CCHERS Program

What is the CCHERS program at BUSM?

Community Based Health Professions Education

CCHERS, the Center for Community Health, Education, Research, and Service, is a program in which medical students learn basic clinical skills at a community health across their four year medical school training. The continuity of teaching (one physician is the main instructor for a group of four CCHERS students in the first two years), comfort of the environment (students have said it feels like “coming home” to return regularly to their health center), and rich diversity of experience make the CCHERS placements great places to learn. Students complete the CCHERS program having first-hand experience with how health care is delivered in the community setting. They go on pursue a variety of careers from primary care to specialty care.

Currently, BUSM sends students to the following neighborhood health centers as part of the CCHERS program:

CCHERS students spend clinical time at the health center:

BUSM I: In the fall of the first year students are at their CCHERS site for the Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM-1 fall) and Integrated Problems (IP) courses. ICM-1 fall is an interviewing course, and IP involves working on paper cases with a small group and a clinician instructor. Usually IP and ICM occur together on Thursday afternoons. For the second semester, students work with a primary care provider at their CCHERS site for the clinical placement portion of ICM-1 spring. They interview patients and practice some basic physical examination skills. Some students continue to have IP at their CCHERS sites. In addition, some students choose to do research at the health center in the summer between the first and second year.

BUSM II: In the second year, students spend about 2/3 of their ICM-2 time at the CCHERS site. In the fall they learn basic physical examination skills, and in the winter they practice complete history and physical examinations, among other activities.

BUSM III: In the third year students spend 2 weeks at the health center doing the ambulatory portion of their 6-week Pediatrics clerkship.

BUSM IV: in the fourth year students complete the 4 week ambulatory medicine clerkship at their health center.

What is a Community Health Center?

Health centers are community- based and patient-directed organizations that serve populations with limited access to health care.

Health Center Program Fundamentals

  • Located in or serve a high need community (designated Medically Underserved Area or Population). Find MUAs and MUPs
  • Governed by a community board composed of a majority (51% or more) of health center patients who represent the population served. More about health center governance.
  • Provide comprehensive primary health care services as well as supportive services (education, translation and transportation, etc.) that promote access to health care.
  • Provide services available to all with fees adjusted based on ability to pay.
  • Meet other performance and accountability requirements regarding administrative, clinical, and financial operations

What do you students actually do?

The cohort of four students entering a CCHERS site becomes well acquainted. Students usually travel together, either by carpool or by public transportation (or by foot for the closest site). They come to know the CCHERS instructor well, and value the longitudinal mentorship. The sites, too, come to know the students well. One student commented “it feels like family”.

Students learn basic skills and progress through their medical school career learning first-hand how health care is delivered in community health centers. They are able to explore other primary care services offered by their site such as family planning, HIV education and screening, clinical pharmacy, and even outreach services. Some students have chosen to pursue a degree in public health in part based on their community exposure through CCHERS.

The cultural and ethnic diversity of patients and employees at community health centers are also appealing. Occasionally a student has chosen a certain site because of his or her own language skills. For instance, both Dorchester House and Neponset Health Center serve thriving Vietnamese-American communities. Codman Square has many patients who speak Haitian-Creole and Portuguese-Creole. Whittier Street has a vibrant Spanish-speaking population (and certainly working knowledge of Spanish is beneficial anywhere in the city, though the health centers have excellent interpreter services!).

What is the history of the program?

The Center for Community Health Education Research and Service (CCHERS) was founded in 1991 with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Its goal was to increase access to and improve the quality of health care for Boston’s multi-cultural and multi-lingual communities by developing partnerships between academia and Boston’s neighborhood health centers.

The partnership offered unique opportunities to pool resources, coordinate care, and advance the training and education of health care professionals and students interested in community-based care.

By encouraging cooperative educational initiatives, CCHERS helped develop community-based health care programs, initiate research and support public policy reforms designed to improve responsiveness to urban health and wellness needs. At the conclusion of the grant, Boston University School of Medicine took over support for the medical student education program that still thrives at a number of Boston’s community health centers.

How do I find out more information or enter the program?

First year students are given the option to join the CCHERS program in August of their first year. First Year students interested in CCHERs in the Fall semester may contact Caroline Mulligan, Medical Education Program Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry.

Other students join later as openings arise. A handful of openings occur in the second year when one health center program starts, or if a student in the CCHERS program takes a leave of absence, or chooses to return to the regular curriculum. If you are a second year students and interested in the CCHERs program please contact, Dr. Stanfield or Jodie Trainor.

Students participating in the CCHERS program will have opportunities in both the 3rd and 4th curricular year to return to their health centers.  In the 3rd year the student will complete the ambulatory portion of their third year pediatric clerkship at the community health center.  In the 4th year a student can complete the required Ambulatory Medicine clerkship at their CCHERS site.  Additional information on how to arrange these placements will be discussed at the class meetings that are arranged each January and February to discuss scheduling for the next curricular year.  You can also contact Ellen DiFiore, Registrar for BUSM at  617-638-4160.