Recently, Large Language Models (LLMs) have showcased remarkable capabilities in natural language understanding. While demonstrating proficiency in everyday conversations and question-answering situations, these models frequently struggle in domains that require precision, such as medical applications, due to their lack of domain-specific knowledge. In this paper, we describe the procedure for building a powerful, open-source language model specifically designed for medicine applications, termed as PMC-LLaMA. Our contributions are threefold: (i) we systematically investigate the process of adapting a general-purpose foundation language model towards medical domain, this involves data-centric knowledge injection through the integration of 4.8M biomedical academic papers and 30K medical textbooks, as well as comprehensive fine-tuning for alignment with domain-specific instructions; (ii) we contribute a large-scale, comprehensive dataset for instruction tuning. This dataset encompasses medical question-answering (QA), rationale for reasoning, and conversational dialogues, comprising a total of 202M tokens; (iii) we conduct thorough ablation studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of each proposed component. While evaluating on various public medical question-answering benchmarks, our lightweight PMCLLaMA, which consists of only 13 billion parameters, exhibits superior performance, even surpassing ChatGPT. All models, codes, datasets can be found in https://github.com/chaoyi-wu/PMC-LLaMA.