In the Limelight: Students in `New Pathway'

Documenting the Lives of Future Physicians

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series on the New Pathway curriculum at Harvard Medical School.

Luanda P. Grazette was doing one of the most stressful things a first-year student at Harvard Medical School has to do. She was conducting her first interview with a patient.

This rite of passage puts most medical students on edge because it is the first time they put their specialized knowledge to use and because their supervisors are usually watching over their shoulders.

But for Grazette now in her fourth year at the Med School, there was an added stress. As a student in Harvard's "New Pathway" program, she was being filmed by a television crew for a documentary on the curriculum.

Producers for the public television program NOVA are tracking the lives of Grazette and six of her classmates as they pass through Harvard's revolutionary program in order to see how it prepares them for a career in medicine. The drawback, Grazette says, is that she knows every mistake of her training will be forever recorded.


"You're always sort of afraid that the TV cameras will be there when you say the most idiotic thing of your entire life," Grazette says.

The NOVA series is following the first class of students to graduate from new Pathway for 10 years, from their first year of medical school in 1987, through residency, and into the early years of their professional careers.

The episode Grazette was being filmed for--the first of four--was aired in 1988. The second episode, which covers the students' third and fourth years, is being put together now and will be aired next fall.

"The idea is to see how they change as they go through their training, how the New Pathway has affected their education," says Peter Frumkin, associate producer of the series.

Implemented under the supervision of Med School Dean Daniel C. Tosteson '44, the New Pathway emphasizes small group tutorials over large lectures, less rote memorization of medical facts and more discussion of case studies.

New Pathway also brings a new focus on some of the more practical aspects of being a physician, such as doctor-patient relationships.

The Public Perception

Despite the discomfort the students faced in the filming of the hour-long documentary, the students interviewed say they are glad that the program was made.

One of the good things about being in the NOVA series is that it is a chance to help educate the public about what medical school is really like, says Tom A. Tarter, one of the students being tracked by the show.

Tarter says that in the past, people have put doctors on a pedestal, and their realization that physicians are not perfect has caused their disillusionment with the entire profession. After seeing the show, people will find out what it is actualy like to be a doctor, he says.