The first week of August is always a momentous one for new students at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
New to campus, they meet the classmates with whom they will spend the next four years, along with the deans, advisors and faculty members who will introduce them to the practice of medicine in what some say is one of the most challenging and rewarding. of professions
New students become familiar with some of the critical skills they will need to master as doctors and dentists. They begin to explore the best ways to communicate with patients, resolve ethical dilemmas, and build collaborative and supportive teams. Then, at the end of the week, in a ceremony attended by friends and family, they formally don the white coats that are symbolic of their chosen profession.
“I never wanted to do anything else,” Josie Wilson, a freshman at MD, said during her first week. “I knew it would be a tough race, but there is nothing else that comes close. For me, practicing medicine is the ultimate form of empathy.”
Wilson said she was very curious and eager to learn a bit of the stories behind all the new faces around her. Although she said that the experience of the first week was a bit overwhelming, she had no doubt that she was in the right place.
As the week begins, George Q Daleydean of HMS, welcomed the new students and pledged to support them on their journey to become the best doctors they can be, a message often repeated by other deans, advisers, faculty and staff.
Daley congratulated the entering class for having the persistence and conviction necessary to be accepted to Harvard during the last two and a half years of the COVID-19 pandemic, assuring them that despite the challenges they may face, they possess everyone needs to achieve their goals.
“Let me assure you that if you stay focused on what you came here to do: discover what it means to be a good doctor, absorb the latest in biomedical science, and cultivate effective leadership skills, you will go far.” Daley said.
In the MD program, 163 students were enrolled in the class of 2026, including 68 men, 92 women, and three people with different gender identities.
Twenty percent of the entering class are members of medically underrepresented groups, including Black or African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and other Hispanics. Twenty-one students identified as LGBTQ. Enrolling students hail from 36 US states, as well as Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.
Within this class, 135 students are enrolled at HMS pathways Curriculum, that incorporates early clinical experience and advanced clinical and personalized science courses for students, as well as case-based collaborative pedagogy.
Twenty-eight students are enrolled in the Health Sciences and Technologies program, a collaboration between Harvard University, HMS, and MIT focused on translational engineering and medical science.
Many of the students will earn an additional advanced degree while completing their medical studies, including 13 who are enrolled at Harvard. MD-PhD Program.
Among the 35 students who enroll in the DMD program there are 14 men and 21 women. Twenty-five percent of the class are members of medically underrepresented groups, including Black or African American, Hispanic, Other Hispanic, Other Spanish, Puerto Rican, and South American.
Two members of the entering HSDM class identified as LGBTQ. Enrolling dental students hail from 18 US states, as well as Brazil, China, South Africa, Turkey, and Uruguay.
“I hope they make the most of their education here and the great opportunities that lie ahead,” he said. William Giannobile, dean of HSDM. “Today is the beginning of an incredible journey that will make them the health care providers, researchers, policymakers and leaders that they will become.”
Daley and Giannobile were joined at the welcome event by many of the faculty leaders and dean from the medical and dental education programs and by student leaders from the second, third and fourth years of the MD and DMD programs.
From student to doctor
Coursework for students’ first week was designed to give them a shared foundational understanding of key concepts that will be important in their future careers.
katherine millerHMS assistant professor of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance and director of the Introduction to the Profession course, said that means asking students to think about questions such as what we mean when we talk about health equity and what are some ways to get involved. in advocacy and activism as a student.
Students also had the opportunity to explore the culturally, socially, and economically diverse communities in the neighborhoods around their new Boston campus, experiences designed to help them think about how factors outside of a person’s clinical profile can determine the type of care medical care and support they need. .
One of the classes in the first week focused on the professionalism of medicine.
“Students walk into class thinking you’re going to tell them to cut their hair and put on a tie,” Miller said. “But it’s about encouraging them to think about what professionalism means in medicine and how it differs from what they’ve experienced so far in their careers.”
Miller said one of the biggest transitions in medical education in recent years has been a shift from the individualistic, sometimes competitive, single-student mindset to the “other-focused” collaborative mindset that doctors now need to be effective.
How a student performs on a test in college affects their grades and perhaps their chances of going to medical school, Miller said, but how well students perform on a test in medical school can affect their ability to attend successfully to patients in the future.
Through a combination of classroom work, group projects, peer conversation and independent reflection, students are encouraged to build their own ideas about what is professional, he said.
The goal is to get them to think for themselves about how things like the clothes they wear, the ethical decisions they make, and their behavior on social media can influence their patients.
As part of joining the HMS community, each entering class writes an oath, a promise they make to themselves, their teachers, and their future patients about how they will approach learning while in medical and dental school.
Miller offered some guiding questions, inviting everyone who wanted to participate in drafting the pledge, then identified some team leaders for the project before encouraging students to get organized.
The entire class recites the pledge together during the White Coat Ceremony on Friday.
Meet the patients
After donning their white coats and posing for their first-class portraits, the students participated in their first patient clinic earlier in the week.
edward one hundreddean of medical education at HMS, introduced students to patient Barry Nelson and his primary care physician for 13 years, alex gonzalezHMS assistant professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The students also met with the patient advocate and Boston Health Care Homeless Program board member Sarah Reid and Jim O’Connelme, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and president of BHCHP, where he and Reid have worked together for more than a decade.
Patients and doctors together discussed their clinical journeys, their relationships with each other and with the rest of the health care system, and then discussed some of the elements outside of medicine that have played a role in their doctor-patient relationships.
Nelson, a cancer survivor and patient advocate, highlighted the importance of his religious faith in his commitment to fighting cancer, navigating various treatments and finding a place in a clinical trial that ultimately made him one of the first cancer patients lung to receive immunotherapy. he said.
In addition to the clinical and scientific aspects involved in caring for Nelson, González noted that it was also important for him, as a physician, to keep in mind that Nelson was a gay black man, a father, and a member of a community. and that all of those aspects of Nelson’s identity, together, played a role in Nelson’s health and treatment decisions.
Reid, a transgender woman, shared the story of her traumatic childhood, her transition, and her experiences of homelessness. She also spoke about how she has worked with O’Connell to help improve care for trans and other homeless people.
Reid told the students that to care for people who are struggling, it is crucial to be able to see a little of yourself in them, recognize their humanity and listen to their stories.
“The most important thing anyone has ever told me is that I believe you,” Reid said, emphasizing the importance of a trusting partnership between doctors and patients.
Hundert also stressed that it was important for doctors to “unlearn the rules of polite society” that encourage them to avoid awkward questions.
“Any question you ask, if it’s being asked honestly because you think it might be relevant to your health, that’s fine,” Hundert said. “As long as you bring an attitude of respect, curiosity, and care, you will always do what is best for your patient.”
Students then had the opportunity to ask Nelson, Gonzalez, Reid, and O’Connell about potential friction points in their doctor-patient relationships, building strong communication, and the challenges of rebuilding trust in a system of care. doctor or to a doctor once it has been lost.
Welcome to new colleagues
Outside the patient’s clinic, Fidencio SaldanaHMS dean of students, noted that this year’s incoming students are bringing a wide range of diverse experiences, a sophisticated understanding of health, science, medicine and dentistry, and an incredible amount of energy to the HMS community. and HSDM.
“Every year this week gives us renewed hope for the future,” Saldaña said. “For me, the white coat is a symbol of our commitment to our patients and a wonderful way to welcome these students, our new colleagues in this very fulfilling profession.”
The week culminates in a traditional white coat event.
Community members, family and friends can view the Welcome Program for Family and Guests and the White Coat Ceremony at the HMS YouTube Channel.
The Family and Guest Welcome Program begins at 10:30 am ET and the White Robe Ceremony begins at 1:30 pm ET.