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Pat Montoya: Woman of Influence

Our very own Pat Montoya has been named one of New Mexico’s Women of Influence by Albuquerque Business First. Pat serves as the executive director for the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Value and the director of government relations for HealthInsight New Mexico.

               Pat was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and also obtained her master’s degree in public administration/health administration from UNM. After graduation from nursing school, she worked in pediatrics and as a school nurse in the Albuquerque Public Schools.  In working to help students and their families, she recognized problems in our school health system and began lobbying for change at the school board level and at the New Mexico Legislature.

When the state was faced with a shortage of health care professionals, she and some nurse colleagues lobbied in Santa Fe to expand the Nurse Practice Act, which allowed nurse practitioners to practice independently in the state; this expansion officially went into effect in 1986. New Mexico was the first state to expand practice for nurse practitioners, and many states soon followed New Mexico’s lead.

Recognition of her active leadership and determination for change led to her being asked to join the American Nurses Association (ANA) to promote the national voice of nurses in Washington D.C.  “In order for nurses to have a voice, they need to be at the table,” she said.

In 1994 she was selected by President Bill Clinton to serve in his administration as the Dallas regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Following that stint, she was appointed by the White House as Commissioner for Children, Youth and Families, where she remained for two years. When asked how she felt about coming from Albuquerque as a school nurse to receiving two presidential appointments she said, “I had to at times pinch myself; to think my dad was a railroad worker with a fifth grade education and my  mom an eighth grade education, and here I was working for the President of the United States.”

When her appointment with HHS ended in 2000, she returned to New Mexico and served as health secretary for Governor Bill Richardson. During her tenure she was able to improve immunization rates as well as create and get legislation passed that required the State to develop and maintain a comprehensive statewide health plan.

Now, she is the executive director for the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Value. They work with employers such as Albuquerque Public Schools, Sandia National Labs and the City of Albuquerque to focus on the triple aim of improving health care quality, decreasing health costs, and pushing for more transparency in health care. Pat is looking toward retirement at some point in the future, but she has no plan to walk away from her desire to improve health care. “I’ll probably never retire … I will continue to stay involved and engaged,” she said.