Wilterding Named Executive Director for SHAC

January 11, 2021 - Dorene DiNAro

WilterdingThe Division of Student Affairs is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. James Wilterding as Executive Director of University of New Mexico Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).  A role that Wilterding is already familiar with.

Wilterding initially joined SHAC as a medical provider in 2012 and served as its executive director from 2017-2019 before taking a position in Boston at Fenway Community Health—a nationally recognized leader in addressing health disparities faced by LGBTQIA+ communities.

“I feel grateful for the experience I had in Boston,” he says. “But New Mexico is home and I missed it—friends, colleagues, our diverse population, the climate, the mountains, green chile.” 

So, in 2020, in the midst of unprecedented, world-wide pandemic, Wilterding returned to serve as the co-director of UNM SHAC with Dr. Beverly Kloeppel. While many might have shied away from the challenge, Wilterding says it’s an opportunity he feels fortunate to be engaged in.

“The pandemic has opened up a whole new set of challenges for all of us,” he says. “We have witnessed a student body that has suffered, but that has shown perseverance and resilience in the face of this pandemic,” he says.

Wilterding says that, among other things, COVID-19 has emphasized the essential role that healthy campus communities have on student success. “I think that stakeholders across the University and the Health Sciences Center have increased awareness of the important role a strong and vibrant student health service plays in support of a healthy community.”

Unlike many UNM departments who are working remotely off-site, SHAC which serves as an essential service, has not closed its doors since pandemic began. “We have been open continuously, providing the full range of medical and mental health services, and have expanded into numerous roles as needed in support of UNM’s pandemic response to “Bring Back the Pack” and continue operations as safely as possible,” he says.

Amidst the uncertainty, Wilterding feels fortunate to have the support of his colleagues, and relies on the partnerships and collaborations which have become stronger. “SHAC is staffed with dedicated and seasoned professionals who have demonstrated their commitment to our mission to serve the students and campus community since day one,” he says. 

 He says that thanks to the support of senior leadership, other providers and stakeholders on campus, there has been a significant increase in collaboration across campus to leverage existing services, and find new ways to meet the needs of UNM’s diverse student population.

 SHAC, along with many other UNM programs, has expanded existing services to support students dealing with COVID-19 exposures and infections, and provide assistance in dealing with the significant mental health effects of loss, social isolation, and uncertainty. “UNM Residence Life, Dean of Students and SHAC counseling services have partnered to actively support all students placed in isolation during their infectious period,” he says. 

“With the financial support of the administration, and collaborations with UNM IT, the Emergency Operations Manager, and TriCore Labs, we were able to devise a testing program for UNM students utilizing the existing electronic medical record infrastructure,” he says.

 SHAC was able to install an isolation room for the safe testing and evaluation of patients, and is utilizing UNM College of Nursing upper-level nursing students respond to all students who report symptoms on the daily symptom survey and to assist with UNM specific contact tracing.

Wilterding completed his medical degree at the University of Texas, and his residency training in Family Medicine at the University of New Mexico.  He brings a background of diverse experience including an undergraduate degree in engineering and management experience with a large telecommunications company; community organizing and service with the Peace Corps in Uganda; provision of medical services at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless; and clinical expertise and interests in sexual and reproductive health, health care of marginalized populations, chronic musculoskeletal pain and quality improvement. 

 Although 2021 is still in its infancy and holds many uncertainties, Wilterding is glad to be back home.  “Albuquerque and UNM are truly unique and special, and it was nice to be welcomed back so openly.”

For more information about Student Health and Counseling, visit their website.