Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
There are approximately 2,900 full- and part-time voting faculty members consisting of assistant, associate, and full professors, and over 5,000 full or part-time, non-voting instructors.
Harvard is the third-oldest medical school in the United States (after Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) and was founded by John Warren on September 19, 1782, with Benjamin Waterhouse, and Aaron Dexter, “professor of chemistry and materia medica (pharmacology).
Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall, then later in Holden Chapel. Students paid no tuition, but purchased tickets to five or six daily lectures. The first two students graduated in 1788.
In 1810 the school moved to Boston – first to what is now downtown Washington Street; then Mason Street (1816–1846, during which time it was sometimes referred to as the Massachusetts Medical College); North Grove Street (1847); Copley Square (1883); and finally its current location (the Longwood Medical Area) in 1906. In the Longwood campus there are five original marble-faced buildings of the quadrangle, which are used for laboratories, amphitheaters, and research space.
When Charles William Eliot became Harvard’s president in 1869, he found the medical school in the worst condition of any part of the university; his reforms laid the groundwork for its transformation into one of the leading medical schools in the world.
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. Nonetheless, Harriot Kezia Hunt was soon after giving permission to attend medical lectures, but in 1850 this permission was withdrawn.
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.
In 1850 two black men, Daniel Laing, Jr. and Isaac H. Snowden, were admitted to the school, but they were later expelled under pressure from faculty, and other students, who objected.
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.
In the early 20th century, the “block system”, under which “each subject was treated intensively for a period and then dropped entirely”, was eliminated. In addition to the objective to test knowledge over memory, time was reduced.
In 2015, Harvard introduced a new “Pathways” curriculum, intended to “foster active learning and critical thinking; earlier clinical experience; and advanced clinical and student-tailored basic/population science experiences that will provide customized pathways for every student.
The Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) offers an alternative MD program with a stronger emphasis on biomedical research. The HST MD program is significantly smaller than the Pathways program, accepting only 30 applicants every year.