An unlikely partnership between a private, place-based foundation and the University of New Mexico’s Office for Community Health resulted in an innovative approach for addressing a critical shortage of health professionals in an isolated, rural setting in the southeastern corner of New Mexico. Many place-based private foundations are focused locally and are naturally disinclined to engage distally located public universities for local projects. Large public universities do not often focus resources on small communities located far from their campuses. However, this unusual partnership resulted in a compelling vision of how atypical partners can collaborate in a way that is uniquely beneficial for a rural setting. Combining the entrepreneurial nature, flexible discretionary grant-making and local convening capabilities of a private foundation with the comprehensive set of resources of a public university allowed for a genuinely community-based approach in overcoming longstanding and systemically acute shortages in the local health care delivery workforce. Multi-party agreements were developed involving the JF Maddox Foundation, a local community college, local community hospitals and the University (the state’s only academic health center, based in Albuquerque), to engage both the University and local partners in ways that allowed for an entirely new approach to more effectively recruit, support, and retain local health care professionals. Results included significant increases in recruitment of key health care professionals, a more cohesive medical community, a school-based clinic and support for other community challenges, including prevention of teen pregnancy. The University has since exported this model to other rural communities in the state.