Medical School Receives Gift for Primary-Care Center

The center aims to boost primary care's status through education, leadership, and research.

Harvard Medical School (HMS) has received a $30 million gift to create a "center of excellence" for primary care.

With most medical students choosing highly paid specialties over primary care, the field is "in crisis," an HMS briefing on the new center said. "Primary care providers are underpaid and overworked compared to most other medical specialties, and many are disillusioned. Few students go into primary care and many primary care physicians are opting out fo the system through retirement or other career changes."

Drawing young doctors into primary care is urgent for healthcare in the United States and around the globe, the briefing said. Domestically, primary care is "one of our most important strategies to reduce costs and improve quality" of healthcare. And internationally, "strong primary care is associated with better population health, improved patient outcomes, and lower-cost care."

The funds, given anonymously, will be allocated for three main purposes: educationexpanding the curriculum in primary care and connecting students with funding for education and research; leadership—holding symposia and facilitating collaboration among primary-care scholars and specialists, and bringing together primary-care practitioners from the various Harvard-affiliated hospitals; and research on innovations to improve models of delivery primary care.

A national search is beginning for someone to lead the Center for Primary Care. The position of director will be an endowed chair reporting to HMS dean Jeffrey S. Flier, with a joint appointment at the medical school (in the department of healthcare policy or of global health and social medicine) and at one of the hospitals. The school is hoping to recruit "a senior national figure in primary care research and/or education."

To date, Harvard "has not really played a leadership role in primary care," professor of medicine David Bates, an internist at Brigham and Women's who cochaired the advisory group that recommended creating the center, told the Boston Globe. "This is an effort to change that."

Thus far, Harvard's primary-care programs have been dispersed among the hospitals, Flier told the Globe. "We didn't present it to our students as a coordinated field that the medical school had an interest in," he said.

Read more about the new center on the Harvard Medical School website. Also see reports in the Harvard Crimson and the University Gazette.

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