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About Us

Who we are:

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in Worcester hosts two longitudinal electives for students interested in advocacy and social justice with the goal to improve the care of diverse and underserved patient populations – the Rural Health Scholars
[add link to below] and Urban Health Scholars [add link to below].  Both pathways are supported by MassAHEC [link to description], a federal grant that UMass Chan has maintained since 1977 to promote student interest in caring for underserved populations. Students in these pathways are part of the National AHEC Scholars program and can document this participation on their CVs and residency applications. The Baystate Department of Family Medicine supports PURCH AHEC Scholars.

Why a focus on health equity and social justice?  Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities — this includes the right to good health. Yet today, there are inequities in health that are avoidable, unnecessary, and unjust. These inequities are the result of policies and practices that create an unequal distribution of money, power and resources among communities based on race, class, gender, place and other factors. To assure that everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health, we must address the social determinants of health AND equity (APHA).

Applications are available here:

MassAHEC Rural Health Scholars

MassAHEC Urban Health Scholars

Questions can be directed to MassAHEC Network.

Linda Cragin, MS Director

Linda serves locally as the MassAHEC director and has served nationally on the National AHEC Organization board of directors. She manages several federal grants for the school.


Suzanne Cashman, ScD, MS Rural Health Scholars Co-Director

Suzanne is Professor Emerita in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. In 2000, shortly after coming to UMass Chan, Suzanne founded and began co-leading UMass’s Rural Health Scholars Pathway.


Nicholas Hajj, MD, Rural Health Scholars Co-Director

As a student at UMass Chan Medical School, Nick developed his passion for rural medicine from his experiences with the Rural Health Scholars program.  He then went on to the Barre Family Health Center for his training in the UMass Chan Family Medicine residency program, serving as chief resident and now serves as co-director of Rural Health Scholars.  


Kendra Marien Urban Health Scholars Director


Donna Griffin, PURCH AHEC Scholars Director