Today (June 22) the leaders of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), Baystate Health and the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced plans to open a regional clinical campus of the medical school in Springfield, to be known as UMMS-Baystate Health.
Students will begin enrolling in this track in the 2017-18 academic year, and will complete their basic science courses at the Worcester campus while completing their clinical requirements at the UMMS-Baystate Health campus.
The new partnership, which will be an expansion of the state’s only public medical school into Springfield and the first UMMS regional campus located in western Massachusetts, will aspire to achieve three important goals:
- Increasing access to students in Massachusetts seeking an affordable medical education
- Responding to the health care needs of the Commonwealth by increasing the number of Massachusetts physicians trained in urban and rural primary care
- Applying proven academic research to improve population health, reduce health disparities and make health care better integrated, more efficient and more effective.
Rural and urban focus
UMMS-Baystate Health’s Springfield campus will serve as the clinical campus for a new pathway toward a medical degree for students wishing to focus on rural and urban primary care, population health and integrated health management. The partnership will also expand medical education activities more widely through the hospitals of the Baystate Health system, from urban tertiary care at Baystate Medical Center, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, to Baystate Health’s community health centers in Springfield, to community-based care provided at Baystate Health hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer and Ware.
The partnership will also create an Institute for Integrated Health Care Delivery Research as a collaborative effort between UMMS and its Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Baystate Health, and UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS). The partner institutions, including SPHHS, are exploring the creation of an M.D./Master of Public Health program, building on the Amherst campus’s recent moves to increase its presence in Springfield.
The partnership is also expected to increase the availability of clinical trials for patients in western Massachusetts, with the establishment of a new Center for Clinical Trials, which will offer opportunities across the Baystate Health system for patient participation in such trials, and which will use the findings to drive advances in delivery of the latest cutting edge therapies to patients in western Massachusetts.
The establishment of UMMS-Baystate Health will support UMMS’s plans to increase the size of its School of Medicine classes from the current cohort of 125 students to 150 over the course of the next two academic years. That expansion necessitates additional clinical opportunities and clerkship offerings for UMMS students. The new partnership will provide UMMS students with opportunities to benefit from Baystate’s wide range of clinical settings as well as its expertise in population health and clinical effectiveness research.
“We welcome the opportunity to expand educational opportunities for our medical students with Baystate Health’s respected caregivers and leaders as our partners,” said medical school Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD. “We share a mission of working to improve the health of our neighbors through excellence in education, care delivery and research – and UMMS-Baystate Health will, in particular, allow us to expand our population health research and community-based clinical trials in significant and meaningful ways.”
“Today is a proud day for Baystate Health and for our region, as we announce the coming of a world-renowned medical school to western Massachusetts,” said Dr. Mark A. Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health. “We recognize that one of the keys to improving health is increasing access to effective primary care. By training greater numbers of primary care physicians in western Massachusetts—and training them to work more effectively with their patients and their fellow providers across the spectrum of care—we will be sowing seeds for a healthier long-term future for our communities.” In addition to training physicians, Baystate educates about 30 different health professions, including nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, in collaboration with a half-dozen colleges and universities in the Pioneer Valley.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our School of Public Health and Health Sciences and campus to build a robust and meaningful bridge to the Medical School in our own backyard,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, noting that health issues in low-income communities extend beyond medical care. “Our campus is very interested in understanding these problems and our public health and health sciences faculty are already involved in addressing these concerns in Springfield.”
Helping the community
In addition to working with Springfield residents and organizations on nutrition education, wellness, health maintenance, obesity, diabetes and teen pregnancy, SPHHS researchers are engaged with community members on issues of health equity and social justice, said Dean C. Marjorie Aelion. “This collaboration with the Medical School and Baystate Health will allow us to expand our efforts and play a leadership role on these important concerns.”
“The joining of the exceptional strengths of two of our campuses with Baystate Health embodies the UMass system’s commitment to having a statewide impact,” said UMass president-elect Marty Meehan. “This particular partnership will serve the health care needs of Western Massachusetts and is consistent with our mission of providing world-class education, research and public service.”
In the midst of a nationwide physician shortage, which the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts could reach 90,000 by 2025, the need for doctors in central and western Massachusetts is especially urgent. The Massachusetts Medical Society’s most recent Physician Workforce survey showed that 75 percent and 77.8 percent of doctors, respectively, in the Springfield and Pittsfield regions reported an inadequate pool of physicians. The number of physicians who said it was “significantly difficult to fill vacancies” in those regions was more than double the rate in Boston.
A major focus of the new partnership will be efficiency and value in the provision of health care, with UMMS one of the lower-cost medical schools in the nation, and Baystate one of the lowest-cost health systems in the state.
“We all share a responsibility for reducing the burden of healthcare costs on individuals and on our society. Together, we believe we can train a future generation of physicians who not only provide the highest-quality care, but also the highest-value care,” Dr. Collins said.
Baystate Medical Center is now the western campus of Tufts University School of Medicine, and Tufts medical students will continue to have opportunities to train at Baystate going forward. It is anticipated that Baystate’s primary academic affiliation will shift to UMMS with the new partnership. Pending approval by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the UMMS-Baystate Health program is to enroll students to this track starting in the 2017-2018 academic year.
True to its founding mission to educate and train primary care physicians for the people of the Commonwealth, UMMS is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 10 percent of all medical schools for primary care and among the top 50 in research. Baystate Health has been named among the top 15 integrated health systems in America, and Baystate Medical Center was one of just 34 hospitals in the U.S. to be ranked by U.S. News as uniformly “high performing” across five common types of care: hip replacement, knee replacement, heart bypass surgery, care for congestive heart failure and care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.