Harvard Medical School
Coat of arms
TypePrivate medical school
EstablishedSeptember 19, 1782 (1782-09-19)
Parent institution
Harvard University
DeanGeorge Q. Daley
Academic staff
  • MD – 712
  • PhD – 915
  • DMD – 140
  • Master's – 269
  • DMSc – 39
Location, ,
United States

42°20′13″N 71°06′14″W / 42.33694°N 71.10389°W / 42.33694; -71.10389

Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University and is located in the Longwood Medical Area in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1782, HMS is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States.[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. Affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes include Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children's Hospital, McLean Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, The Baker Center for Children and Families, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.[3]


Massachusetts Medical College at Mason St.(Old building)
Massachusetts Medical College, Mason Street
The new Massachusetts Medical College in Grove St., Bosto
Massachusetts Medical College, Grove Street
Harvard Medical School quadrangle in Longwood Medical Area
Harvard Medical School quadrangle in Longwood Medical Area

Harvard Medical School was founded on September 19, 1782, on the initiative of Harvard President Joseph Willard. The founding faculty were John Warren, Aaron Dexter, and Benjamin Waterhouse. It is the third-oldest medical school in the United States, after the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall, then in Holden Chapel. Students paid no tuition but purchased tickets to five or six daily lectures.[2][4] The first two students graduated in 1788.[2]

In the following century, the school moved locations several times due to changing clinical relationships, a function of the fact that Harvard Medical School does not directly own or operate 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 Grove 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 raised admissions standards, instituted a formal degree program, and defined HMS 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 school moved to its present location in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area.[7][8]


Harvard Medical School postdoctoral trainees and faculty have been associated with a number of important medical and public health innovations:[9]

Broadening admissions


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. While Harriot Kezia Hunt was soon after given permission to attend medical lectures, this permission was withdrawn in 1850.

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 a 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.[11] 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.[12] By 1972, about one-fifth of Harvard medical students were women.[11]

African Americans

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

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.[11] In 2011, HMS appointed its first African American full professor of medicine, Valerie E. Stone.[13] That year they also appointed their first African-American professor of radiology, Stone's former classmate Tina Young Poussaint.[13]

In 2019 LaShyra Nolen was the first black woman to be elected class president of Harvard Medical School.[14]

Medical education

The Warren Anatomical Museum at HMS was named after its founder John Collins Warren, first Dean at HMS (picture taken 1910)


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.[15]

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.[16] While both use a single application, each curricular track independently evaluates applicants.

For the MD Class of 2023, 6,815 candidates applied and 227 were admitted (3.3%). There was a matriculation rate of 73%.[1] For the Master of Medical Sciences (MMSc) program in Global Health Delivery, the Fall 2020 admissions rate was (8.2%).

Graduate education

PhD degree programs

There are nine PhD programs based in Harvard Medical School.[17] Students in these programs are all enrolled in the Division of Medical Sciences in Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and are part of the HILS (Harvard Integrated Life Sciences) inter-program federation.[18]

Master's degree programs

Harvard Medical School offers two types of master's degrees, Master of Medical Sciences (MMSc) degrees and Master of Science (MS) degrees.[19]

Postgraduate certificate programs

Harvard Medical School offers several Postgraduate Certificate programs.[20] These graduate-level programs may run up to twelve months. Admitted participants are awarded a Certificate from Harvard Medical School upon successful completion, and are eligible for associate membership in the Harvard Alumni Association.[21]

Affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes

Harvard Medical School does not directly own or operate any hospitals and instead relies on affiliated teaching hospitals for clinical education. Medical students primarily complete their clinical experiences at the following hospitals. [22] Clinical faculty at Harvard Medical School generally hold a concurrent appointment as a physician or a surgeon at one of the affiliated hospitals. Basic science faculty at Harvard Medical School may hold the primary appointment at the School itself or at one of the affiliated hospitals.

Notable alumni

There are over 10,425 alumni.[1] Harvard Medical School has trained more current full-time academic faculty, department chairs, and medical school deans than any other single medical school. It has also trained more Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Physiology than any other medical school.

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Andrea Ackerman artist
John R. Adler 1980 Academic [23]
Robert B. Aird Academic
Tenley Albright Figure skater
David Altshuler Geneticist
Harold Amos microbiologist [24]
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 [25]
Rebecka Belldegrun ophthalmologist, businesswoman
Herbert Benson cardiologist, author of The Relaxation Response
Ira Black neuroscientist and stem cell researcher, first director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey [26]
Roscoe Brady biochemist
Eugene Brody 1944 psychiatrist
Henry Bryant physician
Rafael Campo poet
Ethan Canin author
Walter Bradford Cannon physiologist
William Bosworth Castle hematologist
George Cheyne Shattuck Choate physician
Gilbert Chu physician, biochemist
Aram Chobanian President of Boston University (2003–2005)
Stanley Cobb neurologist
Godwin Maduka doctor, philanthropist
Ernest Codman physician
Albert Coons physician, immunologist, Lasker Award winner
Michael Crichton author
Harvey Cushing neurosurgeon
Elliott Cutler surgeon
Hallowell Davis hearing researcher, contributor to the invention of the electroencephalograph [27]
Martin Delany one of the first African Americans to attend, first African-American field officer in the US, expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks [28]
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
Daniel Feikin physician, global health epidemiologist, academic
Jonathan Fielding past president of the 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 [29]
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 who performed 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 [30]
David Ho infectious disease physician
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. physician, poet
Sachin H. Jain 2008 CEO of CareMore Health System, Obama administration official
William James philosopher
Mildred Fay Jefferson anti-abortion activist, first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School
Clay Johnston Dean of the Dell Medical School at University of Texas at 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, biological anthropologist
Peter D. Kramer 1976 psychiatrist
Charles Krauthammer 1975 columnist
Daniel Laing Jr. one of the first African Americans to attend, one of the first African-American physicians, expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks but finished his degree elsewhere [28]
Theodore K. Lawless dermatologist, medical researcher, philanthropist
Philip J. Landrigan epidemiologist, pediatrician
Aristides Leão biologist
Philip Leder geneticist
Simon LeVay neuroscientist
Pam Ling castmate on The Real World: San Francisco [31]
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, geneticist
Siddhartha Mukherjee physician, author
Joseph Murray surgeon
Woody Myers Indiana state health commissioner [32]
Joel Mark Noe plastic surgeon
Amos Nourse 1817 U.S. Senator (1857)
Borna Nyaoke-Anoke AIDS researcher [33]
David C. Page biologist
Hiram Polk academic
Geoffrey Potts academic
Morton Prince neurologist
Jayaraj Rajagopal Bernard and Mildred Kayden MGH Research Institute Chair and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Alexander Rich biophysicist
Oswald Hope Robertson medical scientist
Richard S. 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 academic psychiatrist
Paul Spangler naval surgeon
Samuel L. Stanley 5th President of Stony Brook University, academic, physician
Jill Stein 1979 physician, activist, politician [34]
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 [35]
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 [36]
Andrew Weil 1968 proponent of alternative medicine and integrative medicine
Paul Dudley White cardiologist
Robert J. White neurosurgeon who performed first monkey head transplant in the 1970s
Patrisha Zóbel 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 T. Wright researcher, practitioner, first black Fellow of the American College of Surgeons [37]
David Wu Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2011)
Jeffries Wyman anatomist
Alfred Worcester general practitioner
Mark Schuster 1988 Dean and Founding CEO, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine
Patrick Tyrance 1997 orthopedic surgeon, former Academic All American linebacker for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1991 NFL draft [38][39]
Jennifer Doudna 1989 2020 Nobel Prize recipient in the field of chemistry for the discovery of CRISPR Cas9 [40]

See also


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  37. ^ Medicine: Negro Fellow Time, October 29, 1934
  38. ^ "Pat Tyrance". Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
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  40. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020". NobelPrize.org. Archived from the original on February 20, 2023. Retrieved February 20, 2023.