The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta draws visitors from all over the world and attracts plenty of media attention, but it’s just one of many activities for families in this outdoorsy part of the country. Families also enjoy a climate that’s pleasantly hot but not humid.
Christopher Calder, M.D., moved cross-country with his wife from New York to New Mexico mainly to escape the cold. “Long story short, I was in practice in upstate New York, and my adult daughter had moved to Albuquerque to do a master’s degree in public health,” Calder says. “We followed her here. A lot of people end up here relatively serendipitously like that. It’s not a place that most people think of going, which is something many of us like about it.”
Calder attended medical school in New Zealand, where he was born and raised. He completed his residency in neurology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. He had a practice in Albany, New York, until 2012. Today, Calder is the neurology department vice chair at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. “The job was an opportunity to move on and try an academic department instead of private practice. It was supposed to be a retirement job, and now I’m chair of the department.”The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is the umbrella that connects the university’s academic programs, research programs and patient care. The University of New Mexico Hospitals operates five hospitals, including University of New Mexico Hospital, University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Carrie Tingley Hospital and University of New Mexico Young Children’s Health Center. UNM Hospitals also operates clinics, including a women’s healthcare clinic, pediatric clinics and an ophthalmology clinic.
“We are the service area for 2 million plus people,” says Calder. “Albuquerque is the center of the state, so people come from long distances. We also see patients from southern Colorado and some from western Texas. Whatever field you’re in, there is usually a job. There is usually a good job. This is a good place to practice.”
Kelly Herrera, a physician recruiter for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, echoes this. Presbyterian Healthcare Services is a not-for-profit health system that operates eight hospitals in New Mexico and employs more than 700 physicians in 50 specialties. “You have a great team to refer patients to. There’s a robust medical group,” says Herrera.
Three of those eight hospitals are in the Albuquerque area. Presbyterian Hospital, the system’s flagship, is a 453-bed hospital that sees 70,000 ER visits a year. Kaseman Hospital has 55 beds and Rust Medical Center has 92 beds. Presbyterian Healthcare Services also operates outpatient clinics and urgent care clinics throughout Albuquerque. “We have been around for 106 years. The organization is very stable, and we continue to grow,” says Herrera.
As if job stability weren’t enough, Albuquerque also boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. “Our area is known for people who want to be outdoors. It is classified as a dry heat. You’re not going to get that moisture that you would in other parts of the U.S. What’s really cool is that you can go up to the mountains and play in the snow and then come back and golf,” says Herrera.
“There’s something for everyone. There is a lot of jazz and blues. There are a lot of playhouses here,” Calder says.
And of course, there are hot air balloons. “We are the hot air ballooning capital of the world,” says Brenna Moore, communications specialist for Visit Albuquerque. “The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta happens every October. It’s nearly 600 hot air balloons going up all at once. You can walk on the field and walk between the balloons and talk to the pilots,” says Moore. Nearly 1 million visitors come to Albuquerque to enjoy the nine-day festival. The event is a widely anticipated annual activity for local families.
Another popular family activity in Albuquerque is visiting local Native American pueblos. “We have 19 Native American pueblos within the state. It’s like a glimpse back in history. The Native American culture has so much influence on our food and ways of life,” says Moore.
On feast days, families who live in pueblos across the state open their homes to the public and cook for visitors. Dancers perform for the crowds, and pueblo members wear traditional attire. Moore says another popular family destination is the Albuquerque BioPark, which comprises of an aquarium, zoo, botanical gardens, a small beach and a fishing lake for children. Moore adds, “Because the weather is so nice, many of our parks and outdoor activities are open sunrise to sunset every day.”
The warmer temperatures in New Mexico suit Calder, who sees the climate as conducive to a friendly culture. “People are very friendly. People here enjoy a very nice outdoor lifestyle. From mid-April to the end of October, we will often sit outside to have dinner,” he says.
Calder may not have raised his daughter in New Mexico, but now the state is home to them both. That’s not all they have in common. After pursuing graduate work in public health, Calder’s daughter decided she wanted to work more directly with patients. She became an EEG technician and works at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.