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UMMS-Baystate PURCH track given accreditation nod by NECHE

Medical education program focused on training physicians to meet needs of underserved populations

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Medical School Communications

July 28, 2020
NECHE commended UMMS on the completeness and clarity of its report on the implementation of the new regional campus.

The New England Commission of Higher Education has confirmed Baystate Health System in Springfield is included as an instructional location within the accreditation of UMass Medical School.

According to a recent letter to Chancellor Michael F. Collins from NECHE Chair David Quigley, the comprehensive evaluation scheduled for Spring 2022 was also confirmed, consistent with commission policy requiring each accredited institution to undergo a comprehensive evaluation at least once every 10 years.

The commission commended UMMS on “the completeness and clarity of its report on the implementation of the new regional campus, UMMS-Baystate, and the creation of a new track within the MD program offered on this campus called Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH), designed to train future physicians to meet the needs of underserved populations,” Quigley wrote.

The letter highlighted the alignment between the regional campus and Worcester, with chairs from the new departments “woven into the overall structure of the medical school.”

Quigley wrote that the commission also looked favorably on the PURCH track’s structure, with PURCH students having the same curriculum as Worcester-based students, “with added educational emphasis on medical knowledge in the contact of social determinants of health for populations marginalized by the broader health care delivery system.”

Enrollment in PURCH has steadily grown: 21 students matriculated in its first year, 2017; 27 students in 2018; and 28 students in 2019.

A PURCH learning community, Brightwood, was created so students could be mentored through all four years by faculty who reside at the regional campus or nearby.

UMMS also submitted to the commission evaluations showing that PURCH students strongly agreed at a significantly higher rate than non-PURCH students with questions regarding preparedness to address social determinants of health and the value of “looking at a population and/or a community as a unit of focus for improving health.”

According to NECHE, accreditation of an institution of higher education by the commission indicates that it meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of institutional quality periodically applied through a peer review process. An accredited college or university is one which has available the necessary resources to achieve its stated purpose through appropriate educational programs, is substantially doing so, and gives reasonable evidence that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Institutional integrity is also addressed through accreditation.

Accreditation by the commission is not partial but applies to the institution as a whole. As such, it is not a guarantee of every course or program offered, or the competence of individual graduates. Rather, it provides reasonable assurance about the quality of opportunities available to students who attend the institution.