NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The U.S. Surgeon General visited New Mexico Tuesday where he met with local healthcare workers. Dr. Vivek Murthy held a roundtable with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and healthcare workers Tuesday evening, following a meeting with youth leaders about their pandemic experience and vaccine outreach.

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The Surgeon General also spoke at a ceremony formally honoring eight healthcare workers, that the governor says went above the call of duty to respond to the pandemic. According to a news release from the New Mexico Department of Health, the following healthcare heroes were honored:

  • Dr. Shannon Allen, who practices at Nor-Lea Hospital District in Lovington. She’s worked as a nurse, certified registered nurse anesthetist and doctor of nurse anesthesia practice in Lea County for over 33 years. During the pandemic, Dr. Allen researched best practices and finding real life solutions to the multitude of challenges that came with being a health care provider in a rural community, as well as caring for critically ill patients; and she exhibited exemplary leadership in coordinating the donations of personal protection equipment from local partners and providing nurses and staff with the training necessary to care for critically ill patients. Dr. Allen volunteered to live on-campus 24/7 during the spike in COVID-19 infections last year. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 25, 2021, as Dr. Shannon Allen Day.
  • Dr. Laura Banks, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, where she serves as a leader at UNM’s Center for Disaster which supports community disaster preparedness through applied disaster research, healthcare disaster planning, emergency preparedness training for responders, and disaster field services. Dr. Banks helped to create the state’s Medical Advisory Team, which was instrumental in advising and guiding the state’s response during the pandemic. She transformed the Medical Advisory Team’s strategic plan and vision into functioning operations; and ensured that an expert panel of New Mexico scientists could provide turnaround for every vaccination within hours of federal recommendations. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 22, 2021, as Dr. Laura Banks Day.
  • Mandelyn “Mandy” Cordova, the director of Nursing at the Guadalupe County Hospital in Santa Rosa. Mandy has worked as a nurse technician and registered nurse in the Guadalupe County Hospital for over 17 years. She trained and counseled new nurses throughout the pandemic, working with hospital leaders to stay ahead of constantly changing CDC guidance. NMDOH says Cordova also coordinated drive-thru testing sites, and ensured the hospital was equipped with the adequate personal protection equipment, testing and treatment supplies, and vaccines. She volunteered to work at numerous COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites on her off-time and taking extra shifts to fill staffing shortages. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 24, 2021, as Mandy Cordova Day.
  • Dr. Michael Crossey, the CEO and President of TriCore Reference Laboratories. He is an internationally recognized expert in clinical laboratory medicine. Dr. Crossey demonstrated exemplary service by partnering with the state and implemented innovative methods that significantly expanded the state’s capacity to test for COVID-19. NMODH says Dr. Crossey’s commitment to protecting the people of New Mexico was demonstrated by TriCore Reference Laboratories converting every viral testing machine possible to COVID PCR testing in the facility during the height of the pandemic. NMDOH says TriCore has performed nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic, at a pace of over 60,000 per month. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 20, 2021, as Dr. Michael Crossey Day.
  • Dr. Paul Fenimore, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory; he specializes in predictive modeling and is a member of the state’s Medical Advisory Team. NMDOH says Dr. Fenimore developed a modeling framework to evaluate forecasts of COVID-19 spread and potential actions the state could implement under various scenarios; New Mexico’s approach from the outset of the pandemic has been based on detailed modeling of the pandemic 4-6 weeks ahead. NMDOH says his dedication and accuracy with the modeling data assisted the state with managing vaccine effectiveness, school reopening, ICU bed use expectations, and many other scenarios critical to managing the pandemic in New Mexico. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 23, 2021, as Dr. Paul Fenimore Day.
  • Dr. Jonathan Iralu, who is the Indian Health Service Chief Clinical Consultant for Infectious Diseases; he has been treating New Mexicans and caring for his community at the Gallup Indian Medical Center since 1994. Dr. Iralu is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School and serves as a senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Global Health Equity in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been proactive since outset of the pandemic in taking measures to protect the people of New Mexico, establishing a drive thru COVID testing operation weeks before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in New Mexico and, throughout the pandemic, delivering timely, high-quality COVID-19 patient care to members of New Mexico’s Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos. The state will recognize July 19, 2021, as Dr. Jonathan Iralu Day all throughout New Mexico.
  • Dr. Michael Richards, the Vice Chancellor of Clinical Affairs at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. NMDOH says Dr. Richards stepped into a lead role with multiple delivery system partners to establish the state’s Medical Advisory Team. The department says Dr. Richards was also instrumental in building a statewide healthcare delivery system which included the development of an ICU plan, which efficiently managed a surge of COVID-19 patients in November and December of 2020. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 21, 2021, as Dr. Michael Richards Day.
  • Dr. Aja Sanzone served as the Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau for the New Mexico Department of Health. NMDOH says she was instrumental in the development of the COVID-19 testing program, analyzing the laboratory resources available, and advising the state on how to expand COVID-19 testing capacity. NMDOH says Dr. Sanzone traveled to nursing homes in urban and rural locations, and, helping staff analyze infection control practices and making suggestions for managing COVID-19 positive residents while limiting the risks of greater spread. NMDOH says Dr. Sanzone made important observations on infection control in long-term care facilities that were adopted by NMDOH. NMDOH says the state will recognize July 26 as Dr. Aja Sanzone Day.