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First-Year Harvard Medical Students Will Return to Campus for the Spring

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First year students at Harvard Medical School will join upperclassmen on campus this spring, Dean George Q. Daley ’82 said in an interview Friday.

“We decided that we will bring the students back for the spring semester and have them return to some of these in-person, patient-oriented, clinical examination skill building,” he said.

Hands-on experience in the clinic working directly with patients is key to students’ training, according to Daley: after returning students restarted their clinical rotations in the summer, they have integrated as “essential members” of healthcare delivery teams at various hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

The decision to return all medical students to Longwood contrasts with recent moves at many of Harvard’s other professional schools. The Law School, School of Public Health, Divinity School, and Graduate School of Design each announced they had elected to continue virtual classes last week.

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Daley said that split stems from the Medical School’s unique charge.

“In many ways, we have a different mission than a lot of other schools. Our mission of education also includes service — service to the patients that these students will ultimately be treating for their careers as physicians,” Daley said.

Several first-year students said they found classroom learning effective in a virtual format. They said the clinical courses Daley referenced, however, went less smoothly.

“[The instructors] are doing the best they can, and they've adopted well, but there are some things you truly can't learn online for medicine,” first-year Medical School student Abigail M. Kempf told The Crimson earlier this month.

Recognizing those challenges, Daley said the school made the decision to bring back additional students with care.

“We're doing it with a tremendous amount of forethought and planning,” he said. “This has required, again, a tremendous collaborative effort across our students and our staff and our faculty, in order to be sure that we can do this as safely as possible.”

—Staff writer Virginia L. Ma can be reached at virginia.ma@thecrimson.com.

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