U of New Mexico neurosurgery residency program is back in business

Alan Condon -  

The University of New Mexico-Albuquerque's neurosurgery department regained accreditation for its residency program April 1.

In June, an MD/PhD student is joining the department to begin a seven-year neurosurgery residency, and more residents will follow until the program stabilizes with seven residents at various stages of training, the university said in an April 5 news release.

"It's a huge win for everybody in the state," said Meic Schmidt, MD, who became chief of neurosurgery at the university in February 2020, and was tasked with restoring the residency program.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has given the university the green light for a new residency program, not a continuation of the earlier version, which lost accreditation in June 2020. The accreditation council withdrew the department's accreditation after concerns about residents' learning and working environment, faculty and leadership turnover, an imbalance between service and surgical education and low operative case volumes in certain areas.

"The program before was more focused on training community neurosurgeons. We don’t do that anymore," Dr. Schmidt said. "It's really a training program for academic neurosurgeons who are focused on providing excellent neurosurgical care and doing research."

Dr. Schmidt began rebuilding the program by recruiting several colleagues he previously worked with to the neurosurgery faculty. Before joining the University of New Mexico, he served as neurosurgery chair at New York Medical College in Valhalla and as neurosurgery vice chair at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

"We basically tore down the entire department to the ground," he said. "There were a lot of people leaving, and then we rehired."

In the last two years, the department has grown from five neurosurgeons to 10, with an 11th joining in July, according to the university's news release.

Dr. Schmidt also created a division of pediatric neurosurgery within the department, led by Heather Spader, MD, and agreed to a partnership with Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, where each resident will spend one year focusing on spine surgery. University of New Mexico Hospital is also upgrading the equipment used in its operating rooms for neurosurgery.

The challenge now is to ensure the program meets its goal and is fully stabilized, Dr. Schmidt said. The next accreditation council review is scheduled for 2024.

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