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New Springfield campus of medical school focused on urban, rural community health

UMass Medical School and Baystate Health officials celebrated the opening of the new medical school campus in Springfield on Nov. 20, welcoming the first class of medical students in the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health track.

“It hardly seems possible that it was just about a year ago we were here to talk about formalizing the partnership and admitting the class. Look at what we’ve accomplished,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins.

In August, 22 students matriculated into the PURCH program, including 17 Massachusetts residents. These students join their peers as part of the 162-member School of Medicine Class of 2021. Since the idea to create the PURCH program in Springfield was conceived, 10 new academic departments have been formed with 10 new chairs.

“To be able to serve my community, one that I was born and raised in, was really something important to me,” said Kevin White, SOM ’21 student in the PURCH track. White lives in Springfield and graduated from UMass Amherst.

The PURCH track offers medical students the opportunity to learn primary and subspecialty care of patients through the lens of population health. Graduates will be prepared to practice medicine in diverse urban and rural communities, focusing on underserved populations.

After teaching high school chemistry for four years in a charter school with students who experienced a variety of life challenges, Afua Nti, SOM ’21 student in the PURCH track, decided she could better serve them through medicine.

“A lot of the experiences could be driving down to access to health care. I realized that serving them through medicine would be more appropriate,” she said.

According to the latest report from the Association of American Medical College’s Center for Workforce Studies, by 2030 there may be a deficit of 40,000 to 100,00 physicians.

“Massachusetts will not be spared,” said Terrence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have aging demographics and geographic maldistribution of physicians and those with specialties. At UMass Medical School, we have a special responsibility to train the physician workforce to take care of the people in this state. We are working to decrease this shortage and this partnership addresses this issue beautifully.”

Mark A. Keroack, MD, MPH, president and CEO of Baystate Health and professor of medicine at UMMS-Baystate, said the medical school’s presence and the establishment of the PURCH program is uplifting for Baystate Health and the Pioneer Valley.

“We’re grateful for the partnership that UMass Medical School has brought us,” said Dr. Keroack.

Andrew W. Artenstein, MD, regional executive dean of the UMass Medical School-Baystate campus, called the new PURCH students the program’s greatest ambassadors.

“I share Dean Flotte’s dream that future faculty will comprise former PURCH students who will go on to train the next generation of physicians,” he said.

Related story on UMassMedNow:
UMass Medical School, Baystate Health celebrate launch of regional campus