harvard medical school ranking

Last Updated on December 13, 2022 by

Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University and is located in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1782, HMS is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States[2] and is consistently ranked first for research among medical schools by U.S. News & World Report.[3] Unlike most other leading medical schools, HMS does not operate in conjunction with a single hospital but is directly affiliated with several teaching hospitals in the Boston area. Affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes include Dana–Farber Cancer InstituteMassachusetts General HospitalBrigham and Women’s HospitalBeth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBoston Children’s HospitalMcLean Hospital, & Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Harvard No. 1 Med School for Research, Top 10 for Primary Care

HMS recognized in magazine’s 2021 best grad school rankings

By CAROLINE BARNABY and JEFFRY STANTON March 17, 2020 Awards and Achievements

Harvard Medical School Gordon Hall. Image: John Soares

Harvard University has again been named No. 1 in the U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of the nation’s best medical schools for research, with the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care vaulting into the top 10 among all schools surveyed.

The data for the rankings comes from statistical surveys of more than 2,081 programs and from reputation surveys sent to more than 24,603 academics and professionals, all of which were conducted in fall 2019 and early 2020.

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Objective measures of professional schools, according to U.S. News methodology, are based on peer and recruiter opinions about program excellence, with statistical indicators—such as student-teacher ratio and job-placement success upon graduation—that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students taken into account.

U.S. News has released specialty rankings for medical schools, based on ratings by medical school deans and senior faculty from all the schools surveyed. Harvard placed first in psychiatry; second in anesthesiology, pediatrics, radiology and obstetrics and gynecology; and third in internal medicine and surgery.

HMS Primary Care on the move

This was the first time since 2001 that HMS ranked in U.S. News and World Report’s top 10 medical schools for primary care. Primary care focuses on whole-person care, with an emphasis on relationships, continuity, access and comprehensiveness.

The HMS Center for Primary Care works to provide robust and engaging learning opportunities for students considering this area of work. The center is made up of staff and faculty who are focused on improving primary care education and training for students.

In addition to its work educating and training the future primary care workforce, the center has established a reputation for its work on practice redesign, leadership training for current care providers, innovation and entrepreneurship in primary care, and research on the value of primary care and its services.

Since its creation in 2011, the center has produced 17 original research cases and 43 peer-reviewed publications. Research accomplishments include studies showing that greater primary care physician supply is associated with increased life span and research that indicates primary care investment reduces overall medical costs.

“Harvard Medical School understands the importance of primary care as the foundation of our health system, and its critical role in preserving and extending patients’ lives while controlling costs and improving quality of care,” said Russell Phillips, director of the center.

“We are investing in primary care and continually working to improve primary care training, as reflected by our national ranking,” said Phillips, the William Applebaum Professor of Medicine and a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “During the current [COVID-19] pandemic, primary care is especially important as our patients’ first point of access to the system is their trusted primary care doctors and nurses.”

Curricular reform

“Harvard Medical School is deeply invested in providing a foundational education in the principles of primary care to all of its medical students,” said the center’s Sara Fazio, HMS professor of medicine and a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess.

Significant curricular changes in primary care education have taken place over the past decade, including the introduction of the Pathways curriculum, which brings HMS students into a primary care clinic setting during their first month of medical school, said Fazio, who is an advisory dean and director of the Walter Bradford Cannon Society at HMS.

Students are paired with a preceptor during the clinical experience, called the Foundational Continuity Clinic, where they practice medical interviewing skills, physical exams and clinical reasoning throughout the year—all while learning foundational elements of primary care, she said.

“This allows students very early on to develop appreciation not only for primary care in general, but also for the development of longitudinal relationships with both their preceptor and the patients,” said Katherine Miller, center faculty member and HMS assistant professor of medicine and a family physician at Cambridge Health Alliance.

After 14 months, students enter the core clinical year where they participate in a nine-month Primary Care Clerkship, an experience where students are paired with a preceptor in the same care practice and work with them in clinic one half-day per week.

“These students are also introduced to team-based care, working closely with medical assistants, nurses and other allied health professionals. The course is evaluated every year to optimize content,” said Miller.

“In this setting, [students] have much more independence and are learning more of the clinical aspects of primary care. Additionally, all students spend one month in the ambulatory setting during their core medicine rotation, during which time they work in much greater depth with a primary care clinician and have ambulatory exposure during their pediatrics clerkship,” Fazio said.

In an effort to continue to augment the School’s curriculum, a group of center faculty and staff developed a blueprint for an undergraduate primary care curriculum in 2016, which HMS adopted for the preclinical and core clinical phases of student training.

The missing link: Family medicine

“The most powerful way to prioritize primary care education is to increase the presence of family medicine, the only specialty where more than 95 percent of residency graduates will practice primary care medicine,” said Miller.

Increasing student exposure to family medicine is another core function of the Center for Primary Care, which launched Harvard Home for Family Medicine (HHFM) in 2016 to provide additional resources to students interested in the field.

The HHFM is a forum for family medicine doctors to provide valuable guidance and educational opportunities to students, connecting them with family medicine mentors in their first year, their primary clinical experience or their electives.

Miller co-leads the HHFM, which is actively engaged with leadership for the Primary Care Clerkship and Foundational Continuity Clinic, the two main primary care experiences at HMS, to bring more family physicians into teaching roles and to provide resources and education to students around the specialty.

“The FMIG [Family Medicine Interest Group], along with the HHFM, creates programming throughout the year on topics ranging from the current state of family medicine in the U.S. to working with interdisciplinary teams to address concerns about the social determinants of health—all from the perspective of family medicine,” said Miller.

“In the future we aspire to have all HMS students participate in a clinical family medicine rotation and plan to include more family medicine and primary care programming in the early years of medical school, when many students will establish mentorship relationships that will guide them through their medical school experience,” she said.

In recognition of her contribution to improved student experience, professional development and career advancement, Miller was selected as a recipient of the HMS 2020 A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Student Leadership Committee

The Center for Primary Care is also home to the Student Leadership Committee (SLC), which empowers and trains HMS students to become leaders in primary care practice, education, research, advocacy and community engagement.

“The Center was a critical part of my decision to come to Harvard Medical School,” said Erin Plews-Ogan, HMS student and SLC co-leader. “The Center’s work, and its voice on campus, signaled to me that my interest in primary care would have a home here. And it has indeed found a home.”

“As I felt the pushes and pulls of various clinical experiences, the center and the SLC provided steady mentorship and a community of people who kept my passion for primary care alive and growing,” she said. “The staff and faculty at the center taught me a great deal about being a leader, and fellow SLC members inspired me constantly.”

Currently, Fazio is working with members of the SLC to survey HMS students from each of three phases that comprise the Primary Care Clerkship to assess strengths and weaknesses of the primary care curriculum. Information from the survey will be used to improve the way that primary care competencies are taught.

“HMS is also currently embarking upon a curricular reform for the core clinical year that will include more longitudinal ambulatory experiences, many of which will be embedded within high-functioning primary care practices,” Fazio said.

The HMS Center for Primary Care continues to advance the medical school’s primary care curriculum and provide valuable training opportunities for the future physician workforce. It urges others to join in its commitment to improving care around the world.


Harvard Medical School was founded on September 19, 1782, after President Joseph Willard presented a report with plans for a medical school to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. It is the third-oldest medical school in the United States, founded after the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The founding faculty members of Harvard Medical School were John WarrenBenjamin Waterhouse, and Aaron Dexter.[2] Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall and then later in Holden Chapel. Students paid no tuition but purchased tickets to five or six daily lectures.[2][5] The first two students graduated in 1788.[2]

In the following century, the medical school moved locations several times due to changing clinical relationships, a function of the fact that Harvard Medical School does not directly own or operate a teaching hospital.[6] In 1810, the school moved to Boston at what is now downtown Washington Street. In 1816, the school was moved to Mason Street and was called the Massachusetts Medical College of Harvard University in recognition of a gift from the Great and General Court of Massachusetts. In 1847, the school was moved to Grove Street to be closer to Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1883, the school was relocated to Copley Square.[7] Prior to this move, Charles William Eliot became Harvard’s president in 1869 and found the medical school in the worst condition of any part of the university. He instituted drastic reforms that raised admissions standards, instituted a formal degree program, and defined HMS as a professional school within Harvard University that laid the groundwork for its transformation into one of the leading medical schools in the world.[5]

In 1906, the medical school moved to its current location in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area. The Longwood campus’s five original marble-faced buildings of the quadrangle still remain in use today.[8][9]


Harvard Medical School postdoctoral trainees and faculty have been associated with a number of important medical and public health innovations:

  • Introduction of smallpox vaccination to America
  • First use of anesthesia for pain control during surgery
  • The introduction of insulin to the US to treat diabetes
  • Comprehending of the role of vitamin B12 in treating anemia
  • Identification of coenzyme A and understanding of proteins
  • Developing tissue culture methods for the polio virus, which paved the way for vaccines against polio
  • Mapping the visual system of the brain
  • Development of the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia
  • Development of the first implantable cardiac pacemaker
  • Discovering the inheritance of immunity to infection
  • Development of artificial skin for burn victims
  • The first successful heart valve surgery
  • The first successful human kidney transplant
  • The first reattachment of a severed human limb
  • Discovery of the genes that cause Duchenne muscular dystrophyHuntington’s diseaseamyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others
  • Establishing the importance of tumor vascular supply (angiogenesis) and seeding the field of vascular biology
  • Discovery of the cause of preeclampsia.[10]

Broadening admissions[edit]


Massachusetts Medical College at Mason St.(Old building)

Massachusetts Medical College at Mason St.(Old building)

Harvard Medical School quadrangle in Longwood Medical Area.

Harvard Medical School quadrangle in Longwood Medical Area.

In mid-1847, Professor Walter Channing‘s proposal that women be admitted to lectures and examinations was rejected by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. While Harriot Kezia Hunt was soon after given permission to attend medical lectures, this permission was withdrawn in 1850.

In 1866, two women with extensive medical education elsewhere applied but were denied admission. In 1867, a single faculty member’s vote blocked the admission of Susan Dimock. In 1872, Harvard declined a gift of $10,000 conditioned on medical school admitting women medical students on the same term as men. A similar offer of $50,000, by a group of ten women including Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska, was declined in 1882; a committee of five was appointed to study the matter. After the medical school moved from North Grove Street to Boylston Street in 1883, professor Henry Ingersoll Bowditch‘s proposal that the North Grove Street premises be used for medical education for women was rejected.

In 1943, a dean’s committee recommended the admission of women, the proportion of men and women being dependent solely on the qualifications of the applicants.[11] In 1945, the first class of women was admitted; projected benefits included helping male students learn to view women as equals, increasing the number of physicians in lower-paid specialties typically shunned by men, and replacing the weakest third of all-male classes with better-qualified women.[12] By 1972, about one-fifth of Harvard medical students were women.[11]

African Americans[edit]

In 1850, three black men, Martin DelanyDaniel Laing Jr., and Isaac H. Snowden, were admitted to the school but were later expelled under pressure from faculty and other students.

In 1968, in response to a petition signed by hundreds of medical students, the faculty established a commission on relations with the black community in Boston; at the time less than one percent of Harvard medical students were black. By 1973, the number of black students admitted had tripled, and by the next year, it had quadrupled.[11] In 2011, HMS appointed its first African American full Professor of medicine, Valerie E. Stone.[13] That year they also appointed their first African-American Professor of Radiology, Stone’s former classmate Tina Young Poussaint.[13]

In 2019 LaShyra Nolen was the first black woman to be elected class president of Harvard Medical School.[14]

Medical education[edit]

The Warren Anatomical Museum at HMS was named after its founder John Collins Warren, first Dean at HMS (picture taken 1910)


Harvard Medical School has gone through many curricular revisions for its MD program. In recent decades, HMS has maintained a three-phase curriculum with a classroom-based pre-clerkship phase, a principal clinical experience (PCE), and a post-PCE phase.[15]

The pre-clerkship phase has two curricular tracks. The majority of students enter in the more traditional Pathways track that focuses on active learning and earlier entry into the clinic with courses that include students from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Pathways students gain early exposure to the clinic through a longitudinal clinical skills course that lasts the duration of the pre-clerkship phase. A small portion of each class enter in the HST track, which is jointly administered with MIT. The HST track is designed to train physician-scientists with emphasis on basic physiology and quantitative understanding of biological processes through courses that include PhD students from MIT.


Admission to Harvard Medical School’s MD program is highly selective. There are 165 total spots for each incoming class, with 135 spots in the Pathways curriculum and 30 spots in the HST program.[16] While both use a single application, each curricular track independently evaluates applicants.

For the MD Class of 2023, 6,815 candidates applied and 227 were admitted (3.3%). There was a matriculation rate of 73%.[1] For the Master of Medical Science (MMSc) program in Global Health Delivery, the Fall 2020 admissions rate was (8.2%).

Graduate education[edit]

PhD degree programs[edit]

There are nine PhD programs based in Harvard Medical School.[17] Students in these programs are all enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and are part of the HILS (Harvard Integrated Life Sciences) inter-program federation.[18]

Master’s degree programs[edit]

Harvard Medical School offers two types of master’s degrees, Master of Academic Discipline degrees and Master of Medical Sciences (MMSc) degrees.[19]

Postgraduate certificate programs[edit]

Harvard Medical School offers several Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) programs.[20] These graduate-level programs may run up to twelve months. Admitted postgraduate students are awarded a Certificate from Harvard Medical School upon successful completion, and are eligible for associate membership in the Harvard Alumni Association.[21]

Affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes[edit]

Harvard Medical School does not directly own or operate any hospitals and instead relies on affiliated teaching hospitals for clinical education. Medical students primarily complete their clinical experiences at the following hospitals.[22]

Notable alumni[edit]

There are over 10,425 alumni.[1]

NameClass yearNotabilityReference(s)
Andrea Ackermanartist
John R. Adler1980Academic[23]
Robert B. AirdAcademic
Tenley AlbrightFigure skater
David AltshulerGeneticist
Harold Amosmicrobiologist[24]
William French Andersongeneticist
Christian B. Anfinsenbiochemist, Nobel laureate
Paul S. Appelbaum1976academic
Jerry Avornacademic
Babak Azizzadehfacial surgery specialist and surgeon for Mary Jo Buttafuoco after she was shot by Amy Fisher in 1992
Arie S. Belldegrundirector of the UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology and is Professor and Chief of Urologic Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine[25]
Rebecka Belldegrunophthalmologist, businesswoman
Herbert Bensoncardiologist, author of The Relaxation Response
Ira Blackneuroscientist and stem cell researcher, first director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey[26]
Roscoe Bradybiochemist
Eugene Brody1944psychiatrist
Henry Bryantphysician
Rafael Campopoet
Ethan Caninauthor
Walter Bradford Cannonphysiologist
William Bosworth Castlehematologist
George Cheyne Shattuck Choatephysician
Gilbert Chuphysician, biochemist
Aram ChobanianPresident of Boston University (2003–2005)
Stanley Cobbneurologist
Godwin Madukadoctor, philanthropist
Ernest Codmanphysician
Albert Coonsphysician, immunologist, Lasker Award winner
Michael Crichtonauthor
Harvey Cushingneurosurgeon
Elliott Cutlersurgeon
Hallowell Davishearing researcher, contributor to the invention of the electroencephalograph[27]
Martin Delanyone of the first African Americans to attend, first African-American field officer in the US, expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks[28]
Allan S. Detskyphysician
James Madison DeWolfsoldier, physician
Peter Diamandisentrepreneur
Daniel DiLorenzoentrepreneur, neurosurgeon, inventor
Thomas Dwightanatomist
Lawrence Eroninfectious disease physician
Edward Evartsneuroscientist
Sidney Farberpathologist
Paul Farmerinfectious disease physician, global health
Jonathan Fieldingpast president of the American College of Preventive Medicine, health administrator, academic
Harvey V. Finebergacademic administrator
Elliott S. Fisher1981director of The Dartmouth Institute
John “Honey Fitz” FitzgeraldMayor of Boston (1906–08; 1910–14)
Thomas Fitzpatrickdermatologist
Judah Folkmanscientist
Irwin Freedberg1956dermatologist
Bill FristU.S. Senator (1995–2007)
Atul Gawandesurgeon, author
Charles Brenton Hugginsphysician, physiologist, Nobel laureate
Laurie H. Glimcher1976President and CEO, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute
George Lincoln Goodalebotanist
Robert Goldwynsurgeon, editor-in-chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for 25 years[29]
Ernest GrueningGovernor of the Alaska Territory (1939–53), U.S. Senator (1959–69)
I. Kathleen Hagenmurder suspect
Dean Hamergeneticist
Alice Hamiltonfirst female faculty member at Harvard Medical School
J. Hartwell Harrisonsurgeon who performed first kidney transplant, editor-in-chief of Campbell’s Urology (4th ed.)
Michael R. Harrisonpediatrician
Bernadine HealyDirector of the National Institutes of Health (1991–93), CEO of the American Red Cross (1999–2001)
Ronald A. Heifetzacademic
Lawrence Joseph Hendersonbiochemist
Edward H. Hill1867founder of Central Maine Medical Center[30]
David Hoinfectious disease physician
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.physician, poet
Sachin H. Jain2008CEO of CareMore Health System, Obama administration official
William Jamesphilosopher
Mildred Fay Jeffersonanti-abortion activist, first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School
Clay JohnstonDean of the Dell Medical School at University of Texas at Austin
Elliott P. Joslindiabetolologist
Nathan Cooley Keepphysician who founded the Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Jonny KimNavy SEAL, ER physician, astronaut
Jim Kimphysician, global health leader, current President of the World Bank
Melvin Konnerauthor, biological anthropologist
Peter D. Kramer1976psychiatrist
Charles Krauthammer1975columnist
Daniel Laing Jr.one of the first African Americans to attend, one of the first African-American physicians, expelled after a faculty vote to end the admission of blacks but finished his degree elsewhere[28]
Theodore K. Lawlessdermatologist, medical researcher, philanthropist
Philip J. Landriganepidemiologist, pediatrician
Aristides Leãobiologist
Philip Ledergeneticist
Simon LeVayneuroscientist
Pam Lingcastmate on The Real World: San Francisco[31]
Joseph LovellSurgeon General of the U.S. Army (1818–36)
Karl Menningerpsychiatrist
Marek-Marsel Mesulam1972characterized primary progressive aphasia
John S. Meyerphysician
Randell Millsscientist
Vamsi Moothasystems biologist, geneticist
Siddhartha Mukherjeephysician, author
Joseph Murraysurgeon
Woody MyersIndiana state health commissioner[32]
Joel Mark Noeplastic surgeon
Amos Nourse1817U.S. Senator (1857)
Borna Nyaoke-AnokeAIDS researcher[33]
David C. Pagebiologist
Hiram Polkacademic
Geoffrey Pottsacademic
Morton Princeneurologist
Alexander Richbiophysicist
Oswald Hope Robertsonmedical scientist
Richard S. RossDean Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, former President of the American Heart Association
Wilfredo Santa-Gómezauthor
George E. Shambaugh Jr.otolaryngologist
Alfred Sommeracademic
Philip Solomonacademic psychiatrist
Paul Spanglernaval surgeon
Samuel L. Stanley5th President of Stony Brook University, academic, physician
Jill Stein1979physician, activist, politician[34]
Felicia Stewartphysician
Lubert Stryeracademic, coauthor of Biochemistry
Yellapragada Subbarowbiochemist
James B. Sumnerchemist
Orvar Swenson1937pediatric surgeon, performed first surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease[35]
Helen B. Taussigcardiologist, helped develop Blalock–Taussig shunt
John Templeton Jr.president of the John Templeton Foundation
E. Donnall Thomasphysician
Lewis Thomasessayist
Abby Howe Turneracademic
George Eman Vaillantpsychiatrist
Mark Vonnegutauthor, pediatrician
Joseph Warrensoldier
Amy Wax1981Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School[36]
Andrew Weil1968proponent of alternative medicine and integrative medicine
Paul Dudley Whitecardiologist
Robert J. Whiteneurosurgeon who performed first monkey head transplant in the 1970s
Patrisha Zóbel de AyalaChairman of World Medical Association, surgeon, anesthesiologist, neurologist, medical researcher
Charles F. Winslowearly atomic theorist
Leonard WoodChief of Staff of the United States ArmyGovernor-General of the Philippines
Louis T. Wrightresearcher, practitioner, first black Fellow of the American College of Surgeons[37]
David WuMember of the U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2011)
Jeffries Wymananatomist
Alfred Worcestergeneral practitioner
Patrick Tyrance1997orthopedic surgeon, former Academic All American linebacker for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1991 NFL draft[38][39]