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Frequently Asked Questions About PURCH

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These frequently asked questions are compiled from our interviews with hundreds of UMass Medical School applicants.

The #1 Question

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

No, the PURCH track 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

How many are interviewed by PURCH?

We interview about 144 candidates out of approximately 400 applicants for the 25 positions in the PURCH track.

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

Yes! If our UMMS–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 Admissions team for review. His or her application is not affected negatively as a consequence.

When will I hear if I'm accepted?

UMass 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—they are 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.

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The PURCH Curriculum

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

The PURCH curriculum focuses on building physicians who are: team-oriented, excellent diagnosticians, 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 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.

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 a patient 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.

See Assessment and Grading

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.
  • There is generally free time over lunch. We also sometimes provide lunches with invited guests—recently state Senator Jim Welch joined us to discuss the role of physicians in advocacy in state policy.
  • After lunch, PURCH students have Doctoring and Clinical Skills class which, similar to the regular MD track, includes small group discussions.
  • They might also have their Physical Diagnosis time facilitated by their Learning Community mentors.
  • Students typically leave Springfield by 4:30p 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. 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.

Can you explain how clinical rotations work?

The PURCH Core Clinical Experiences (CCE) offered to third year PURCH medical students at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA 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 also have the same opportunities to participate in a variety of flexible clinical experiences throughout the CCE year.

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 Medical School's MD program—it does not include an MPH degree.

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UMMS-Baystate Campus Relationship to the Main Campus

How much time do PURCH students spend in Springfield vs. Worcester in the first 2 years?

In Year 1, PURCH students spend 19 full days in Springfield. In Year 2, they are 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? Will I have to miss classes at the main campus in Worcester on PURCH days?

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 useful way to study with their peers.

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

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 Med School's pathways and/or optional enrichment electives?

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

Be aware 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 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

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

Neither the main campus nor the Baystate campus provide housing for medical students.

Moving here is not required. But 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

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?

With respect to medicine, PURCH students gain an understanding about 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.

This additional sophistication in the care of patients typically marginalized by the healthcare system 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 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 Baystate 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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