Mission, Goals, and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA)

Please click on the categories below to learn more about our Mission, Goals, and Health Professional Shortage areas. 

Mission Statement and Information

Mission Statement

The mission of the University of New Mexico Physician Assistant Program is to educate Physician Assistant students to be competent providers of primary care medicine with a special focus on the medically underserved and rural populations of New Mexico.


In New Mexico, there is a need for primary care providers in the rural and under-served areas. New Mexico is the fifth largest state, yet within such a large region New Mexico has a population of approximately 2,091,432 million people with approximately 695,104 living in rural areas. Only nine (9) New Mexico cities have populations in excess of 30,000. Sixteen of New Mexico's 33 counties are classified as rural and 15 are classified as frontier (defined as less than 6 people/square mile). Thirty-two (32) out of 33 counties are classified as fully or partially medically underserved.

Our communities are primarily small, rural, and diverse. There are language, cultural and access barriers that reflect the need for competent, equitable, accessible and evenly distributed health care that reflects the culture and demographics of the state.

New Mexico Selected Statistics (2012)

The UNM PA Program's mission is integrated and congruent with the mission of our sponsoring institution. The UNM Health Science Center’s mission is to provide an opportunity for all New Mexicans to obtain an excellent education in the health sciences. “We will advance health sciences in the most important areas of human health with a focus on the priority health needs of our communities. As a majority-minority state, our mission will ensure that all populations in New Mexico have access to the highest quality health care.”

The UNM Physician Assistant Program, in partnership with the UNM School of Medicine and the Department of Family and Community Medicine, seeks to graduate students who are competent and caring members of the PA/Physician Primary Care team.

In keeping with the program’s mission, much of the curriculum is devoted to preparing the student for eventual service in the under-served and rural areas of New Mexico. Many of the clinical clerkships are in rural communities and require students to be away from metropolitan areas for as much as half of their clinical time.

We Are Meeting Our Mission

The UNM PA Program provides students with the resources and support necessary to attain the knowledge, skills and ability to become competent physician assistants as evidenced by our success rates. The curriculum is designed to comply with the national standards for PA education as described in the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

Current Data (as of July 2016) - Based on 1st Location of Practice

Goal Actual Percent Key Indicator
237 Total graduates (first class graduated August 1999)
75% 187 78% Practicing in New Mexico (all fields)
>50% 102 55% Practicing primary care in NM
>50% 76 41% Practicing other specialties in NM
>30% 59 31% Practicing in NM in HPSA, MUA or gov't MUP areas
<25% 40 21% Practicing out of state
<10% 10 4% Working in non-PA field (MD, Health Education, etc.) not certified and/or unemployed


Program Goals

In order to accomplish our mission, the UNM PA Program provides a supportive educational environment that assures each student the opportunity to acquire and demonstrate competency in the following goals:

I. Acquire and demonstrate Medical Knowledge: Student learning experiences include basic science skills such as normal anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, and the mechanisms of disease. Through a variety of learning modalities, including problem-based learning, lectures, and hands-on activities, students will learn to use critical thinking and reasoning to evaluate patient presentations, develop a sound differential diagnosis, and provide competent patient management. Health promotion and disease prevention are prioritized to improve health outcomes.

II. Develop Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Students will be presented with learning opportunities to develop their communication skills, encompassing verbal, nonverbal and written exchanges of information, in a culturally/ethnically sensitive manner and among diverse communities of patients.

III. Develop and demonstrate Patient Care Skills: Students will be exposed to patients of all ages who represent the cultures and diversity of New Mexico. Students will also learn to care for patients of all ages. Students will be exposed to age-appropriate patient assessment, evaluation and management. Patient and provider safety is emphasized throughout their training.

IV. Demonstrate and model Professionalism and Ethical Behavior: Professional and ethical behavior in the classroom and in the clinic is demonstrated though role modeling of the faculty and staff, in lectures, in workshops, and during clinical clerkships. Students will learn skills that support collaboration with patients, their families, and other health professionals, emphasizing the team approach to patient- centered care.

V. Acquire Practice-Based Learning and Life-long Improvement Skills:Students will be exposed to, and expected to demonstrate skills in, the elements of using peer-reviewed evidence to evaluate the best practices of health care. Students will learn to search, interpret and evaluate medical literature and apply this knowledge to individualized patient care.

VI. Develop Knowledge of Health care Delivery Systems and Health Policy:Students will be exposed to the current trends in health care delivery, including methods of coding and reimbursement, New Mexico healthcare systems, New Mexico PA rules and regulations, and both national and local PA organizations.

Health Professional Shortage Areas

Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), 2012 View 50-State Comparison

Total Primary Care HPSA Designations 94 5,796
Population Living in a Primary Care HPSA 833,456 59,069,750
Population Living in a Primary Care HPSA as % of State Population 40.5% 19.1%
Estimated Underserved Population 546,976 35,057,608
Estimated Underserved Population as % of State Population 26.6% 11.4%
Practitioners Needed to Remove HPSA Designation 125 7,067
Practitioners Needed to Achieve Target Population-to-Practitioner Ratio 254 16,030