New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Until this trip, I had never visited. When I left Durango, after a couple nights in a Marriott, I wanted to get back to camping and since Taos was on my list, that's where I headed. I didn't know much about it other than it's a small artistic community and a place where all kinds of spirituality and practice is embraced. I arrived too late to scout out a campsite so I checked into the small and inexpensive Kachina Lodge in historic Taos; a perfect place to sleep in a real bed and take a proper shower. Taos is exactly how I imagined- quaint and quirky. There are amazing artists and shops, a museum, and great places to eat. I particularly loved VortexYarns and enjoyed talking to the owner, Merce. (this is not Merce. It's her assistant!)
Merce asked me if I had yet had a "Taos moment". She explained that a "Taos moment" is what the locals call magical happenings. I told her that I had not, and thought silently that I likely wouldn't as I was about to leave town.
I had a very specific idea of where I wanted to camp- river or creek front with cool water running over rocks. I asked some locals about places they'd recommend for such but when I went to check their recommendations, they didn't suit me. I felt like Goldilocks. Yes, there was water, but the campsites weren't close enough to it and I simply couldn't settle into anything else than what I had imagined. It was hot and dusty and I decided to head toward Santa Fe.
A big part of this adventure is to "take the pulse" of rural America with regard to hepatitis C. All along the way, I've been stopping at local clinics to talk to providers about the prevalence of hepatitis C in their communities and whether or not they had the capacity and resources to treat it. As I left Taos to head toward Santa Fe, I passed Taos Picuris Pueblos Indian Health Center and decided to stop.
I met with the CEO and the Pharmacist both of whom were very happy to learn of my mission. There is great need for education, testing, and treatment in the population they serve. The pharmacist had just returned from the University of New Mexico (UNM) at Albuquerque's Project Echo training but shared with me that the clinic doesn't necessarily have the bandwidth to take the Echo model on. Launched in 2003, the ECHO model™ makes specialized medical knowledge accessible wherever it is needed to save and improve people’s lives. By putting local clinicians together with specialist teams at academic medical centers in weekly virtual clinics or teleECHO™ clinics, Project ECHO shares knowledge and expands treatment capacity. The result: better care for more people. Before I left the clinic, the pharmacist suggested I reach out to the folks at UNM to see how my idea for care might fit with theirs.
When I returned to my car, I opened my email. Waiting for me was a message from Lisa Catalli, the Nurse Practitioner I see at the hepatology clinic at UCSF. In that email, she asked me if I was planning to go to New Mexico and if so, she wanted to make an introduction to Dr. Sanjeev Arora- the founder of Project Echo. I was dumbfounded. A flurry of emails were exchanged between me, my Nurse Practitioner, and Dr. Sanjeev and his staff. They indicated they were very interested in meeting me and learning more about my mission. They invited me to join them on June 22nd at the UNM Health Science building where a full day of orientation to the Project Echo model is being offered. I changed my travel plans and have spent the last week in New Mexico. Tomorrow, bright and early, I will head over to the UNM campus to participate in the orientation.
Clearly, I had just had my Taos moment. Enchanted? Yes, New Mexico, I am.