An Exciting Journey

HMS master's degree programs meet the need for rigorously trained health and science professionals

Dean Daley, Dr. McCray, Dr. Brendel, Dr. Carroll, Dr. Gehlenborg, Dr. Kesselheim, Dr. McCausland, Dr. Mukherjee, Dr. Pillai, Dr. Singh, graduates, families, friends, faculty, program managers, staff and distinguished guests.  Welcome to the seventh annual graduation ceremony for the Master’s Programs at Harvard Medical School.  This is a day of celebration for all of us in this room.  For the graduates, their teachers and research advisors, this is a culmination of one, two or more years of creative and diligent work in advanced biomedical and health studies.  For the families and friends, this is a moment of pride and joy in having supported these successful physicians, scientists, and future health and science professionals in their quest for knowledge and discovery.  For the program directors, managers and staff, this is a milestone in educating the next generation of leaders in biomedicine and health sciences. Congratulations to all of you!

I would like to take a few minutes to explain why this is such an auspicious day for Harvard Medical School.  Over the past nine years, a number of key individuals, many of them in this room, have worked with passion, dedication and persistence to create a framework for master’s level education at HMS. Building on the foundation laid by our two oldest Master’s programs—the Clinical Investigator Training Program and the Scholars in Clinical Science Program—these individuals first developed a set of criteria for programs to qualify for the Master of Medical Sciences (MMSc) degree at Harvard Medical School and then applied these criteria to the review and approval of new master’s programs in biomedical research. These criteria included core and elective course requirements, mentored research requirements, registration and credit requirements, admissions and advising requirements, evaluation and thesis requirements, and academic review and approval requirements.  The criteria were then used to review and approve our third and fourth MMSc programs: the Biomedical Informatics Program and the Global Health Delivery Program.

Overall, this exciting and groundbreaking process has provided Harvard Medical School with a robust mechanism to create communities of students and faculty with shared interests in a particular domain of biomedical research and to allow those communities to flourish academically.  Four years ago, we reviewed and approved proposals for two new master’s programs that graduated their first cohorts of students two years ago—one in Medical Education and the second in Immunology.  Both of these programs were reviewed by committees of experts over the past couple of months, and both received high praise indeed. More recently, we, and then the University, reviewed and approved a an entirely new master’s degree, the Master of Bioethics; this program graduated its first cohort of students two years ago. This graduation marks the second cohort of graduates for the Master of Biomedical Informatics and the first cohort of graduates for the MMSc in Clinical Investigation degree. And next year, we will enroll our first group of students into our newest program, the Master in Healthcare Quality and Safety.

All in all, our master’s programs have grown in enrollment from 139 last year to 188 this year, and the number of our master’s graduates has increased from 68 last year to 86 this year. Also of importance, whereas our two initial master’s programs graduated students with virtually 100 percent U.S. backgrounds, a full 56 percent of our current graduates have international backgrounds. And at this moment, there are faculty committees working to develop proposals in yet more areas of biomedicine—and other faculty committees working to innovate within some of our existing master’s programs—in order to provide new and exciting opportunities for rigorous training of the next generation of scholars and leaders.

Why is this important for Harvard Medical School? There are many possible answers to this question, but I would like to highlight one. As the programs graduating students today have shown, there is a continuing need for investigators and other health and science professionals who are rigorously trained at the interfaces of modern biomedical science, clinical medicine and health delivery. Increasingly, work at these interfaces requires not only the training provided by a terminal degree such as the MD or PhD but also rigorous training in crosscutting fields such as clinical investigation, translational investigation, biomedical informatics, global health delivery, medical education, immunology, bioethics, healthcare quality and safety, and others.  Our strong belief at Harvard Medical School is that a portfolio of master’s programs, spanning the range of scholarly activities in biomedical science, will fill the need for this extraordinary training for the generation of investigators to come.

To all the program directors, administrators, faculty, staff and students who have partnered with us on this exciting journey, I thank you profoundly on behalf of the school.


Adapted from a speech given by David Golan at the Master's Degree Programs Graduation Ceremony on May 22, 2018.