Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 lauded HMS faculty, affiliates, students, and staff for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic and reiterated institutional values in his State of the School address over Zoom Tuesday.
“More than anything, I want to express my gratitude for all that each and every one of you has done and continues to do to ensure the health and safety of our community throughout every phase of this unremitting pandemic,” he said in his address.
HMS, along with the rest of the University, shifted to virtual learning in March 2020. To prepare for a high volume of coronavirus patients, fourth-year students were given the option to graduate in April 2020 to join the medical workforce as quickly as possible.
Last year’s first-year medical cohort started their fall semester remotely, though they were invited on campus in January due to the hands-on nature of their curriculum. HMS has since transitioned to primarily in-person instruction this fall.
In the address, Daley said HMS was emerging from a decade of financial difficulties following the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 when he joined as dean in 2017. According to Daley, HMS leadership and the finance team conceived a plan to combat instability.
Following the success of the School’s financial recovery plan, he said, the Blavatnik Family Foundation donated $200 million in late 2018 — the largest gift in the school’s history.
HMS has channeled the funds toward IT infrastructure, digital systems, and research, Daley said. He also argued the School’s reinvigorated financial situation allowed them to respond to the pandemic in meaningful ways.
“With these basic building blocks in place, HMS was well-positioned when the pandemic hit, poised to nimbly redirect our efforts towards a comprehensive, all-out assault on the coronavirus,” he said.
Daley said the pandemic showed the importance of collaboration, citing collaborative efforts such as the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, HMS’s $30 million alliance with pharmaceutical company AbbVie to study and develop therapies to address viral infections like Covid-19, and faculty cohort hires.
Daley also noted HMS’s numerous efforts to promote “a climate of inclusion and belonging” by improving recruitment and retention and adopting new promotions criteria. He highlighted that HMS faculty have been working to promote equity in healthcare delivery, particularly during the pandemic.
One of the key tenets of the HMS mission, Daley said, is making scientific and medical education “accessible to all.” He said HMS expanded scholarship opportunities for admitted students and saw an increase in enrollment this past year.
“We’re focused on ensuring that no medical student graduates with such burdensome debt that their career choice is dictated more by financial need than by idealism and a desire to serve,” Daley said.
He added that HMS is “seeking a visionary donor” that can facilitate the goal of educational accessibility. His plea for donations follows recent gifts by alumni to Harvard’s Economics Department and the Asian American studies program.
Additionally, Daley said HMS’s financial “vigor” would create a stable foundation for research and education. He noted departments have already cut costs and that HMS has diversified its funding sources.
“We must achieve financial vigor and robustness,” he said. “This priority is the pedestal for which we can watch our greatest ambitions for the future.”
—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.