Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1782, HMS is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States[1] and is ranked first among research-oriented medical schools in the 2020 rankings of U.S. News and World Report.[2] Unlike most other leading medical schools, HMS does not operate in conjunction with a single hospital but is directly affiliated with several teaching hospitals in the Boston area.[3] The HMS faculty has approximately 2,900 full- and part-time voting faculty members consisting of assistant, associate, and full professors, and over 5,000 full- and part-time, non-voting instructors. The majority of the faculty receive their appointments through an affiliated teaching hospital.

Harvard Medical School
Coat of arms of Harvard Medical School
TypeMedical school
EstablishedSeptember 19, 1782 (1782-09-19)
Parent institution
Harvard University
AffiliationSee list for affiliations
DeanGeorge Q. Daley
Academic staff
  • MD - 712
  • PhD - 889
  • DMD - 136
  • MMSc - 187
  • DMSc - 35
Location, ,
United States



Harvard Medical School was founded on September 19, 1782 after President Joseph Willard presented a report with plans for a medical school to the fellows and the president of Harvard College. It is the third-oldest medical school in the United States, founded after the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The founding faculty members of Harvard Medical School were John Warren, Benjamin Waterhouse, and Aaron Dexter.[1] Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall and then later in Holden Chapel. Students paid no tuition, but purchased tickets to five or six daily lectures.[1][4] The first two students graduated in 1788.[1]

In the following century, the medical school moved locations several times due to changing clinical relationships; a function of the fact that Harvard Medical School does not directly operate or own a teaching hospital.[5] In 1810 the school moved to Boston at what is now downtown Washington Street. In 1816 the school was moved to Mason Street and was called the Massachusetts Medical College of Harvard University in recognition of a gift from the Great and General Court of Massachusetts. In 1847, the school was moved to Mason Street to be closer to Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1883 the school was relocated to Copley Square.[6] Prior to this move, Charles William Eliot became Harvard's president in 1869 and found the medical school in the worst condition of any part of the university. He instituted drastic reforms that included raised admissions standards, formal degree program, and defined it as a professional school within Harvard University that laid the groundwork for its transformation into one of the leading medical schools in the world.[4]

In 1906, the medical school moved to its current location in the Longwood Medical Area. The Longwood campus's five original marble-faced buildings of the quadrangle are used for laboratories, amphitheaters, and research space.[7][8]


Harvard Medical School faculty have been associated with a number of important medical and public-health innovations:

  • Introduction of smallpox vaccination to America
  • First use of anesthesia for pain control during surgery
  • The introduction of insulin to the US to treat diabetes
  • Comprehending of the role of vitamin B12 in treating anemia
  • Identification of coenzyme A and understanding of proteins
  • Developing tissue culture methods for the polio virus, which paved the way for vaccines against polio
  • Mapping the visual system of the brain
  • Development of the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia
  • Development of the first implantable cardiac pacemaker
  • Discovering the inheritance of immunity to infection
  • Development of artificial skin for burn victims
  • The first successful heart valve surgery
  • The first successful human kidney transplant
  • The first reattachment of a severed human limb
  • Discovery of the genes that cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), and Alzheimer's disease, among many others
  • Establishing the importance of tumor vascular supply (angiogenesis) and seeding the field of vascular biology
  • Discovery of the cause of preeclampsia.[9]

Broadening admissions


Massachusetts Medical College at Mason St. (Old building)
Harvard Medical School quadrangle in Longwood Medical Area.

In mid-1847, Professor Walter Channing's proposal that women be admitted to lectures and examinations was rejected by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Nonetheless, Harriot Kezia Hunt was soon after given permission to attend medical lectures, but in 1850 this permission was withdrawn.

In 1866 two women with extensive medical education elsewhere applied but were denied admission. In 1867 a single faculty member's vote blocked the admission of Susan Dimock. In 1872 Harvard declined a gift of $10,000 conditioned on medical school admitting women medical students on the same term as men. A similar offer of $50,000, by group of ten women including Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska, was declined in 1882, a committee of five was appointed to study the matter. After the medical school moved from North Grove Street to Boylston Street in 1883, professor Henry Ingersoll Bowditch's proposal that the North Grove Street premises be used for medical education for women was rejected.

In 1943 a dean's committee recommended the admission of women, the proportion of men and women being dependent solely on the qualifications of the applicants.[10] In 1945, the first class of women was admitted; projected benefits included helping male students learn to view women as equals, increasing the number of physicians in lower-paid specialties typically shunned by men, and replacing the weakest third of all-male classes with better-qualified women.[11] By 1972 about one fifth of Harvard medical students were women.[10]


In 1850 three black men, Martin Delany, Daniel Laing, Jr., and Isaac H. Snowden, were admitted to the school, but they were later expelled under pressure from faculty, and other students, who objected.

In 1968, in response to a petition signed by hundreds of medical students, the faculty established a commission on relations with the black community in Boston; at the time less than one percent of Harvard medical students were black. By 1973 the number of black students admitted had tripled, and by the next year it had quadrupled.[10]

Medical curriculum

Harvard Medical School has gone through many curricular revisions for its MD program. In recent decades, HMS has maintained a three-phase curriculum with a classroom based pre-clerkship phase, a principal clinical experience (PCE), and a post-PCE phase.[12]

The pre-clerkship phase has two curricular tracks. The majority of students enter in the more traditional Pathways track that focuses on active learning and earlier entry into the clinic with courses that include students from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Pathways students gain early exposure to the clinic through a longitudinal clinical skills course that lasts the duration of the pre-clerkship phase. A small portion of each class enter in the HST track, which is jointly administered with MIT. The HST track is designed to train physician-scientists with emphasis on basic physiology and quantitative understanding of biological processes through courses that include PhD students from MIT.


Admission to Harvard Medical School's MD program is highly selective. There are 165 total spots for each incoming class, with 135 spots in the Pathways curriculum and 30 spots in the HST program.[13] While both use a single application, each curricular track independently evaluates applicants.

For the Class of 2022, roughly 7,000 candidates applied and fewer than 900 were interviewed. Approximately 3.4 percent of applicants were offered positions in the incoming class with a 72% matriculation rate.[14]

Affiliate teaching hospitals

Harvard Medical School does not directly own or operate any hospitals and instead relies on affiliate hospitals for clinical education and patient care. While medical students can spend time at any of the affiliate centers, they primarily complete their clinical experiences at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, or Massachusetts General Hospital.[15]

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Andrea Ackerman artist
John R. Adler 1980 academic [16]
Robert B. Aird academic
Tenley Albright figure skater
David Altshuler geneticist
Harold Amos microbiologist [17]
William French Anderson geneticist
Christian B. Anfinsen biochemist, Nobel laureate
Paul S. Appelbaum 1976 academic
Jerry Avorn academic
Babak Azizzadeh Facial surgery specialist and surgeon for Mary Jo Buttafuoco after she was shot by Amy Fisher in 1992.
Arie S. Belldegrun director of the UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology and is Professor and Chief of Urologic Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine [18]
Rebecka Belldegrun ophthalmologist and businesswoman
Herbert Benson cardiologist, author of The Relaxation Response
Ira Black neuroscientist and stem cell researcher who served as the first director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. [19]
Roscoe Brady biochemist
Eugene Brody 1944 psychiatrist
Henry Bryant physician
Yōichi Takahashi physician, music composer
Rafael Campo poet
Ethan Canin author
Walter Bradford Cannon physiologist
William B. Castle hematologist
George C. S. Choate physician
Gilbert Chu physician, biochemist
Aram Chobanian President of Boston University (2003–2005)
Stanley Cobb neurologist
Ernest Codman physician
Albert Coons physician, immunologist, Lasker Award winner
Michael Crichton author
Harvey Cushing neurosurgeon
Elliott Cutler surgeon
Hallowell Davis (1896–1992) researcher of hearing, contributor to the invention of the electroencephalograph. [20]
Martin Delany One of the first African Americans to attend, and the first African-American field officer in the US; expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks. [21]
Fe del Mundo pediatrician, first Filipino and possibly first woman admitted to HMS (1936)
Allan S. Detsky physician
James Madison DeWolf soldier; physician
Peter Diamandis entrepreneur
Daniel DiLorenzo entrepreneur; neurosurgeon; inventor
Thomas Dwight anatomist
Lawrence Eron infectious disease physician
Edward Evarts neuroscientist
Sidney Farber pathologist
Paul Farmer infectious disease physician; global health
Jonathan Fielding past president American College of Preventive Medicine; health administrator; academic
Harvey V. Fineberg academic administrator
Elliott S. Fisher 1981 director of The Dartmouth Institute
John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald Mayor of Boston (1906–08; 1910–14)
Thomas Fitzpatrick dermatologist
Judah Folkman scientist
Irwin Freedberg 1956 dermatologist
Bill Frist U.S. Senator (1995–2007)
Atul Gawande surgeon, author
Charles Brenton Huggins physician; physiologist; Nobel laureate
Laurie H. Glimcher 1976 President and CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
George Lincoln Goodale botanist
Robert Goldwyn surgeon, editor-in-chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for 25 years [22]
Ernest Gruening Governor of the Alaska Territory (1939–53); U.S. Senator (1959–69)
I. Kathleen Hagen Murder suspect
Dean Hamer geneticist
Alice Hamilton first female faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
J. Hartwell Harrison surgeon - first kidney transplant, editor-in-chief of Campbell's Urology (4th ed.)
Michael R. Harrison pediatrician
Bernadine Healy Director of the National Institutes of Health (1991–93); CEO of the American Red Cross (1999–2001)
Ronald A. Heifetz academic
Lawrence Joseph Henderson biochemist
Edward H. Hill 1867 founder of Central Maine Medical Center [23]
David Ho infectious disease physician
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. physician; poet
Sachin H. Jain 2008 CEO, CareMore Health System; Obama administration official
William James philosopher
Mildred Fay Jefferson Pro Life Activist; first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
Clay Johnston Dean of the Dell Medical School at UT Austin
Elliott P. Joslin diabetolologist
Nathan Cooley Keep physician who founded the Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Jonny Kim Navy SEAL, ER physician, Astronaut
Jim Kim physician, global health leader, current President of the World Bank
Melvin Konner author and biological anthropologist
Peter D. Kramer 1976 psychiatrist
Charles Krauthammer 1975 columnist
Daniel Laing, Jr. One of the first African Americans to attend, and one of the first African American physicians; expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks, but finished his degree elsewhere. [21]
Theodore K. Lawless dermatologist, medical researcher, and philanthropist
Philip J. Landrigan epidemiologist and pediatrician
Aristides Leão biologist
Philip Leder geneticist
Simon LeVay neuroscientist
Pam Ling castmate on The Real World: San Francisco [24]
Joseph Lovell Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1818–36)
Karl Menninger psychiatrist
John S. Meyer physician
Randell Mills scientist
Vamsi Mootha systems biologist and geneticist
Siddhartha Mukherjee physician, author
Joseph Murray surgeon
Woody Myers Indiana state health commissioner [25]
Joel Mark Noe plastic surgeon
Amos Nourse U.S. Senator (1857)
Borna Nyaoke-Anoke AIDS researcher [26]
David Page biologist
Hiram Polk academic
Geoffrey Potts academic
Morton Prince neurologist
Alexander Rich biophysicist
Oswald Hope Robertson medical scientist
Richard Starr Ross Dean Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; former President of the American Heart Association.
Wilfredo Santa-Gómez author
George E. Shambaugh, Jr. Otolaryngologist
Alfred Sommer academic
Philip Solomon (psychiatrist) academic
Paul Spangler Naval surgeon and record-setting Senior long distance runner
Samuel L. Stanley 5th President of Stony Brook University, academic, physician, biomedical researcher
Jill Stein 1979 physician; activist; politician [27]
Felicia Stewart physician
Lubert Stryer academic; coauthor of Biochemistry
Yellapragada Subbarow biochemist
James B. Sumner chemist
Orvar Swenson 1937 pediatric surgeon; performed first surgery for Hirschsprung's disease [28]
Helen B. Taussig cardiologist; helped develop Blalock–Taussig shunt
John Templeton, Jr. president of the John Templeton Foundation
E. Donnall Thomas physician
Lewis Thomas essayist
Abby Howe Turner academic
George Eman Vaillant psychiatrist
Mark Vonnegut author; pediatrician
Joseph Warren soldier
Amy Wax 1981 Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School [29]
Andrew Weil proponent of alternative medicine and integrative medicine
Paul Dudley White cardiologist
Robert J. White neurosurgeon (Performed first monkey head transplant in the 1970s)
Patrisha Zobel de Ayala Chairman of World Medical Association, surgeon, anesthesiologist, neurologist, medical researcher
Charles F. Winslow early atomic theorist
Leonard Wood Chief of Staff of the United States Army ; Governor-General of the Philippines
Louis Tompkins Wright researcher, practitioner, first black Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, [30]
David Wu Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2011)
Jeffries Wyman anatomist
Alfred Worcester general practitioner
Patrick Tyrance 1997 Orthopedic surgeon and former Academic All American linebacker, for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football and picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1991 NFL draft [31][32]

See also


  1. "The History of HMS". hms.harvard.edu.
  2. "US News Harvard University".
  3. "HMS Affiliates - Harvard Medical School". hms.harvard.edu.
  4. Morison, Samuel Eliot (1930). The Development of Harvard University since the inauguration of President Eliot, 1869-1929. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 555–594 & Preface.
  5. "History of Harvard Medicine". medstudenthandbook.hms.harvard.edu.
  6. "The History of HMS - Harvard Medical School". hms.harvard.edu.
  7. "Harvard Medical School — History". Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2007.
  8. "Countway Medical Library — Records Management — Historical Notes". Archived from the original on September 1, 2006. Retrieved February 25, 2007.
  9. "History of Harvard Medicine". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  10. Beecher, Henry Knowles (1977). Medicine at Harvard : the first three hundred years. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England. pp. 460–481.
  11. First class of women admitted to Harvard Medical School, 1945 (Report). Countway Repository, Harvard University Library. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  12. "MD Program". meded.hms.harvard.edu.
  13. "Admissions at a Glance". meded.hms.harvard.edu.
  14. "A White Coat Welcome - Harvard Medical School". hms.harvard.edu.
  15. "Pathways". meded.hms.harvard.edu.
  16. "John R. Adler, MD | Stanford Medicine". med.stanford.edu. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  17. "Dr. Harold Amos, 84; Mentor to Aspiring Minority Physicians". Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2003. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  18. "Arie Belldegrun M.D. | David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA". People.healthsciences.ucla.edu. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  19. Pearce, Jeremy. "Dr. Ira B. Black, 64, Leader in New Jersey Stem Cell Effort, Dies", The New York Times, January 12, 2006. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  20. Saxon, Wolfgang. "Hallowell Davis, 96, an Explorer Who Charted the Inner Ear, Dies", New York Times, September 10, 1992. Accessed July 19, 2010.
  21. Menand, Louis (2001), The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 7–9, ISBN 0-374-52849-7
  22. Murray, Joseph E. M.D., Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, October 2004, Volume 114, accessed March 20, 2011.
  23. Howard Atwood Kelly, Walter Lincoln Burrage, American Medical Biographies (1920) pg. 527 https://books.google.com/books?id=SIRIAQAAMAAJ
  24. "MTV Original TV Shows, Reality TV Shows - MTV". Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  25. Johnson, Dirk (January 20, 1990). "Man in the News: Woodrow Augustus Myers Jr.; A Commissioner Who Knows Strife". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  26. Business Daily Africa (2017). "Top 40 Women Under 40 in Kenya" (PDF). Nairobi: Nation Media Group. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  27. "Jill Stein (G-R) Candidate for Governor". Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  28. Grosfeld, Jay L.; Othersen, H. Beimann (2009). "A tribute to Orvar Swenson on his 100th birthday". Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 44 (2): 475. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2009.01.004. PMID 19231562.
  29. "Our History: Former Faculty: Wax, Amy L. (1994-2001); Tenured faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law through its history.", University of Virginia School of Law.
  30. Medicine: Negro Fellow Time, October 29, 1934
  31. "Pat Tyrance".
  32. "Tyrance Earns Spot in Academic All-America Hall".
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