SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to the efforts of the Western Mass. legislative delegation, Baystate Health has received $1 million from the FY 2018 state budget, which has been earmarked to provide financial support to Baystate Health for costs associated in offering an innovative educational track called PURCH, as part of UMass Medical School – Baystate.
“The region is extremely fortunate to have leaders in Boston who advocate tirelessly on budgetary and policy issues important to Baystate Health and Health New England. Thank you for recognizing the important work we are engaged in with the University of Massachusetts Medical School here on our Springfield campus, where we are offering a new pathway for medical students with an interest in underserved rural and urban communities,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.
Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer at Baystate Health, noted that the health system has a long track record of commitment to academic medicine and programs and has deeply invested in them over the years.
“Academic programs allow us to develop, rigorously study, and disseminate clinical practices and best evidence to improve the care of patients in the communities we serve,” he said. “Not only does an academic environment bring expertise and innovation to our region, it helps to attract the most highly skilled professional talent to the area.”
The Greater Springfield area is experiencing an ongoing shortage of physicians, particularly primary-care doctors. PURCH (Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health) was created in response to this community health need and is meant to establish a pipeline for primary-care physicians who will practice locally.
The PURCH curriculum focuses on healthcare issues specific to urban and rural communities such as obesity, substance abuse, diabetes and mental health — all of which were identified as significant health concerns by area communities in their response to Baystate’s community-needs assessment. Individual behaviors and genetics contribute greatly to conditions such as these. But health is also influenced by many complex and interconnected social and environmental factors — income, education, and race, as well as community characteristics such as lack of access to grocery stores, inadequate public transportation, and living in a high-crime neighborhood.
PURCH is training medical students to think more broadly about social determinants of health, the causes of health disparities, and disease prevention and wellness. Classroom and clinical experiences are provided in a variety of clinical settings, led by faculty who have expertise in population health and clinical effectiveness research.
“One of the keys to improving health is increasing access to effective primary care,” Keroack said. “By training greater numbers of primary-care physicians in Western Massachusetts, we will be sowing seeds for a healthier long-term future for our communities.”
Twenty-one students — 15 of whom are Massachusetts residents — were accepted from a pool of 151 prospective candidates who applied to be a part of the PURCH program’s inaugural class last year. UMass Medical School – Baystate will welcome its sophomore class in August.