RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM

You are here

Newsletter - Spring 2011- RWJF Center for Health Policy


The RWJF Center for Health Policy ribbon-cutting ceremony, October 22, 2010.
Front Row, L-R: Belinda Vicuña, Estela Vasquez, Lila Chavez, Robert Valdez, PhD, New Mexico Senator Dede Feldman,
Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD, Gina Urias-Sandoval, Nancy López, PhD, Carolyn Richardson, PhD, William Wiese, MD, Luis Robles;
Middle Row, L-R: Rebecca Tsosie, JD, Thu Luu, Jennifer Alexis Ortiz, Shannon Sanchez-Youngman, Heaven Handley,
Vickie Ybarra, Sonia Bettez, Tennille Marley, Ken Lucero, Frank Kessel, PhD;
Back Row, L-R: Mark Peceny, PhD, Michael Muhammad, Sean Bruna, Kimberly Huyser, PhD, Angelina Gonzalez-Aller


NIH Center of Excellence Supplement Grant Update, Welcome New Staff

Corazon por LA VIDA is a Comparative Effectiveness Research project funded by the
National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, NIH ($780K direct/$1.1M).   
The purpose of this study is to engage with community partners in the development,
implementation, translation and dissemination of a primary care–community promotora
intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease (hypertension) among Hispanic/Latino
communities in Hidalgo and Grant counties, New Mexico.  The focus of the CER is to
examine differential impacts of primary care and promotora interventions for Latino women
versus men, given that gender is largely unexamined in CER. Funding is from July 2010
through August 2011.

Charles Alfero, executive director at Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), says,
interventions in chronic disease management can have a positive outcome on individual
and family/community health through support of behavioral changes and day-to-day decision
making regarding health."  This is the premise of the LA VIDA program atHMS. 
Community Health Workers, educators, nutritionists and others provide hands‑on support of
people with chronic diseases in LA VIDA, and the results have been significant.
NIH‑CER project partners at UNM and HMS will extend work conducted with individuals
and families living with diabetes to see if knowledge gained can be transferred to different
diseases or conditions.  The work is a fundamental improvement in clinical‑only
health interventions.

Dr. Lisa Cacari Stone,
assistant professor (DFCM) and Senior Research Fellow
(RWJF Center at UNM), will serve as principal investigator for the project on this
supplemental grant funded under the parent P20 Center grant (Eliminating Health Inequities
through Research Education and Mentorship) of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM
(PI and Director Dr. Robert Valdez).  Other DFCM researchers affiliated with the project
include Dr. Victoria Sanchez, Dr. Mark Moffett and Dr. Art Kaufman.

Other research partners include Mr. Charles Alfero, executive director, Hidalgo Medical Services,
and his team Carmen Maynes (project director), K-Dawn Jackson (health educator),
Andy Sauer 
(MIS) and two promotoras. RWJF Center team includes
Molly Bleecker (project manager); three doctoral students, Lavinia Nicole (anthropology),
Michael Muhammad (sociology fellow) and Sean Bruna (anthropology fellow);
and Bevin Moon (statistician). 

The community-academic team will also collaborate with Jeremy Cantor and his team of
the Prevention Institute, Oakland, California, on a community engaged assessment and
strategic planning for addressing socio-determinants of health in Hidalgo County.

NIH Conference Grant Awarded to Professors Nancy López,

Laura Gómez

With funding from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
(NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Drs. Laura Gómez and
Nancy López, codirectors of the Institute for the Study of “Race” & Social Justice
housed at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the
University of New Mexico, will convene 20 diverse national scholars from a variety
of disciplines, including sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science,
public health and the biological sciences, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in April.

The two-day NIH workshop, entitled “Mapping ‘Race’ and Inequality: Best Practices for
Theorizing and Operationalizing ‘Race’ in Health Policy Research,” will explore precisely
this challenge. This is the first effort to have the express goal of creating rigorous research
guidelines that can “travel” the disciplines and bridge the qualitative and quantitative
methodological divide by drawing on the expertise of multiple disciplines and research
methodologies to most effectively conceptualize and operationalize race in health policy research.

The short-term goals of the NIH workshop include publication of an edited volume tentatively
entitled Trans-disciplinary Strategies for Research on Racial Disparities & Health Policy.
The long-term goals of the workshop include improving research design and data collection
(e.g., U.S. Census, American Community Survey, Office of Management and Budget,
Department of Health and Human Services, etc.) in an effort to contribute to advancing
scientific knowledge of race-based health disparities and move toward the elimination of these
inequities and advance social justice. 

As a precursor to the NIH workshop, we convened a race study group comprised of 20

UNM scholars in spring 2009.  We also convened a working group of ten UNM scholars
from various disciplines in spring 2010, which produced Trans-disciplinary Guidelines for
Researching “Race,”
which are
available on our institute website:


RWJF Associate Director Receives Funds from McCune Foundation

William Wiese, MD, has been awarded supplemental funds from
McCune Charitable Foundation to improve the process whereby health-related needs at
the community level can be articulated and successfully translated into policy.

The largest and most successful part of the work was completed under the grant as of

May 31, 2010, with Center for Civic Policy (CCP) as a subcontractor to conduct the
initial phases of a sequence designed to develop, test, deploy and refine a new approach
for public policy development in health using identified values regarding the role of government
in examining whether such analysis can be applied to messaging.

Continuing with CCP, the next phase in the sequence is to test the effectiveness and impact
of values-based messaging around the role of government to reframe policy proposals by
using opinion research technologies, including phone surveys of four different treatment
groups and one control group.

The goal is to obtain analysis that will inform methods of public engagement and communication
applicable to issues relevant to health care reform in New Mexico.

This work and lessons learned are accessible and available to students and faculty of the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at UNM.

RWJF Students Involved in Medicaid State Policy Work

In the fall semester, three RWJF graduate students participated in projects with the
NM Human Services Department. 

These students—Felicha Candelaria-Cook, Elvira Pichardo-Delacour and Justin Tevie
—were immersed in the state’s budget problems when they took on different tasks
related to the Medicaid program.

Medicaid is a complicated health service market.  In New Mexico, Medicaid has more
than 35 categories of service populations, many health care products and federal, state
and local funding It is operated from more than four state agencies throughout the state.

Felicha Candelaria-Cook examined the $82 million deficit in NM Medicaid this year
(FY 11) and set about comparing New Mexico’s Medicaid benefits with other states in
the country as well as the cost containment exercises being completed in those states to
again compare with the NM experience.

Elvira Pichardo-Delacour assisted in a series of focus groups with NM health care providers.
Discussion topics included goal setting for providers in the era of cost containment, short-term
and long-term changes suggested for the system, and transition recommendations for the new
state administration.

Justin Tevie addressed an economic analysis of the impact of
health care reform upon Medicaid
in New Mexico.  New Mexico currently spends just under $3.5 billion annually in operating and
providing Medicaid services.  He focused on variables that could forecast the growth and costs
associated with PPACA with the intent of identifying the growth plateau for state planning.

Students were supported in their work with the state by Liz Stefanics, PhD, of the
RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM.  The students’ papers and briefs will be
available later this spring.


Ken Lucero (Zia Pueblo), STAC member at large, was elected as the chairman of the
committee, and Buford Rolin, Tribal Chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, was

elected as co-chair.  For more information please visit:

(From Left) Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary,
and Ken Lucero, Director for RWJF Center for Native American Health Policy at UNM.

Distinguished Professor Howard Waitzkin, PhD, received
UNM’s Presidential Teaching Fellowship, the university’s highest teaching award on May 5, 2010.

Distinguished Professor Howard Waitzkin, PhD.

Gabriel Sanchez, PhD, received a Presidential Award on April 30, 2010, for his continued efforts on recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups through his work with the RWJF Center for Health Policy, El Centro de la Raza and Title-V at UNM.  "This award was particularly important to me given that issues related to the promotion of diversity are the motivation for my research and service pursuits," said Dr. Sanchez.  The award also provided funds to host a conference entitled, "The Politica of Race, Immigration and Ethnicity," in October, 2010.
Dr Sanchez will be assuming the role of assistant director at the RWJF Center for Health Policy in summer 2011.  He will continue to lead the recruitment effort for the fellowship programs, as well as to work with Charlene Porsild to ensure that fellows are successful in their goal of earning PhD's in their chosen fields of study.
He will work more closely with Dr. William Wiese to help facilitate relationships between the center and state and local policymakers, "I am currently establishing connections with the transition team of Governor Martinez to ensure that new administration utilizes our expertise when making critically important health policy decitions over the next several years.  I will also work more directly on strategies to help advance the center's research capacities by assisting fellows with their goals of publishing their research in academic outlets, " he said.

Gabe Sanchez, PhD, Luminaria Award

CAPS collaboration to provide academic support for Fellows

Spring 2011 marks the second semester of a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at UNM and the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS). The current cohort of RWJF fellows  have access to graduate student writing and research support services offered by CAPS.

Individual consultations offer graduate students the chance to work intensively in one-on-one sessions with fellow graduate students to refine their ideas, develop research strategies and apply statistical analyses.

In Dissertation Writing Groups, RWJF dissertation fellows meet weekly in groups of three or four to share their writing, providing both feedback and accountability for the other members in their groups.

CAPS offers a series of workshops each semester on topics of recurrent interest to individuals developing the academic and professional skills to succeed in their field. These are available for both graduate students and faculty.

Information on all graduate student services offered through CAPS can be found by contacting CAPS at 277-7205 or on the CAPS website at

Featured Fellows

Postdoctoral Fellow Vanessa Simonds, PhD

Dr. Simonds is from the Crow Tribe of Montana. She is currently affiliated with the MPH program in the department of family and community medicine. She completed her graduate studies at Harvard School of Public Health with a Master of Science from the Department of Epidemiology and a Doctor of Science from the Department of Society, Human Development and Health. As part of her postdoc she is working with Nina Wallerstein and the Center for Participatory Research team and continuing to develop a research agenda focused on cancer health disparities among Native Americans.

Senior Fellow Meg Blume-Kohout, PhD

Meg Blume-Kohout is assistant professor of health economics and policy in the Department of Economics. As an applied microeconomist and public policy analyst, her research to date is largely focused in two streams: estimating the effects of changes in public R&D funding on nonfederal R&D investment, academic outputs and pharmaceutical innovation; and investigating how public health insurance programs such as Medicare Part D impact private sector behaviors and, ultimately, health outcomes. She also has methodological interests in econometric estimation with panel data and text mining algorithms for document classification.

Meg holds a PhD in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, an MS in health, environment and development from the University of California at Berkeley and a BA in economics from Williams College.

Comments and Feedback

Please feel free to send any comments, feedback or editorial suggestions for this newsletter to

Visit for detailed information and resources on news and activities mentioned in this newsletter.

RWJF Center for Health Policy

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico is the only health policy center dedicated to increasing the number of leaders from Latino and American Indian communities helping to shape the future of our nation’s health and health care. A collaboration of the University of New Mexico and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the RWJF Center for Health Policy focuses on inserting the perspectives of Latino, American Indian and other underrepresented groups into the most pressing health policy debates today.



Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
To create the best health care services for all Americans, the country needs a diverse group of leaders in Washington and in academic circles who represent the interests, cultures and needs of this incredibly diverse nation. For more than 35 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful, and timely change to the health and health care issues facing our country. As a leading Hispanic-serving institution with a medical school, colleges of nursing and pharmacy, a public health program, and doctoral-level programs in economics, political science and sociology, the University of New Mexico is uniquely positioned to assist the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in its mission of improving pharmacy, a public health program, and doctoral-level programs in economics, political science and sociology, the University of New Mexico is uniquely positioned to assist the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in its mission of improving the health and health care of all Americans.