A $29.7 million addition to the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education could be underway in less than a year.

If approved by the 2013 Legislature, the proposed project would be funded by severance tax bonds.

Chief Information Officer for the Health Sciences Center (HSC) Holly Shipp Buchanan said the University has already had to turn away qualified nursing students due to lack of space and will have to do the same with other HSC programs if space isn’t found.

“We are at capacity for our existing facilities,” she said. “We have worked with our education dean and found that there is a need to increase the HSC education programs by nearly 50 percent by 2018. The reason for this is to address New Mexico’s health care workforce shortage.”

HSC Student Council President David Medrano said the medical school has added students through the University’s BA/MD program, which has caused the class size to increase to about 100 students. He said that the class size exceeds the capacity for available space.

Medrano said the increase in medical school students forced the College of Pharmacy and College of Nursing to share space and sometimes move classes to entirely different buildings.

“We’re kind of just swapped,” he said. “We actually had to kick the College of Pharmacy out of their auditorium, because their classroom was the only classroom on north campus that could fit us.”

Medrano said most of the facilities for the HSC are more than 20 years old and have outdated technology. He said the lack of up-to-date technology discourages promising students from attending the University.

Buchanan said the addition to the Domenici Center could operate as early as spring of 2016 and that the additional 85,000 square feet will be used primarily for classroom space. She said the addition will include videoconferencing technology that will allow students to stay in touch with professors and classmates while out of the classroom.

“As an example, students who may be on a rotation out in clinical areas would be able to conference in and attend virtually, so that their learning doesn’t stop when they’re at their clinical sites,” she said.

Buchanan said the planning committee for the addition consulted with representatives from the schools of pharmacy, nursing and medicine and learned that students were interested in having more communal learning spaces and team-centered learning.

“Rather than an auditorium, our faculty are looking at space that would facilitate team-based learning, so that it’s not just the faculty member presenting a lecture,” she said. “Instead, there would be some prep work before and then the faculty member would facilitate discussion in the teams.”

Buchanan said classrooms would include large tables, white boards and more mobile chairs so students can rearrange them as needed. She said the addition will include an auditorium that seats about 150 students.

Buchanan said the new facility will be able to compete with the University’s peer institutions and encourage more high school graduates to stay in-state to continue their education.

“We hope that (after graduating), they return to their communities, so that we continue to increase the number of clinicians in New Mexico, but also we facilitate people being able to stay in the state and give back to the state,” she said.