Harvard uses $30M gift to address primary care

Amid concerns that Harvard Medical School--and various other medical schools nationwide, for that matter--haven't been doing enough to promote the importance of primary care, an anonymous gift of $30 million was donated to the school to launch a new Center for Primary Care, the HMS announced today. The money will be used to fund everything from salaries for those involved with the Center to scholarships for students who choose to focus on primary care. 

Efforts to create the Center began roughly one year ago this month when HMS tasked its Primary Care Advisory Group with "assessing the state of primary care [at the school] and developing recommendations to enable the school to strengthen its commitment to primary care education." 

PCAG, along with another group--Primary Care Progress--met through this past April, ultimately divulging its plan to HMS one month later. Among its ideas, PCAG suggested that first- and second-year students spend time in primary care doctors' practices to be able to conduct in-depth research of patients. 

"Harvard has not really played a leadership role in primary care," Dr. David Bates, a PCAG co-chair and internist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told the Globe. "This is an effort to change that." 

Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California San Francisco who writes about primary care issues, agrees. He called the current culture in medical schools "toxic to primary care." 

"Right now what our nation needs is highly qualified primary-care physicians and a huge, huge number of them," told the Boston Globe. "This is something I hope the new Harvard center can help with." 

Dr. Jeffrey Flier, HMS dean, is confident that the Center will have a "transformative" impact. 

"We have the most amazing student body and faculty and trainees who are potentially able to change the field of primary care medicine when given the proper resources and encouragements," he told the Harvard Crimson. "I would like to see, in the next five to 10 years, that through specific initiatives there will be major changes both locally and, ideally, nationally in how primary care is organized and carried out." 

To learn more:
- here's the HMS press release
- read the Boston Globe article
- here's the Harvard Crimson piece