Inspiration and Gratitude

Edward M. Hundert, M.D.
Dean for Medical Education
Daniel D. Federman, MD Professor in Residence of
Global Health and Social Medicine and Medical Education
Harvard Medical School


hundert headshotAs I reflect on the past several months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I am filled with inspiration and gratitude. The way our faculty, students, staff, alumni and others have rallied during this time inspires me with tremendous hope for the future, despite the daily reminders of how far we have to go. On short notice, primary care docs were being brought in as hospitalists, and hospitalists were moved into ICUs to manage patients on ventilators, all while hospital organizations and PPE protocols were being reinvented, sometimes hour-by-hour. Many of these heroic faculty then returned home after a long shift to work for additional hours converting their course or clerkship into virtual learning opportunities for our students, who were hungrier than ever to advance their medical education and give back as quickly as possible to those in need.

The students for their part have likewise been inspirational, volunteering both here in Boston and in their home communities even as they did their online learning, sometimes at odd hours from inconvenient time zones. They supported frontline workers, vulnerable populations, and one another, they started PPE drives and translated public health messages into multiple languages, and they created curricular materials on COVID-19 that have now been used the world over. Our staff has also been working around the clock to support all the virtual learning and keep lines of communication open, hosting regular late afternoon class-wide Zooms (seven days a week during the early weeks of the crisis), with 24/7 responses to the many individual challenges our students are facing during this time. Alumni and others have similarly risen to the occasion, supporting the students and the school with financial contributions ranging from a student emergency fund for HMS students incurring unexpected expenses to travel home or access broadband internet for online learning to additional scholarship funds for students whose family income has been adversely affected by job loss and illness.

On top of the public health crisis and the financial crisis that has resulted, we are additionally facing the ongoing crisis of racial injustice in this country, seizing this moment to make anti-racism a more integral part of our curriculum and our culture. Again, the positive energy brought to bear by our students, faculty, staff and alumni has inspired me. We must all pledge to hold ourselves accountable to lasting change in medical education.

I am full of gratitude to be part of such an inspirational community. We are quite literally reinventing medical education as we face new challenges that continue to arise every week. I am dedicated to ensuring that the many creative innovations that our community produces in response to these multiple crises shall not be “wasted,” and I invite you to watch the recent HMS Medical Education Grand Rounds on this topic, entitled “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste – Lessons to Date for Medical Student Education at HMS from the COVID-19 Pandemic” at this link

With deep gratitude,

Edward M. Hundert, M.D.