Ex-Provost Will Head Institute of Medicine

Fineberg will assume presidency of national health care group

Former Provost Harvey V. Fineberg ’67 has been appointed the seventh president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a branch of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that advises the federal government on health policy issues.

Fineberg, who took a leave of absence from Harvard at the end of last semester after he was passed over for the University’s presidency, said he was excited about the appointment and eager to tackle the new challenges ahead.

“The IOM has this unique responsibility as the nation’s science adviser on matters of health,” Fineberg said. “My aim is to make it a vital player in the solution of the nation’s health problems.”

IOM was created by NAS in 1970 to enlist members of the health professions in examining health policy issues. It currently has 1,429 members, including Fineberg.

“It’s like having an all-star national faculty to work on the most pressing issues of the day,” Fineberg said.

Under his presidency, Fineberg said he hopes IOM will address such issues as “the public health infrastructure, the quality of health care, the under-insured and the capacity of service delivery systems to meet emergencies as well as long-term needs.”

Fineberg will succeed current IOM President Kenneth I. Shine on July 1, 2002.

He was nominated for the job by the IOM Council, the institute’s 20-member governing board, and appointed by NAS President Bruce Alberts, who is also a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, the University’s second-highest governing body.

“Harvey Fineberg combines a rich academic leadership experience with a continuing commitment to and involvement in the health of the public,” Shine said in a statement released yesterday. “He is an outstanding choice.”

Before taking on the role of provost in 1997, Fineberg served as the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) for 13 years.

He has been a member of IOM since 1982 and has been involved in research projects for the Institute for 25 years.

Fineberg also served on the IOM’s Board on International Health.

“One of the things that I feel fortunate in is that I’ve been able over a sustained period to be involved in several projects at the IOM, so I begin with some familiarity,” Fineberg said.

Because Fineberg will serve a six-year term, he will have to give up his Harvard professorship.

“One of the pleasures of being at Harvard are the caliber and intellect of people that one interacts with on a daily basis,” he said.

Fineberg said he expects to find the same quality of colleagues at IOM.

After stepping down as Harvard provost at the end of last semester, Fineberg spent the summer hiking in the West with his wife, Mary M. Wilson, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and HSPH.

Since then, he and his wife have been using their free time on projects that until this point they haven’t had the time to pursue, Fineberg said.

Fineberg said the prospect of returning to the world of the 9-to-5 grind is daunting.

“I don’t even want to contemplate that,” he said. “This is a delicious time—it’s sort of like being a student without any classes.”

Fineberg said he and his wife will be relocating to the Washington, D.C. area, where the Institute of Medicine is located.

He said that he was not concerned about moving to Washington given current issues of national security.

“The tenor of the times made the job all the more appealing,” Fineberg said. “It’s a great opportunity for service at a very critical time in the nation’s history.”

—Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Kate L. Rakoczy can be reached at rakoczy@fas.harvard.edu.