Rebecca Purvis, MD, was drawn to medicine because it combined her interests in science, education and patient care.
In her first year at the UNC School of Medicine, she was based in Chapel Hill, the central campus. The school also has branch campuses in Asheville, Charlotte and Wilmington.
Initially, Dr. Purvis was interested in academic medicine and thought she should continue her studies in Chapel Hill, which she marked as her top preference. After touring New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Dr. Purvis selected Wilmington as her second choice.
She was assigned to continue her second year at the Wilmington Campus of the UNC School of Medicine, where she would follow the same curriculum as students at the other campuses. She moved to Wilmington in early 2017.
“It was actually a blessing in disguise,” Dr. Purvis said. “Coming to Wilmington, I was able to see other aspects of medicine.”
Students split their time between seminars or review of literature and doing clinical rotations working with faculty physicians and seeing patients. In Wilmington, she focused more on learning clinical medicine than the heavier focus on research she would have experienced in Chapel Hill.
For example, she helped with NHRMC’s CenteringPregnancy program, which connects expectant moms in a group setting. This program is designed to help women learn more about pregnancy, become better prepared for delivery and caring for their babies, and receive more time with their healthcare providers and other pregnant women.
She happened to be on an OB/GYN clinical rotation when some of those moms returned to NHRMC’s Betty H. Cameron Women’s & Children’s Hospital in labor, so Dr. Purvis was a familiar face when she helped them deliver their babies.
“Being a part of the Wilmington Campus, you really become intertwined in your community,” Dr. Purvis said. “You know where people live. You know where the food deserts are. You know more about the resources in the community.”
Although she could have transferred back to Chapel Hill or even gone elsewhere for her fourth year, she chose to remain in Wilmington.
Throughout her four years as a medical student, Dr. Purvis worked on a public health research project examining disparities in care for black women with uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths that can cause pelvic pain and other symptoms. A summary of that research will be published in a respected medical journal, though Dr. Purvis is quick to point out more research is needed to determine why the disparities are occurring.
She became interested in gynecology because of that project. She also enjoyed her obstetrics rotation and working with the moms in the CenteringPregnancy program.
Dr. Purvis decided to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, which will allow her to focus on women’s health and also perform C-sections and other surgical procedures.
In June, Dr. Purvis started her four-year OB/GYN residency program at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which also offers residency programs in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and General Surgery.
Having the ability to train students in Wilmington presents opportunities to keep physicians like Dr. Purvis practicing medicine in Southeastern North Carolina.
“When we developed the Wilmington Branch Campus, we sought to bring the best and brightest UNC medical students to our region who would become part of our medical community with the goal to retain them for residency and practice in Southeastern North Carolina, including our rural and underserved regions,” said Dr. Joseph Pino, MD, Associate Dean of the UNC School of Medicine and Vice-President of GME at NHRMC. “Having Dr. Purvis begin her OB/GYN residency training here at New Hanover Regional Medical Center brings us one step closer to that goal.”
“If you have people that want to come to Wilmington and want to learn in Wilmington, they will fall in love with the area, just like I did, and then they will never want to leave,” Dr. Purvis said, adding that some of her fellow students who spent time in Charlotte and Asheville are also continuing their training there.
Building that community experience and knowledge helps the doctor’s dynamic with patients, who will be more likely to advocate for themselves if they feel more comfortable, Dr. Purvis said.
“If you’re a part of the community, they can trust you more,” she said. “That dynamic and that bond was significantly more powerful here. That can benefit patients in the long run.”
For example, patients can be hesitant to bring up barriers to care – like if they can’t afford food, or live too far away from a service. Among her experiences as a medical student, Dr. Purvis volunteered to treat patients at a clinic for rural farm workers.
“If you have people passionate about the area, passionate about helping people before their disease progresses, that’s when you’re going to make the biggest impact on patients,” Dr. Purvis said.
For more information on the UNC School of Medicine Wilmington Campus, visit https://www.med.unc.edu/md/wilmington/wilmington-campus-program/