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BRASS TACKS

WBMS

By Brenton WELLING Jr.

For years the Medical School has been one of Harvard's biggest financial worries. Not since 1943--an abnormal wartime year--has the University's school for doctors escaped an operating deficit, and in some cases, both before and after 1943, year-end losses have reached into six figures. What make the whole thing incongruous is the fact that almost every week the papers seem to bear news of some new gift or grant to finance something the School wants to do.

In 1948-1949, over 250 gifts for immediate use flowed into the Medical School, and the 1949-1950 total received a big boost only two weeks ago when the American Cancer Society added $100,000 to previous grants. But it's all a paradox. In too many cases, a gift received actually sinks the Medical School further into debt.

The reason in simple: more than manpower and materials go into medical research. When, for example, the Rockefeller Foundation gives the School some money, the grant comes on a project basis, with a long string of Greek words stipulating what the money will be spent for. The School is left to sign the check for what officials term the "intangibles"--chief among them, spending time to organize the project and the providing of the space to carry it out. What happens is that for each $1.00 of gift money received, the School is often left to pay out $1.05, $1.40, or perhaps even more.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way of getting around this. You can't teach medicine without research, and you can't keep recognized medical experts on your faculty without allowing them to advance their individual projects and theories in the laboratories.

There's another vital reason why, in spite of the costs, the Medical School doesn't want to cut down the scale of its research program. To be able to maintain such a show--with grants continually coming in from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the Department of Public Health, and many other donors--lends Harvard Medical tremendous prestige in the public eye and insures, in a sense, the reputation of the School.

Such a big research program, in which the grants received don't meet enough of the overhead costs, cannot go on forever. That's why the Medical School's new dean, George P. Berry, is quite busy these days reorganizing the School's money-raising activities in the hope of encouraging more gifts that have no restrictions attached. It will be quite a job to woo such contributions, for there is no romance in giving money that merely greases the wheels.

A good deal of the Medical School's future will depends upon the outcome of the dean's drive. The School would be very reluctant to slash down its grand research show, but it might come to that. You just can't keep paying out more than you take in and still have everything in the end.

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