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Frequently Asked Questions About PURCH

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

The #1 Question

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

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No, the PURCH track is NOT just for primary care!

The PURCH experience 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 track admissions process—the applicant is assigned to a UMass Chan Admissions team for review. His or her application is not affected negatively as a consequence.

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The PURCH Curriculum

How does the PURCH curriculum differ from the regular MD track curriculum?

The PURCH track is based out of UMass Chan's regional campus at Baystate Health in Springfield. 

The PURCH curriculum focuses on molding physicians who are excellent diagnosticians that are team-oriented, self-reflective, empathetic, and leaders who can be led.

So, while the courses are the same, the focus of the Doctoring and Clinical Skills (DCS) course for PURCH students emphasizes these five principles as well as the social determinants of health within the community of Springfield and rural areas of western Massachusetts.

You will learn everything your Worcester-based colleagues will learn. However, you will learn this material through the lens of population health, with a particular focus on individuals who have traditionally been disenfranchised from the healthcare system.

In addition to your physician faculty, PURCH has a dedicated Community Faculty who contribute to the curriculum, serve as Standardized Patients, and co-facilitate many of the discussions.

These conversations in your coursework will challenge you to think about personal bias, social injustices, and healthcare disparities. These experiences build on each other over the course of your PURCH education and can provide a platform for students to begin exploring health equity solutions in collaboration with interprofessional healthcare workers and members of the community.

Finally, PURCH students take their DCS course, their Physical Diagnosis (PD) course, and their Longitudinal Preceptor Program (LPP) at the Baystate campus in Springfield. In addition, the PURCH curriculum includes other experiences, like participating in an activity that simulates low-income living and interviewing Springfield community members. These elements highlight the link between patients and their community.

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

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

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 Doctoring and Clinical Skills class. Like the regular MD track, it includes small group discussions, but these may include our Community Faculty or guest speakers from the community.
  • They might also have their Physical Diagnosis time facilitated by their 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, the PURCH track 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 Health Clerkship both have placements with physicians in either an urban or rural area. In clinical years PURCH also offers electives to further explore in 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 do clinical rotations differ between the two campuses?

All of the core clerkships in the third year of medical school, the Core Clinical Experiences (CCE) year, are offered to PURCH students at Baystate Health in Springfield and it’s affiliated teaching sites in Northampton and Greenfield, MA. In contrast, your non-PURCH colleagues may have some of their clerkships at the main campus in Worcester and others in affiliated hospitals all across the state.

The Baystate clerkships are delivered in a similar structural model as at the Worcester campus. You will rotate through three 15-week thematic sections: Care of Adults (Medicine and Neurology). Care of Families (Family Medicine and Community Health, Pediatrics, Psychiatry), and Perioperative & Maternal Care (Family Medicine and Community Health, Pediatrics, Psychiatry).

The PURCH CCE have the same learning objectives and identical grading system as the CCE at the main campus. You will also have four, one-week Flexible Clinical Experiences (FCE) to explore areas of interest. PURCH offers a number of population health-focused FCEs in rural and urban communities.

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


Who are the community faculty?

The Baystate Community Faculty are volunteers from urban and rural communities within the Baystate Health catchment areas who are interested in promoting advocacy in our current and future health care providers.

BCF participate in several aspects of educating PURCH students such as, Standardized Patient encounters, Doctoring and Clinical Skills small groups, Determinants of Health experiential learning sessions, and Population Health Clerkship projects.

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.

Though we would like to expand the augmented curriculum to include a deeper dive into social determinants of health topics, we are limited by the allotted time in medical school.

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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 2 years?

In Years 1 and 2, PURCH students live alongside their non-PURCH colleagues in Worcester and take all the same classes at that campus EXCEPT the Doctoring and Clinical Skills (DCS), LPP, and PD courses which are taught in Springfield.

In Year 1, you will spend 19 full days in Springfield. In Year 2, you will be in Springfield on 18 days, most of them half-days.

This translates to roughly two days per month that you will be in Springfield in your first two years.

How does travel between campuses affect curricular learning?

You must have your own vehicle to travel between the main campus in Worcester and the Baystate campus in Springfield which are approximately 50 miles apart. Ridesharing with fellow PURCH students is an option. PURCH students say they enjoy carpooling when possible, and find it a good opportunity to study with their peers.

Also, the PURCH calendar has been created to minimize the impact on students’ lecture time at the main campus.

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

In the rare case that some Optional Enrichment Elective sessions at the main campus take place on the evening of a PURCH day, we would either stream the lecture at the Baystate campus or release students early so that they can watch the lecture on the recorded platform.

If I'm in PURCH can I participate in UMass Chan's pathways and/or optional enrichment electives?

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

A number of PURCH students are participating in the Rural Health Scholars and the Urban Health Scholars pathways.

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

Keep in mind that if you are in the Global Health pathway, in Year 2 you will be encouraged to do a global health Population Health Clerkship (PHC) which is organized through the main campus. So you may miss out on participating in a PURCH-based PHC which are thoughtfully developed by PURCH faculty to build upon connections made with community partners during Year 1, and to respond to the needs of the community Baystate serves.

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

You may request to opt in to or out of the PURCH program throughout your first year with the approval of your learning community mentor and leadership at both campuses. See PURCH Track Policies on the UMass Chan website.

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

Typically, yes. Moving here is not required, but similar to the main campus, the Baystate campus does not provide housing for medical students.

Since PURCH students spend most of their time in the Springfield area while doing their CCE in Year 3 and Advanced Studies in Year 4, it makes sense to find local housing. There are several options for renting and leasing in western Massachusetts.

See Housing under Student Life.

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

PURCH students will have the same relationship to the main campus as their peers in the regular MD track—returning to Worcester for mandatory electives, including interstitial experiences.

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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—a smaller, cohesive cohort of the larger medical school who share a passion for developing additional expertise in the care of marginalized patients.

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.

The PURCH track 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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