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Grad Issue: Student pursues his passion for rural medicine

Clement Jose is graduating this semester with his master’s in health education and a concentration in community health.

Jose said while he planned to continue his education immediately after finishing his undergrad, he was accepted by four medical schools, but turned them all down.

“A week after I graduated my brother passed away,” he said. “All of the schools that I got into were far east. So it was New York, Virginia and then there was Kansas. So I decided, ‘You know, I don’t want to leave my family.’”

Jose said that his only family is in New Mexico, because he’s originally from India. He moved to the U.S. in 2005 after living in the UAE for six years, he said.

However, he didn’t want to waste the year, so he looked into graduate programs at UNM, he said, and the community health program has given him a greater interest in rural medicine.

“In rural medicine, access and availability is very low. People that live in rural areas also can’t afford a lot of the medicine and care that they need,” he said.

During his master’s program Jose visited the Zuni and Jemez reservations to learn more about rural medicine and did a health assessment of the south mountain, mountain view community, which is in the poorest zip code in Bernalillo county, he said.

“It’s kind of surprising,” Jose said. “We’re the biggest city in New Mexico — the quality of care in our city, especially the rural areas, is horrible. The bus only goes a certain way, there’s only one clinic, and a lot of them don’t have insurance.”

Jose’s dream now is to open an affordable clinic in Albuquerque in a location that does not have access to care, he said.

He’s also hoping to go to medical school next year and study rural medicine or mental health care, which are both underserved in New Mexico, Jose said. His interest in mental health developed when he did a practicum in depression and suicide for his graduate degree.

“I had a close friend who passed away because of suicide and that kind of motivated me to study more about it and really learn what kind of factors affect it and how we can kind of solve the problems,” he said.

College students are at a higher risk for depression and suicide, and his practicum allowed him to learn about some of the factors that contribute to that, like stress and social isolation, and think of the potential solutions and treatments, he said.

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Jose is hoping to start medical school in the summer, and his top choice is UNM so he can stay close to his family.

“Last year I was definitely not ready to do it. I was really trying to deal with emotions and grief and I think with this program I feel a lot more confident,” Jose said.

UNM consistently ranks high for its rural medicine program; for 2017, it tied for second nationally.

But for now, Jose is excited for his short break from school.

“I just had my last class. I turned in a huge report, massive paper, so I’m very happy,” Jose said.

He took summer classes from 9th grade onward, so this will be his first significant break from school since eighth grade, he said, and he’s planning to take that time to read the Harry Potter series and learn to play a little guitar.

“I ordered one online, so hopefully it will get here soon,” Jose said.

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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