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In Latest Response to COVID-19 Pandemic, Harvard Medical School Considering Expedited Graduation of Fourth-Year Students

Gordon Hall of Medicine, an administrative building at Harvard Medical School, sits overlooking the Quadrangle at the Longwood campus.
Gordon Hall of Medicine, an administrative building at Harvard Medical School, sits overlooking the Quadrangle at the Longwood campus. By Megan M. Ross
By Virginia L. Ma, Crimson Staff Writer

Last week, Harvard Medical School hosted its annual match day — the day when fourth-year medical school students learn where they will spend their residency — virtually for the first time, responding to heightened concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Less than a week later, those same students received news that they may be graduating a month early, as part of the effort to bolster the healthcare workforce treating the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients.

In a Wednesday meeting with Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley and deans of medical schools at Boston University, Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders urged schools to graduate fourth-year medical students in April rather than sticking to their typical May graduation dates. Sudders said the state would grant expedited 90-day licenses to these students upon graduation, adding hundreds of additional doctors to the Massachusetts healthcare system.

“The healthcare workforce is key to us,” Sudders said in a press conference with Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79. “We’re trying to increase the cadre.”

Harvard Medical School spokesperson Ekaterina D. Pesheva wrote in an emailed statement that the Medical School is “actively exploring” the option of expedited graduation for students who meet degree requirements.

“This step would allow qualified MD graduates seeking to join the clinical workforce the ability to do so,” Pesheva wrote.

After the conversation with Sudders, Boston University School of Medicine announced Thursday that it would graduate its 192 fourth-year students on April 17.

In a letter to those fourth-year students, Boston University School of Medicine Dean Karen H. Antman wrote that graduates would have the choice of applying for a Massachusetts license or moving to the location of their residencies.

“Your class is clearly graduating at one of the most medically challenging times of the last century, and will shortly be an important part of our country’s response to the COVID-19 challenge,” Antman wrote in the letter. “We are proud of the physicians that you will soon be, and for the role that you will play in the care of your patients.”

Chancellor of UMass Medical School Michael F. Collins said the school intends to graduate 135 fourth-year students in early April, according to the Boston Globe. Tufts University Medical School has also moved its graduation up to April.

—Staff writer Virginia L. Ma can be reached at

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