New blood: Baystate Health, UMass Medical School to welcome 25 students

  • Dr. Ruth Potee, of Franklin Medical Center and Valley Medical Group, is excited for the potential of the new partnership with Baystate Health and the medical school at UMass.

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo Contributed Photo / Cindy Russo—

Recorder Staff
Monday, May 08, 2017

GREENFIELD — A new partnership with the University of Massachusetts medical school may bring prospective doctors to train in Greenfield, with the hope some may choose to establish their practices in the area.

Area students will begin their schooling this fall with a focus in both urban and rural primary practice medicine.

The upcoming class of 25 and its future cohorts that enter the Worcester medical school will do their clinical work in one of three Baystate Medical facilities, including Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Ultimately one of the main goals of the program is to bring students who want to focus on rural medicine into a rural community, because they will be more likely to stay and service the area after their clinical or residency work — unlike some of the current medical students from Boston schools like Harvard, Tufts and Boston University.

The program — titled, Population-Based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) — expects to draw students who are interested in rural medicine, UMass and Baystate officials said.

“If there was somebody that grew up in downtown LA and went to UCLA, I’m not sure if they would be comfortable in Greenfield,” said Chief Medical Officer of Baystate Health Dr. Kevin Hinchey. “You want to find people who are going to grow well in the environment that they’ll be in. By describing who we are and where we are, we hope to attract people who want to be in this environment.”

PURCH is expected to function as follows: two years of typical lecture-style classes with the other medical students in Worcester. Students will spend one day a week working in the field too, likely at one of the hospitals in western Mass.

The next two years of the program will be clinical work in a Baystate hospital, particularly between the Springfield hospital, where urban care will be more of the focus, and Baystate Franklin Medical Center, where rural care will be the chief focus.

“I think it will drive some of those who have a special niche for addiction medicine,” President of Baystate Franklin Cindy Russo said.

“It’s a big deal,” said Dr. Ruth Potee, who heads the Franklin Recovery Center addiction rehabilitation facility in Greenfield. “These are people that at least on paper I want to be on the frontline for primary care for rural medicine.”

In addition to the partnership with UMass, Russo said, the Greenfield hospital plans to have a family residency program open in 2019 through a regional educational grant the hospital received.

This residency program is expected to work hand-in-hand with the medical students coming to do clinical work, essentially giving them a path to complete their training where they began and set them up to work in the area, if that’s of interest to them.

“Part of the plan is to try and increase the number of students over time from the western part of the state,” UMass medical school spokesman Mark Shelton said. “It also gives students who are interested in the particular challenges of the unique demographics of rural and urban areas” a chance to study and practice them.

The program out of Baystate Franklin will be different than what is typical clinical work for some medical students, too: Instead of short rotations between different groups in the hospital, students may rotate between these different groups over the course of the week but stay involved with each group for a 10-month rotation. This method of training, known as an integrated longitudinal clerkship, allows students to track diseases and other issues with patients over the long term.

Those involved with implementing this program also suggest that some of these 25 medical students will have a desire to work in the community, beyond the walls of the hospital where the bulk of their clinical work will happen.

“The goal is to get them out into the community as much,” said Potee, who is also a provider for family medicine at Valley Medical Group.

Potee hopes students will take up the initiative to help out with one of the many service providers in Greenfield and the county at large, which can potentially lead to more help in fighting the opioid epidemic.

“We’re actually a great place to learn how it is you integrate (primary care), because you should, with addiction care,” Potee said.

Baystate Health’s Hinchey agrees with the idea that the hospital’s work should be connected to the work of the community service providers.

“We’re trying to make bridges with the community resources so it’s not a foreign concept to be a partner with somebody like that,” Hinchey said.

He said another benefit of this new program will be its class size.

“I think of this more like a small college versus a university,” Hinchey said. “One’s going to be a little more intimate than the other.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:


413-772-0261, ext. 264