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Frequently Asked Questions About PURCH

These frequently asked questions are compiled from our interviews with hundreds of PURCH applicants.

The #1 Question

Is PURCH only for medical students interested in going into primary care?

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No, PURCH is NOT just for primary care!

PURCH benefits students interested in ANY career, whether primary care, specialty care, research, or any other medical career.

Our students are exposed to a wide variety of specialties—emergency medicine, cardiology, pediatrics, neurosurgery, and more—through the diverse preceptors in our Longitudinal Preceptor Program.

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Admission to PURCH

When will I hear if I'm accepted?

UMass Chan Medical School uses a rolling admissions process. Per AMCAS traffic rules, acceptances begin to be offered on or after October 15 and continue until the class is full. For PURCH that means 25 students plus a wait list.

The timeline is long at UMass Chan—the admission team is balancing PURCH, in-state/out-of-state, and MD/PhD numbers throughout the process. So over half of the offers are made in March and April, and continue through May and June.

Can I get accepted at UMass Chan if I'm not accepted in PURCH?

Yes! If our UMass Chan-Baystate Admissions Committee determines an applicant is a viable medical school candidate but is not a good fit for PURCH—or an applicant opts out of the PURCH admissions process—the applicant is assigned to a UMass Chan Admissions team for review. Their application is not affected negatively as a consequence.

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PURCH Coursework

How do courses in PURCH differ from those in the core curriculum?

PURCH students follow the same UMass Chan Medical School VISTA curriculum as students on the main campus. So, while the courses and learning objectives are the same,  PURCH augments the core curriculum by focusing on individuals who have traditionally been disenfranchised from the healthcare system—and developing students' skills to deliver more equitable healthcare.

Students learn through:

  • Innovative experiential education practices
  • An additional focus on health equity and social determinants of health within the Springfield community and rural areas of western Massachusetts
  • The Five PURCH Principles which guide how we learn, lead, and teach students to become physicians who are: 1) excellent diagnosticians, 2) team-oriented, 3) self-reflective, 4) empathetic, and 5) leaders who can be led.

Students are challenged to think about personal bias, social injustices, and healthcare disparities. These experiences build on each other over the four years of medical school and can provide a platform for students to begin exploring health equity solutions in collaboration with interprofessional healthcare workers and members of the community.

In addition to physician faculty, PURCH 's unique Baystate Community Faculty are involved in every aspect of educating PURCH students.

Who are the Baystate Community Faculty?

The Baystate Community Faculty are volunteers who live, work, and play in the urban and rural communities Baystate serves who are interested in promoting advocacy in our current and future healthcare providers.

They contribute to the PURCH curriculum, interview prospective students, act as Standardized Patients, facilitate Early Clinical Learning small groups, and are a link to community-based learning experiences, and Population and Community Health Clerkship projects.

What does a typical day look like for a PURCH student when attending class at the Baystate campus in Springfield?

A typical day at the Baystate campus has been described by PURCH students as “going to a conference where you get to focus on things that are interesting to you.”

  • On the morning of PURCH days, students typically drive straight from the main campus in Worcester to their Longitudinal Preceptor Program clinical session at 9 a.m. in Springfield. Mornings without LPP may include an experiential session in the community, such as visiting a local homeless shelter or emergency food pantry.
  • There is generally free time over lunch. We sometimes provide lunches with invited guests—for example, former state Senator Jim Welch joined us to discuss the role of physician advocacy in state policy.
  • After lunch, PURCH students have an Early Clinical Learning class. Like the core MD curriculum, it includes small group discussions, but these may include our Baystate Community Faculty or guest speakers from the community.
  • They might also have their Physical Diagnosis time facilitated by their Brightwood House Learning Community mentors.
  • Students typically leave Springfield by 5:00 pm to go back to Worcester.

How does PURCH mesh both urban and rural aspects?

The Baystate Health catchment area consists of both inner city urban and rural hill town environments, and operates hospitals, clinics, and physician practices that serve both populations.

In addition, PURCH has developed partnerships with organizations and advocates in both rural and urban areas, and is able to offer learning opportunities in both of those environments.

For example, the Longitudinal Preceptor Program and the Population and Community Health Clerkship both have placements with physicians in either an urban or rural area. In clinical years PURCH also offers electives to further explore rural and urban health. PURCH students are able to develop an understanding of shared—and unique—rural and urban health needs directly from community members and health care providers themselves.

How are clinical rotations different for PURCH students?

PURCH students have the same Exploration Phase core clinical clerkships as non-PURCH students—Family Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, Psychiatry, Neurology, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Radiology. They are delivered in a similar structural model and have the same learning objectives and the identical grading system.

The difference is that PURCH students do all of their core clinical clerkships at Baystate Health in Springfield and it’s affiliated teaching sites in Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts. In contrast, their peers at the main campus may have some of their core clinical clerkships in Worcester while others may be at affiliated hospitals all across the state.

PURCH students also have four, one-week Flexible Professional Experiences (FPE) to explore their areas of interest. PURCH offers a number of population health-focused FPEs in rural and urban communities.

In my fourth year, will I be able to do clinical rotations outside of Baystate?

Yes. For the fourth year Horizons Phase, PURCH students do their required Acting Internships, their Emergency Clinical Problem Solver rotation, and a one week Advanced Biomedical & Translational Science rotation at Baystate Health. Other Horizon Phase electives can be done outside of Baystate Health.

Do I get additional course credit for PURCH-specific coursework?

No, PURCH courses receive the same credit as the comparable courses in the core MD track at the main campus.

How is PURCH different from an MD/MPH program?

PURCH is a track of UMass Chan's MD program—it does not include an MPH degree.

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UMass Chan-Baystate Campus Relationship to the Main Campus

How much time do PURCH students spend in Springfield vs. Worcester in the first 18 months?

In the 18-month Discovery Phase, PURCH students live alongside their non-PURCH colleagues in Worcester and take all the same classes at that campus EXCEPT Early Clinical Learning courses (including patient interviewing, physical diagnosis, and hospital sessions) and their Longitudinal Preceptor Program which they take at the Baystate campus.

This means that PURCH students will be in Springfield an average of 2 - 3 days per month during the Discovery Phase.

So, PURCH students must have a vehicle to travel between the main campus in Worcester and the Baystate campus in Springfield, approximately 50 miles away.

Will I have to miss classes at the main campus in Worcester on PURCH days?

No, the PURCH calendar has been created to minimize the impact on students’ lecture time at the main campus.

PURCH days fall on Wednesdays which is protected time for all students to concentrate on their pathway curriculum.

Do PURCH students move to Springfield in their third and fourth year?

Since PURCH students spend most of their time in the Springfield area while doing their Exploration Phase clerkships in Year 3 and Horizons Phase rotations in Year 4, it makes sense to find local housing. The Baystate campus, like the main campus, does not provide housing for medical students, but there are several options for renting and leasing in western Massachusetts.

What will my relationship to the main campus be like in my third and fourth years?

PURCH students have the same relationship to the main campus as their peers in the core track. They return to the main campus for mandatory testing as well as any Worcester-based electives they may have chosen.

If I'm in PURCH can I participate in UMass Chan's Rural Health Scholars Program, Urban Health Scholars Program, and/or optional enrichment electives?

Yes! PURCH faculty strongly encourage students to join any additional educational opportunities in which they take an interest.

PURCH offers participation in an optional AHEC Scholars program for students who are passionate about working in rural or under-served regions upon graduation. You may apply to the AHEC Scholars program by the end of your first year.

Am I able to switch back to the core MD track curriculum at any point?

Students may request to opt in to or out of PURCH throughout their first year with the approval of their learning community mentor and leadership at both campuses. However, this must be approved by a committee and is based in part upon space at the other campus. See PURCH Policies on the UMass Chan website.

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The Big Question

What do I gain from being in PURCH?

Students often remark on the value of being in the PURCH Community of Practice—students, academic faculty, Baystate Community Faculty, and community members with a shared goal of equitable healthcare in underserved rural and urban settings.

With respect to medicine, PURCH students gain a deeper understanding of the impact of social determinants of health in patients’ lives. Students explore the impact that community and environment play on the physician and on the patient.

PURCH students also gain expertise in interviewing, examining, and building trusting therapeutic relationships with populations typically marginalized by the healthcare system.

This additional sophistication in the care of underserved patients is a valuable tool for any physician—whether they are a primary care provider, a specialist, or a researcher.

With respect to themselves as learners, PURCH students gain self-awareness, and through relationships with fellow PURCH students, community members, and Baystate faculty, develop their identities as individuals, learners, and physicians.

PURCH aims to train students to become doctors who are:

  • Team-oriented
  • Excellent diagnosticians
  • Self-reflective
  • Empathetic
  • Leaders who can also be led

By emphasizing self-reflection, empathy, and working as a team, students are encouraged to navigate different experiences with openness, and to listen to and learn from patients and members of the medical community.

As excellent diagnosticians, PURCH students are challenged to think critically about current models of care.

As leaders who can be led, students are challenged to embrace innovative opportunities for improving patient and physician experiences and to advocate for their patients.

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