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Producing physician-scientists: a survey of graduates from the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology

Wilkerson, L; Abelmann, W H

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Abstract

BACKGROUND. The Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST) is a flexible, preclinical curriculum, taught by members of the faculties of both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that stresses a rigorous, scientific, quantitative approach, small classes (usually fewer than 50 students), and student-faculty interaction. The program is aimed at students with strong backgrounds in quantitative and biological sciences who are interested in careers as physician-scientists. METHOD. The first 234 students of the program, who graduated between 1975 and 1985, were asked to participate in a 1990 follow-up study by completing a four-page questionnaire and submitting curricula vitae and lists of publications, if available. Data were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. RESULTS. Of the 234 graduates, 211 (90%) responded. Sixty-three (30%) had received both MD and PhD degrees. The graduates were twice as likely to describe their primary professional roles as academic than as clinical practice; 94 held full-time faculty positions at 50 medical schools. The 154 (73%) in research spent an average of 51% of their time on this activity. According to the 179 graduates (85%) who stated that they would choose HST again, the most frequently mentioned reasons were the quantitative approach that emphasized integration of basic science and clinical practice (49%) and the small class size (37%). CONCLUSION. The HST MD curriculum, with its emphasis on basic science and research experience, has been successful in preparing carefully selected students for careers as physician-scientists, without necessarily requiring the completion of a PhD degree.

(C) 1993 Association of American Medical Colleges

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