HMS Dean Resigns After Only 18 Months

Dean cites differences among management as reason for departure

Dr. Malcolm Cox, one of the architects of Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) massive curriculum overhaul has stepped down from his position as dean for medical education after disagreements with the dean of HMS.

Cox, who also resigned from his position as chairman of the steering committee for curricular reform at HMS, said last night that “differences in style and some priorities in the management of the school” with Dean Joseph L. Martin lead to his resignation after only a year and a half on the job.

“It was something that Martin and I decided would be best for the process moving forward. It was a decision that we came to together,” Cox said yesterday.

Cox came to HMS in 2003 after leading the medical school’s curriculum overhaul at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was certainly enjoying what I was doing,” he said of his experience as an HMS administrator. “I would have preferred to stay on.”

HMS’s curricular review, which began four years ago, has kicked into high gear with Cox’s steering committee recently releasing reports of recommendations for review by the HMS community.

Some of the recommended changes proposed include allowing students to concentrate in fields like health policy, primary care or global health within the MD degree program, changing the recommended pre-med requirements for undergraduates and overhauling the third-year clinical rotations curriculum to include the long-term observation of patients.

“I think [Cox’s] ideas are really good, really,” Martin said in an interview last Friday. “The actual success of the implementation...Some of them caused me concern.”

Martin said that Cox, who is also the Walter professor of medicine at HMS, will still be in the dean’s office until Dec. 31, though Cox said he is “essentially out of the loop” with the administration.

“He and I continue to talk about his future,” Martin said. “He’ll have the opportunity to teach and very likely to continue to work with us on some of the education reforms.”

Martin said that he will be assuming Cox’s duties for the near future.

Associate Dean for Academic Programming and Director of the Medical Curricular Reform Initiative Jane Neill, who oversees the work of the two committees, said that the work of the reform will continue as scheduled.

“I think that the plan is for the reform to move forward regardless of Dean Cox’s resignation,” she said. “I think that we had never really made a final decision on what the timeline [for reform] is going to be.”