Pathway to Promotion

Promotion to full professor at HMS culminates a lifetime of exceptional work


William Curry. Image: Michelle Rose/MGH Photography

Promotion to full professor at Harvard Medical School culminates a lifetime of exceptional work. For William Curry that includes clinical practice, teaching and research.

In 2017, Curry, a national leader in the neurosurgical care of patients with tumors of the brain, skull base and spine, was promoted to full professor 20 years after starting as a resident in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“You realize what it means and the impact you are having on the field and on the world of your specialty—just how relatively rare it is, and how it’s a recognition of not just hard work but leadership,” Curry said.

A skilled neurosurgeon, Curry has also led and participated in multiple clinical trials and has worked on cancer vaccines for patients with glioblastoma. His research focuses on developing cellular and immune-based therapies for malignant tumors. “The one force of nature that can be variable, that can evolve, that can kind of modulate itself, is the immune system, and it’s doing it constantly,” Curry said. “It’s being borne out that we should be able to harness that ability and to engineer it.”

Curry credits many mentors for his success, including a former department chair at Mass General who encouraged neurosurgical trainees to be leaders in academics and research and who motivated Curry to ask and pursue big questions. “There are people who really, in a hands-on way, taught me things—for example, how to operate or how to manage patients—that I emulate to this day,” he said.

Curry’s father, the first black chief resident and then attending surgeon at New York Hospital, was a powerful role model. Now, as a full professor, Curry will also continue to have opportunities to train and inspire future generations.

“Some of my proudest moments are when you take a trainee who for years has been attentive, focused, asking questions, and then you see that person as they’re approaching the end of their training really function independently in complex situations,” he said. “It’s very, very exciting.”

Going forward, Curry said, his career will focus on bringing groups together at HMS to pursue questions about neuro-oncology and on paving the way for those who will follow in his footsteps. “We’re the leaders of these great institutions now,” he said. “That responsibility is now on people like me.”