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Former Med. School Dean Ebert Dies at 81

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Dr. Robert H. Ebert, who served as dean of the Medical School from 1965 until 1977, died Monday of metastatic cancer. He was 81.

The predecessor of current Medical School Dean Daniel C. Tosteson '44, Ebert counted the founding of New England's first Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) among his greatest accomplishments.

He launched Harvard Pilgrim Health Care while serving as dean in 1969. The organization is now New England's largest HMO with about 1 million members.

Experts remember Ebert as a pioneer in the establishment of HMOs as the most cost-effective means of providing health care.

"If ever a program was born because of the inspirational leadership of one man, this was it," Dr. Joseph Dorsey, corporate medical director of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, told the Boston Globe. "Now there are HMOs growing all over the place. But when Bob Ebert got the Harvard Plan started, it was a big deal. Most of the medical community did not think it was a good idea."

Ebert enjoyed a long and distinguished academic career before moving into academic administration. He attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and returned to Chicago for his M.D. after completing a Rhodes Scholarship.

Ebert taught at the University of Chicago for 10 years before moving to Case Western Reserve University in 1956.

In 1964, Ebert was named Jackson professor of clinical medicine at Harvard and chief of medical services at Massachusetts General Hospital. Just a year later, then-President Nathan M. Pusey '28 appointed Ebert dean.

Among Ebert's other accomplishments as dean were the establishment of the Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

Deans, professors and academic administrators spoke of Ebert in nothing but the most glowing of terms.

"His contribution was owed to his awareness of where health care was going and the adjustments that would have to be made," Pusey said in a statement. "I was personally very fond of him as a human being. He was a remarkable guy."

Former Harvard president Derek C. Bok also lavished praise upon Ebert.

"Bob Ebert was a man of great professional accomplishments, but I will remember him even more for his remarkable human qualities," Bok said in a statement. "He was simply one of the most humane, honorable, kind and unpretentious colleagues that I encountered during a quarter century in academic administration."

Tosteson also saluted Ebert.

"Robert Ebert was a statesman and a visionary leader of academic medicine," Tosteson said in a statement. "In his long, deep and broad professional career he was consistently courteous and helpful to his colleagues and students. The world is a better place because of his presence among us."

A memorial service for Ebert is planned, but the date and time have not yet been set

"His contribution was owed to his awareness of where health care was going and the adjustments that would have to be made," Pusey said in a statement. "I was personally very fond of him as a human being. He was a remarkable guy."

Former Harvard president Derek C. Bok also lavished praise upon Ebert.

"Bob Ebert was a man of great professional accomplishments, but I will remember him even more for his remarkable human qualities," Bok said in a statement. "He was simply one of the most humane, honorable, kind and unpretentious colleagues that I encountered during a quarter century in academic administration."

Tosteson also saluted Ebert.

"Robert Ebert was a statesman and a visionary leader of academic medicine," Tosteson said in a statement. "In his long, deep and broad professional career he was consistently courteous and helpful to his colleagues and students. The world is a better place because of his presence among us."

A memorial service for Ebert is planned, but the date and time have not yet been set

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