Finances Put HMS Programs On Hold

Dean for Education steps down amid budget constraints at HMS

Thomas M. Michel ’77 has stepped down from his post as Harvard Medical School’s first Dean for Education, saying that current fiscal constraints have hampered plans to implement new interdisciplinary programs and other initiatives under his purview.

Michel was appointed just last year to develop new education programs across Harvard’s science schools and at the University’s affiliated hospitals. The Dean of Education post was created to implement curricular reforms suggested through a strategic planning process launched in Oct. 2007 by then-incoming Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier.

But current budget constraints have delayed implementation of several such reforms, including the Scholars in Medicine Program, which requires Medical School students to complete a research project, and HMS-PRIME, a Masters in Medical Science degree program.

The programs would have been funded in part by income from Harvard’s nearly $37 billion endowment, which fell a precipitous $11 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.

“Not long after I started, the bottom fell out,” Michel said. “We began looking toward sustaining our existing education programs rather than creating new ones.”

With the current hold on new programs, the position was no longer “appropriate,” said Michel, whose resignation was announced over the summer.

Michel said that some of the programs will be delayed for at least a year—or until the Medical School is on firmer financial footing.

For now, Flier has asked Michel to stay on as a special adviser for interdisciplinary education, and planning for the two programs will continue in the meantime.

“I have every confidence [the new programs] are going to see the light of day,” Michel said. “This is just a consequence of unseen fiscal challenges.”

Despite the temporary pause on new programming, the Medical School has been able to sustain core curricular activities by trimming expenses in other areas such as catering and printing costs, Dean for Medical Education Jules L. Dienstag wrote in an e-mailed statement.

During his short-lived tenure as dean, Michel oversaw the addition of several cross-listed course offerings to the curriculum and created the Leder Human Biology and Translational Medicine Program, a Ph.D. program in the life sciences.

He will remain on faculty and plans to continue leading the Leder program and conducting cardiovascular signal transduction research at Harvard-affiliate Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

—Staff writer Laura G. Mirviss can be reached at lmirviss@fas.harvard.edu.