A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, to unveil the UNM Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, adjacent to UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center. Here, from left, are SRMC President and CEO Jamie Silva-Steele, UNM Health Sciences Orthopaedics Department Chairman Dr. Robert Schenck, Executive Vice President for UNM Health Sciences Dr. Douglas Ziedonis, Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull and state Rep. Joshua Hernandez. Matt Hollinshead photo.

The UNM Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation is ready to not only provide medical care, but also ensure medical students and practitioners are well-rounded in those fields.

The 50,000-square-foot teaching hospital, which launched operations more than two weeks ago and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, is adjacent to UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center. The facility includes a research laboratory, X-rays, patient exam rooms, two bio-safety level 2 workstations, a cadaver lab and a high-tech HydroWorx pool for physical rehab.

“What we’re hoping is that we get young people to come in and watch research being done, so they can see what it means to be in a cadaver lab… That’s a big part of our focus is (that) pipeline and getting young people interested in health careers,” SRMC President and CEO Jamie Silva-Steele said.

The building was partially funded through the city’s Higher Education Gross Receipts Tax revenues.

“We’ve been dreaming about this for over 10 years… It made me tear up on the podium today. It’s so special,” said Dr. Robert Schenck, the chairman of the UNM Health Sciences Orthopaedics Department.

Schenck said the new facility’s an expansion of UNM Health Sciences orthopaedics and rehab services, but it also combines education, research and clinical work under one roof. He said the facility will entail a multiple-discipline approach using tools like the cadaver lab to help medical workers train for surgeries and biopsies.

“A cadaver lab is really important for this international educational process. It’s teaching them to learn about anatomy and surgical procedures… It will help all the practitioners involved in that learning experience being better providers, better surgeons, better therapists, better doctors,” Schenck said, adding the next cadaver course is scheduled for February.

He also said the bio-safety workstations will provide “phenomenal access” to research and manage high levels of intricacy.

Hilary Hoekenga, the new center’s administrator, said workers can practice specific body or tissue medical techniques, take part in innovative procedures and even work with a research team at the new facility.

“We develop tissue; we develop different biomechanical orthopedic supports, the actual implants that are used, and do research on them right here in this facility,” Hoekenga said. “Previously, these labs were spread out in three different labs across various parts of the UNM campus. What this facility did is brought all of that together.”

Silva-Steele said the facility’s taking new patients and appointments, as well as different types of health insurance.

“The biggest thing we can offer is comprehensive care. If a patient comes out here and they’re not a surgical candidate, they will have seen a surgeon and they can be sent to rehab that day to figure what exercises they can do to get some relief for their pain,” Hoekenga said.