and New Mexico. It really is for the community as well as an opportunity for myself."
Amanda plans to eventually practice, possibly in women's health, in El Paso.
We also spoke with first-year student Dylan Gallegos, who got his undergrad at NMSU, and says he jumped at the chance to stay close to his family and help his community.
"As far as my interests go, I'm interested I think in infectious diseases. Right now I think we have one ID specialist in all of Southern NM. I think I could fill that void."
The school's enrollment is set for the first 4 years, accepting only 162 students annually. Alba says for every vacant seat, there are at least 5 qualified applicants at this point.