The ten-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for the University of New Mexico’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy has ended and the Center is about to complete the process of transition by the end of July to its new enterprise — the UNM Center for Social Policy.

The primary mission of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM was to identify, train and graduate doctorate students primarily of color that focus on racial and ethnic health disparities.

Over the ten year period the grant helped 26 doctorate graduates from UNM across the social sciences all trained in racial and ethnic health disparities and research.

“We are very proud of our success rate over that period of a decade as among our 26 graduates we have placed some of these folks as faculty at institutions like Stanford University, the University of Arizona and most recently the University of North Carolina’s School of Policy, which for the departments have been some of their best placements for Ph.Ds ever in the history of their programs,” said Gabriel Sanchez, the executive director for the center.

Sanchez said about three or four years ago the Foundation made a strategic decision on their part to revamp all their human capital programs across the country, and they decided to end UNM’s grant, along with 19 other programs being funded by the Foundation,.

“Keeping in mind the cost and expenditures being paid for the large number of students,” Sanchez said, “I think the Foundation is moving towards more of a virtual model of training where they can have massive cohorts like a hundred graduates at a time, but with much less touch and training.”

The new Center for Social Policy will essentially oversee a number of smaller existing research institutes that all focus on applied policy research. The most well-known among them include the Cradle to Career Policy Institute (formerly known as CEPR).

“The CSP will coordinate applied policy activity across all different entities and will maintain the training mission of Ph.D students,” Sanchez said.

Part of their justification for moving the RWJF Center for Health Policy to Center for Social Policy is broadening the umbrella for students’ participation level in the new center.

“Now ahead of us is not just health policy, but any social policy that includes education, immigration, environmental policy, water policy, etc. and I think part of it is that UNM as an institution realizes that we need to do more training in public policy,” Sanchez said.

He said the center comes at a critical time in the state.

“I think we are essentially trying to fill that void by being really a place to go for state legislators, governors, and state agencies to come when they need assistance and help in making policy decisions,” he said.

Tasawar Shah is the news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @tashah_80.