CCHERS Program

Center for Community Health, Education, Research, and Service

The CCHERS program has been training medical students in community health centers (CHC) since 1991. CHC are community based organizations that deliver comprehensive health care to underserved populations. First year medical students are assigned to participating health centers on a first-come, first-served basis, four students per CHC. Students have the option to continue with their health center throughout the four years of medical school. In the first and second years students go to the CHC once every one to two weeks for the Introduction to Clinical Medicine courses (clinical) and one Integrated Problems course (case based team learning). In the third year students do two weeks of ambulatory pediatrics (part of the six week Pediatrics Clerkship), and in the fourth year students complete the four week Ambulatory Medicine Clerkship, at the health center.

The cohort of four students entering a CCHERS site becomes well acquainted. Students usually travel together, either by carpool or by public transportation. They come to know the CCHERS instructor well, and value the longitudinal mentorship. One student commented “it feels like family”. Students learn basic clinical skills at their site and progress through their medical school career learning first-hand how health care is delivered in CHCs. 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, though students interested in a variety of career paths find CHC work rewarding.

The cultural and ethnic diversity of patients and employees at community health centers are appealing. Occassionally 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!).

The following CHC are involved in CCHERS:

  • Codman Square Health Center (starts in the second year)
  • Dorchester House Multi-Service Center
  • Harbor Health Services, Inc.
    • Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center
    • Neponset Health Center
  • South Boston Community Health Center
  • Whittier Street Health Center

Students are given the option to join CCHERS at the beginning of BUSM I, or as openings arise. Interested first year students should contact Ms. Kristen Paiva, coordinator of the ICM-1 Fall course.