Seven-Year Med Proposal Moves Ahead

Medical School officials will soon complete a preliminary plan for an experimental, seven-year medical program--slated to begin in September 1984--that would represent a comprehensive new approach to medical education at Harvard.

Emphasizing small-group problem-solving and computer instruction, the program would annually accept 25 college sophomores to follow a specialized curriculum through their final two undergraduate years, four years of med school, and first year of hospital training.

Dr Daniel C. Tosteson '44, dean of the Med School, proposed the program last spring in response to what he--and other educators--have cited as a need for revamping medical curricula to deal with the recent explosion in medical-related information resulting from new discoveries and technology.

"We know extraordinarily more than we can manage," Tosteson said yesterday, adding that while the information that doctors need to master is expanding at an extremely rapid rate, "the capacity of human beings, including doctors, to cope with all that isn't changing at the same rate."

Tosteson said that a faculty planning group, formed this summer to consider the program will soon submit a preliminary draft of goals to three student faculty working groups, each of which will focus on different aspects of the plan. After discussing the program, the committees are scheduled to draw up a final recommendation for faculty approval this spring Tosteson added the Med School plans to spent the next academic year retaining the program, choosing faculty and selecting students for the program.


Under the dean's plan, students would be eligible for admission after two years of college study in any discipline. Among the program's many unresolved details is whether the Med School would only consider sophomores from Harvard College, and whether accepted students should spend their first two years in the program at the Med School or within a specialized curriculum at their original schools.

While the seven-year plan would be instituted purely on a trial basis, it may one day serve as a model for changing the entire Med School curriculum. Officials have stressed that such a move is not being discussed yet, but a national association of medical schools is currently studying nationwide curriculum changes similar to those included in Harvard's experimental program.

Although a small number of the nation's 27 accredited Med Schools have instituted early admission programs from college or high school, Harvard's plan would be the first to extend into the first year of hospital residency.

Tosteson said that the plan would seek to train doctors who could not only take advan tage of advances in technology but also remember the human factor in the doctor patient relationship.

Critics of traditional medical education commend that students are often overloaded with information and graduate as doctors who may not exercise enough compassion in dealing with patients.

Many people are concerned that doctors are so understandably preoccupied with the technology that they lost sight of the person,"

Tosterson added, explaining the need to keep up with the expanding amount of date is so important in the medical profession because the states are so high.