Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the top research medical school in the nation and one of the most prestigious and sought after institutions of higher learning for future medical doctors and researchers. Founded in 1782, it is the third oldest medical school in the country and throughout it’s history has produced some of the most famous names in the American scientific community, including 15 researchers who share nine Nobel prizes for their work conducted on the campus.
Originally holding its first classes for a total of two students in the basement of Harvard Hall, the school has grown through the centuries and is situated in its Boston location where its been since 1906. Just north of Boston is Cambridge, where the rest of the Harvard University buildings are located. Students who come here will be able to live in one of the oldest and grandest cities of New England while taking part in a vibrant and historic medical community with some of the best and brightest faculty in the nation.
The school has a very unique approach towards educating its future doctors. Once admitted, each student is assigned to a particular Academic Society, much like its own little college within a college, complete with their own separate faculty, classrooms, labs, and offices.
Most students are enrolled in the New Pathway program and are randomly chosen to participate in one of the following four societies:
- Walter Bradford Cannon
- William Bosworth Castle
- Francis Weld Peabody
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Harvard-MIT students are automatically given a berth in the Irving M. London group. All groups are named after famous alumni and this is one way the school keeps its long history alive for current students. As you can imagine, the societies are extremely competitive with one another, for grades and extracurricular activities, which really keeps the students engaged and sharp with their studies. They also give the students the chance to form deep relationships with fellow students along with forming mentoring relationships with faculty, instead of just being one face out of many in a huge lecture hall. This approach is one of the unique experiences here and why it fosters such brilliant outcomes – students are educated and immersed into the programs in such a way that ideas, constant feedback, and tutoring are always available.
The New Pathway Program
The medical school is both traditional and innovative with the New Pathway program geared for students interested in a doctor/patient careers instead of reserach. Students are engaged for the next four years in their medical studies, with the first two learning about the biological sciences in the Fundamentals of Medicine core courses. The New Integrated Curriculum (NIC) was adopted in 2006. A major aspect of the program is the small group tutorials – this is where students are expected to shine by contributing and developing essential critical thinking skills, instead of just attending lectures. Medical students here are more than just passive learners, they are being molded to analyze and develop real life solutions to medical problems.
Deeper into the program, students become immersed in the clinical sciences, moving to one of the teaching hospitals or other venues that are partners with the school. These four years will culminate in a MD degree.
Health Sciences and Technology (HST)
This medical track is designed for students who favor biomedical research, and a good portion continue on with the advanced course to earn their combined MD-Ph.D degree. All students are required to complete independent research, which ends with a written thesis paper, while also completing the core medical curriculum.
This is one of the most selective medical schools in the country and a Harvard doctor sets the standard for excellence in the medical community. With that said, the admissions committee has high standards for who they select to enroll and they are looking for the best and the brightest out there. As can be expected, potential students must have strong grades in math and science, high MCAT scores, have done well in the humanities during their undergraduate years, and be well rounded with interesting life experiences, with any experience in the health industry a big plus. The ideal candidate will also be a graduate of an accredited college or university, and have a high aptitude for the study of medicine.
All applications are conducted through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) online site, with their deadline set for October 15. There are no rolling admissions to this school. The letters of recommendation are due by October 22. Also due on October 22 is the HMS supplemental online application.
If the admissions committee is interested in your application, you will receive an email invitation to come to Boston for a personal interview. This includes a full day of orientation, lunch, a tour, recommended lectures to attend, plus two separate interviews. If you are applying to both the New Pathway program and the HST program, be prepared to attend two separate interview days.
The school has separate admissions and financial aid processes since students are admitted based on whether or not they are able to afford this school completely on their own. There are no merit-based scholarships directly from the school, but there are need-based scholarships and low-interest institutional loans. It is also highly encouraged that students look into outside scholarships to help fund their medical education.
A financial aid officer will be assigned to each applicant who will go over the options with you and put together a comprehensive package that best suits your needs based on available funds. In order to be considered for this, students need to fill out the HMS Application for Financial Aid, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Need Access Application, plus copies of parent federal tax returns.
For those students who are no longer being funded through their parents’ income, they can still receive aid through:
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Federal Direct PLUS Loan
- Federal Work-Study Program
First year students have the option of living in Vanderbilt Hall, with priority given to full-time students at HMS, the School of Dental Medicine, and the Division of Medical Sciences. However, this housing arrangement will most likely end at the end of the first year and students may be asked to relocate to make room for the next set of first-year students.
The Harvard Medical Alumni Association, or HMAA, was founded in 1891 and is very active in the medical community. There are reunions, meetings, and receptions around the nation as former students connect with current students to help them advance fully into a medical career. The group also publishes the Harvard Medical magazine which was established in 1927.
Additional School Information
There are many clinics and medical facilities associated with HMS, but the four major teaching hospitals they are partners with are:
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Boston Children’s Hospital
- Massachusetts General Hospital
Justine Ventimiglia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Currently residing in a 1950’s modest ranch in Metro Detroit, she enjoys researching and writing about Mid Century Modern furniture and decor as she works on restoring her home and documenting the process.