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Commitment to public and community service has always been a fundamental part of the mission of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). The goal of community service at UMMS is to support improvement in health status for underserved populations in Worcester and across the Commonwealth. Providing health services to underserved populations occurs in a number of venues, including student-initiated and student-led volunteer programs, community-based research initiatives and community-based learning opportunities for many classes of health professionals. The Office of Community Programs, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Office of Science Education, the Department of Public Sector Psychiatry and the Office of Student Affairs are among those parts of the medical school that currently demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting student volunteerism and service-learning opportunities. The Graduate School of Nursing and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences also serve this mission through academic programs and student activities.

Service-Learning at UMMS

UMMS recognizes the important learning opportunities that arise for students who engage in community service and other community-based health activities. These experiences provide not only valuable clinical training, but also a context for learning about the social, economic and environmental influences on the health status of individuals, families and communities. Several required and elective courses at the Medical School and Graduate School of Nursing intentionally integrate community service into the course requirements. These service-learning opportunities incorporate reflective practice through having students discuss how their community-based experiences affect their clinical training and professional development. Growing national attention is being paid to the impact of community service and service-learning on the development of the healthcare workforce. This is demonstrated in the number of public and private grant initiatives designed to support the development and evaluation of service-learning models in health professions education, as well as evidence indicating that the earlier one begins developing a commitment to service, the more likely this commitment will be sustained. Community Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), the Pew Commission for Health Professions Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service and Campus Compact are among the entities that work to promote the connection between community service and health professions education. Within this movement, UMMS is unique because of its mission-based commitment to public service. At present, most other initiatives are contained within a small sector of a health professions institution, rather than being an integral part of the mission and vision of the college, university, graduate school or residency program.

A Step Towards Improving Service-Learning at UMMS

This Guide was developed to demonstrate the breadth of community service and Service-learning opportunities at UMMS. It illustrates activities that utilize community service as a means of helping students achieve competency in community and patient advocacy, collaborative practice across agencies and professions, health education, health policy development, and community-based education and research. This is part of an interdisciplinary effort to develop a strategy for embedding the University’s public service mission more deeply into the academic opportunities it provides for its students.