Thoughts from the Dean

New Beginnings and Progress at HMS

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September 12, 2014
New Beginnings and Progress at HMS

The academic year ahead holds great promise as we pursue exciting new initiatives. 

As we begin a new academic year, I find it fitting to reflect on our recent progress and appropriate to express my deep gratitude for all the remarkable work performed in the HMS community every day as we work together to advance our mission. This year we also have a great deal to look forward to as we pursue some of the year’s key initiatives.

One of our most exciting ventures is the new Office for External Education, led by inaugural dean David H. Roberts. Since taking the helm, David and his team have been working zealously with HMS leaders, faculty and key external partners to lay the groundwork necessary to bring our extraordinary educational expertise to expanded categories of learners, both locally and globally. The enhanced education portfolios will combine the formidable assets of the Department of Continuing Education, Harvard Health Publications and the Office of Global Education with innovative technologies, creating new programs that will deliver valuable knowledge across a variety of platforms. 

We are also proceeding with plans for a bold new curriculum redesign within our Program in Medical Education, recalibrating our model of pedagogy for the four-year MD program. This new curriculum will more fully integrate basic science and clinical medicine, promote new teaching and assessment technologies, and involve a sophisticated reconfiguration of our learning spaces to support new learning approaches. Set to launch in 2015, this initiative has been ably led by Jules Dienstag, dean for medical education, along with a dedicated team of colleagues within PME. It will continue to be championed by the incoming dean for medical education, Ed Hundert, who assumes his new role at the end of October.

Ambitious plans call for visionary leaders and we are fortunate that John Czajkowski, formerly of the National Cancer Institute, joined us this spring as executive dean for administration. John arrived amid much transformation at HMS and he has rapidly taken the reins of critical administrative functions, helping us to steer a smooth course as we navigate our ambitious activities over the coming years.

I also want to reflect on our collective progress during the past year and highlight just a few of the School's many outstanding accomplishments.

RESEARCH

The pace of biomedical research has been progressing with extraordinary speed, and I am proud to say that HMS faculty remain in the vanguard of many of the most important advances. From the creation of a powerful new gene-editing tool that could help combat the spread of malaria, to finding a way to regrow corneas from stem cells that could reverse blindness, the range of discovery at HMS, both basic and translational, reflects remarkable achievement.

We were privileged this year to establish several collaborations that will assist HMS as we continue to seek and create the knowledge that will improve health and medical care for thousands far into the future. A $90 million gift from Ludwig Cancer Research will facilitate new insights into the basic biology of cancer and accelerate the translation of basic research to improve patient outcomes. As Joan Brugge relinquishes her role as chair of cell biology to become co-director of the Ludwig Center at Harvard, we welcome Wade Harper as the new chair beginning on Nov. 3. Wade is an esteemed cell biologist and biochemist who has contributed greatly to the research enterprise at HMS since arriving in 2003.

I am happy to share that in just a few weeks, we will officially celebrate the opening of new space for another dynamic initiative, the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology, a cornerstone of the Harvard Program in Therapeutic Science, which focuses on understanding disease processes and responses to drug interventions in cells, tissues and humans.

In an effort to reveal the origins of undiagnosed diseases and to better understand human physiology, the National Institutes of Health awarded HMS $9 million to serve as the coordinating center for the Undiagnosed Diseases Network. Overseen by the School’s Center for Biomedical Informatics, this collaborative effort between clinicians and researchers works to solve challenging cases while providing compassionate diagnostic care to individuals and families.

NIH also awarded Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center a second five-year grant, the largest award of its kind in the U.S.  Harvard Catalyst also received renewed support from HMS, HSPH and our academic health care centers for its work in fostering clinical and translational research across the University and hospital affiliates.

In the international arena, promising new collaborations are coming to fruition. The new Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases will involve the creation of a scholarly exchange program with Chinese institutions. Its goal is to probe the role of chronic inflammation in a variety of diseases and explore how environmental factors may be contributing to them. A generous gift from Foundation Bertarelli has allowed us to expand the Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, extending our partnership with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland to help us accelerate the translation of basic biomedical developments into improved health for people with neurological disorders. In South America, funding provided by NIH and the State of São Paulo Research Foundation will allow HMS researchers to team with Brazilian scientists on a study that may lead to new antifungal agents.

EDUCATION

Many on campus have now had the opportunity to visit or use our new Clinical Skills Center, an impressive state-of-the-art venue for teaching, assessment and faculty development. Looking to the future, an architectural programming study of TMEC was completed this year, which evaluated teaching and student space needs in light of curriculum redesign goals, and we are now working on a 10-year campus master plan that will help us evaluate long-term space and design needs.

Along with our curriculum redesign progress, I am pleased that we have now established two new hospital-based academic departments—a Department of Neurosurgery and a Department of Emergency Medicine. Both disciplines have distinct training programs, fellowships and boards. Each department will manage its own HMS faculty appointments, resulting in a host of benefits for hundreds of faculty members. A tremendous amount of time and energy went into creating these departments, and I am deeply indebted to all who contributed.

We have also continued to expand our graduate education programs. We now have five active master’s programs, including two launched in the past year, a Master of Science in Medical Education and a Master of Medical Sciences in Immunology, both starting this fall.

The Center for Primary Care has received generous support, allowing us to expand its flagship program—the Academic Innovations Collaborative—which fosters safe and reliable care systems in primary care. The collaborative spurs innovation in education and care delivery at 20 HMS-affiliated primary care teaching practices that care for more than 275,000 patients.

We also look forward to our community participating in and celebrating the launch of the upcoming HMS capital campaign this November.

It takes a community of extraordinary individuals to accomplish our many ambitious goals, and I remain inspired by our School's record of achievement. This year, five additional faculty members were admitted to the National Academy of Sciences, five were elected to the Institute of Medicine and five more were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It is impossible for me to individually name each member of our distinguished faculty who received awards and recognitions this year, but to these awardees and every member of the HMS family who daily contribute to the success of our mission, I extend my heartfelt appreciation.

As I look ahead to the promise the coming year holds, I am confident that through the outstanding efforts made across our institution daily, HMS will record another year of remarkable achievement. 

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