Dr. Valory Wangler, of Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services (RMCHCS) Hospital in Gallup, New Mexico, was chosen as the state’s 2021 Physician of the Year, out of a pool of more than 3,000 doctors. Dr. Wangler, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer of RMCHCS, also serves Burrell College as the Regional Academic Dean of our Four Corners Academic Center.
Dr. Wangler arrived in Gallup after a lengthy and decorated career in science and medicine. Dr. Wangler graduated from Houston, Texas’ Baylor College of Medicine, followed by residency training in Seattle Washington. After completion of her residency in 2010, Dr. Wangler made the surprising move away from the metropolitan city to the pueblo of Zuni. There, Dr. Wangler began her commitment to rural medicine, where she made an immense difference in the medically underserved community. “Here in rural New Mexico I truly feel like the work I do every day makes a difference and that I provide care for community members that might otherwise go without or face very long waits for the care they need,” says Dr. Wangler. “My work matters here and that means the world to me.” In eight years at the Zuni hospital, Dr. Wangler became their Chief of Staff, having helped found and grow multiple healthcare initiatives during her time.
In 2018, Dr. Wangler joined RMCHCS Hospital, where she designed a new family medicine residency program that she directs to this day. Shortly after her arrival in Gallup, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, and even the most advanced and well-funded hospitals were ravaged by its effects. In small-town Gallup, the impact was far greater. Dr. Wangler moved into the hospital for two months during the height of the pandemic, in order to protect her family as well as be available to her staff at all times. Dr. Wangler was also an integral part of the city’s unified COVID-19 response, led the way in the testing protocol, and later ran a vaccination clinic.
For all these reasons and more, Dr. Wangler was awarded the prestigious title of Physician of the Year. “I am truly honored to be recognized as the physician of the year, and particularly because the great work happening in NM’s rural communities is sometimes overlooked,” says Dr. Wangler. “I absolutely know, however, that medicine is all about the team and believe that this award has just as much to do with the great team of frontline workers here in Gallup as my own efforts.”
In addition to her work as chief medical officer for RMCHCS, Dr. Wangler has served as the Regional Assistant Dean for Burrell’s Four Corners Regional Academic Center, a full-time job in itself. Through her mentorship and guidance, students completing their clinical rotations at our Four Corners RAC are able to experience a wide range of clinical practices. “The students come from diverse backgrounds and bring so much good experience to the table,” praises Dr. Wangler. “Here in the Four Corners, we’re very fortunate to get students interested in rural care and underserved communities – the things that inspire us most as faculty.”
Dr. Wangler would like to extend her sincere gratitude to all the frontline workers that have gone above and beyond to help their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, she would like to thank the faculty and administrative staff at Burrell College for all the work they do to help rotating students, in particular Lynette Curley, the student coordinator for the Four Corners RAC. “Lynette is amazing!,” exclaims Dr. Wangler.
For students who are debating whether or not to train in a medically underserved region, Dr. Wangler encourages them to pick up their phones and give her a call. “You went into medicine because you wanted to help make people’s lives better,” she emphasizes. “Doing that in rural and underserved communities takes that to a whole other level. The work is hard, really hard, but also incredibly rewarding and in a rural community you’re very able to impact not just the life of the patient in front of you, but that of the community as a whole.”