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Is Harvard Med overrated?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Sir William Osler, Mar 27, 2002.

  1. Sir William Osler

    Sir William Osler Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    what do you guys think? as the decision letters start to roll in, i'm curious about your opinions on the mystical "HMS". Is it everyone's first choice who interviewed or are you planning pre-decision to go elsewhere? Does everyone turn down UCSF/JHU/UPenn/Duke for Harvard? Anyone have any anecdotes?

    good luck to all!
     
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  3. brandonite

    brandonite Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    According to that infamous Stanford page, about 30-35% of people accepted to HMS turned it down. They rejected me pre-interview, so I can't really say, but going in, I had Harvard as my third choice, behind Duke and Stanford (California!)...
     
  4. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat 7+ Year Member

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    Hey brando

    Any word on stanford? I'm still waiting to find out if I'll get an interview.
     
  5. Sir William Osler

    Sir William Osler Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    There's one thing i dont understand about many peoples rankings. How can you rate a school that you've never visited? I mean sure you can look at the webpage and maybe envision theoretically how a specific institution would be, but do you really know? I think the rankings before i visited schools and after are pretty darn different. FYI, I met a guy at HMS who turned down a UPenn full-ride to go to HMS. I thought that was interesting.
     
  6. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Yeah, the big H is a horrible school. Everyone should come to UCSF. :p

    All jokes aside, there are plenty of people who choose other schools over Harvard (just as there are people who choose Harvard over other schools). Environment, location, proximity to family, curriculum, financial aid, etc are important factors for many people. What Harvard (or any other school) has to offer may be great for some, but not the best for others.

    What do YOU think? :D
     
  7. brandonite

    brandonite Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by bjc:
    <strong>Hey brando

    Any word on stanford? I'm still waiting to find out if I'll get an interview.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">They tell me that they will review my file very soon... So, hopefully I'll hear before too long. You?

    And Osler - I know it's hard to get a great feel for a school without visiting. Which is why I said that I'd never been there before I added my comments.

    Besides, you can get a pretty good idea. After all, a lot of the information that you base your decision on (financial aid, rankings, location, etc) you will know before you ever visit there. So, you can have an idea.
     
  8. bots

    bots Member 7+ Year Member

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    I think that while Harvard is an excellent school, the best education lies at Hopkins. In talking to medical professionals, they are split about 60-40 in favor of Hopkins.

    Not that Harvard is a bad place-- it's filled with amazing people, and the resources and location are great. Also, if you learn well through a PBL system, I think that it would be the number one place to go. Fi you're highly motivated and learn well it groups, it's probably the best medical education for you.

    However, I think that it really doesn't educate as well as some more mainstream curriculums in a lot of areas. The compeitition there is almost non-existent, which is nice, but when you don't have competition, don't really have grades, and you don't have classes, what if you have a bad week, and just don't keep up? Are you going to then have gaps in your knowledge? I know that Harvard students do well, but I think that that's in spite of the way they're taught, not because of it. If you're a good enough student to go to Harvard, you should be able to develop the cognitive processes and analytical skills that those at Harvard insist are the result of their programs.

    When I went to interview at Harvard, I wanted to love it. However, although the people were great, many of the students also had great worries about their education. They just seemed to feel that "by the end, they'd have it all in place." Now, I'm sure that they'll be good doctors, but I need a little more reassurance than that.

    This may also be another odd complaint, but the students there didn't seem to have enough to do. I understand that some schools are more relaxed than others, but you have to learn about the body anyway. They seemed to be a little too relaxed for my tastes. But that may just be the pre-med in me talking :)

    Osler, to answer your question, I've gotten into a couple of other top-ten schools, and I would probably choose any of them over Harvard, for the above reasons. The only exception would be if, in making second-look visits, I happen to love Harvard and hate the other schools. There's a slim chance of that happening (although revisiting undergrad schools completely changed my mind), and if I did go for it, I'd go for the people, not the name or the education.

    BOTS
     
  9. Sir William Osler

    Sir William Osler Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    What do I think? It is much easier to ask others then to comment on this, but here goes:

    Harvard has some of the top guys in medicine and so the research is wonderful. Also, with that comes some arrogance which is a turn-off. But, I think alot of the top schools have great researchers, but perhaps not the density of Harvard's MGH and Brig and grad schools. The location of Harvard is great because you have an urban environment in a colorful city (although not racially colorful). The public transportation is nice, the city is clean and relatively crime-free, and there are just loads and loads of young people (like SF). I think the NP program isn't rigorous enough, but that has its advantages because you can do alot of things in your spare time (research, volunteering, writing, composing, etc). I think the students are quite accomplished and again, this can promote an arrogant atmosphere but doens't necessarily. I think it's hit or miss and there are many very nice students at HMS. The financial aid leaves alot to be desired. Also, the feeling that you would choose Harvard over all others pervades somewhat and I would hope that this does not leak into the ideologies of the Administration. I can imagine a response like "This is Harvard and if you dont like it, too bad we are the best" atmosphere. But, who knows if that exists, although i woudn't be too surprised if it DID.

    I could see someone choosing Stanford and UCSF over HMS if the fin aid was alot better or if cali was preferred or if family or sig. others were in cali. Otherwise, I think i'd stick with HMS. One could choose Hopkins if a more intense curriculum was preferred and an arguably more fostering medical education atmosphere. Like my PI noted, there is the term a "Hopkins doc" but not a "Harvard doc." I think Hopkins has the history and a very interesting environment similar in some ways to the history of Michigan. I could see people choosing Duke and Upenn and WashU over HMS with a full-scholarship or some attachemnt to the location. I guess off hand, these are my impressions. I'm sure I'm leaving some things out, but I need to get back to my Aeneid.

    any thoughts Vader? I know how UCSF is the bestest place in the whole wide world <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" /> . just kidding!
     
  10. bomback

    bomback Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    For me, the only top ten school that I might choose over UCLA and UCSF would be Harvard. I think that it's the only school that might be worth the extra money because of it's name and reputation.
     
  11. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat 7+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by bomback:
    <strong>For me, the only top ten school that I might choose over UCLA and UCSF would be Harvard. I think that it's the only school that might be worth the extra money because of it's name and reputation.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I'd say that most of the top ten schools that are private have equally good names, reputations, and costs. So I think that singling Harvard out as the only one whose name and reputation are worth the extra money is a little silly.
     
  12. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Sir William Osler:
    <strong>any thoughts Vader? I know how UCSF is the bestest place in the whole wide world <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" /> . just kidding!</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Was there any ever doubt? <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" />

    I agree with a lot of what you said. But I think it really comes down to personal preference. If fortunate enough to be in the situation to actually HAVE that choice, you have to figure out what you want out of your education (i.e. PBL vs. lectures, P/F vs. grades, non-competitve vs. competitive, etc), the potential extra added value going to a place like Harvard (versus somewhere else), financial considerations (if there are any), and most of all--CAN YOU WITHSTAND THE COLD? :D

    These factors (and others) are highly individual--no two people may exactly agree on what is best. The question really is: what is best for YOU, given your goals, family and financial situation, stage in your life, etc, etc? Sounds hokey, but only you will know the answer to that question.

    May the force be with you... (okay, now I've doomed myself to hokeyness). :D
     
  13. Street Philosopher

    Street Philosopher freebird 10+ Year Member

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    Beggars can't be choosers. I'll go anywhere they take me!
     
  14. fishtolive

    fishtolive Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Harvard has a medical school? :D
     
  15. Cdc28p

    Cdc28p Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    It's really interesting to read all your thoughtful discussion on Harvard. Another thing about Harvard that hasn't been mentioned is the wonderful graduate programs here. For those who are interested in getting another degree besides the MD, Harvard is a great place, with excellent schools of public health, business, education, law, etc...

    Another great school that is unique to Harvard is the John F. Kennedy School of Government. It's hard to imagine that one can find a place like the Kennedy school anywhere else in the country. The school simply attracts the most interesting leaders to come here as professors and students. You will have a chance to take a leadership course alongside an Air Force colonel or a congressman, or a negotiation class with someone who has represented Israel at the Oslo conference. If you're interested in international development, political economy, third-world problems, health care reforms, etc... this is possibly the best place to learn. For example, Amartya Sen will be here to give a talk tomorrow. The people who teach, study, and visit the K school are simply amazing.

    Harvard Med is of course not for everyone. I'm from California and thus love Stanford and UCSF. However, I'm very interested in public policy and international development and would therefore pick Harvard over the other equally wonderful med schools. If you only care about medicine, you will enjoy, say, UCSF. But if you want to learn at depth how medicine, economics, law, politics interact, or how to help Africa develop, or how to bring democracy to China or Vietnam, you should seriously consider Harvard. As a physician I would of course treat my patients' illnesses but I also want to tackle the socioeconomic problems that might have contributed to my patients' medical problems at the first place. Harvard is simply a wonderful place if you are eager to explore fields outside of, but ultimately relevant to, medicine. If you really want to learn, you will not complain of not having enough to do. :)
     
  16. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Cdc28p:
    <strong>If you only care about medicine, you will enjoy, say, UCSF. But if you want to learn at depth how medicine, economics, law, politics interact, or how to help Africa develop, or how to bring democracy to China or Vietnam, you should seriously consider Harvard. As a physician I would of course treat my patients' illnesses but I also want to tackle the socioeconomic problems that might have contributed to my patients' medical problems at the first place. Harvard is simply a wonderful place if you are eager to explore fields outside of, but ultimately relevant to, medicine. If you really want to learn, you will not complain of not having enough to do. :) </strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Not to take away from anything you're saying--I agree with most of it--but I wanted to clarify that UCSF is NOT simply interested in medicine. There is a culture and medical anthropology department at the Laurel Heights campus (in SF also) and for people interested in health policy, public health, economics, etc, there is Berkeley just across the Bay with wonderful graduate programs. There is a boatload of research going on--both basic and clinical. So if you want to get involved here, many opportunities exist. :D
     
  17. WaitingImpatiently

    WaitingImpatiently Long Member 7+ Year Member

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    I don't know about the actual medical education you get there-- it very well could be matched by several other schools-- but the Harvard name is still the most prestigious one there is, perhaps rivaled only by Hopkins.
     
  18. MAPKinkster

    MAPKinkster Member 7+ Year Member

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    Hey EVERYONE,

    As always, this talk about reputation is an interesting discussion because we're all probably wondering how much a name goes into how well we'll be trained as physicians and how well we'll all match in the near future.

    It seems to me that any of the top 10 (or 15) programs will provide the same opportunities to match at top residencies. It also makes sense that students at a particular medical school will also match better at local residencies. Thus, at Harvard's program a majority end up staying in the Longwood/Boston area to do residencies at MGH, B&W, etc.

    Okay, here's the story I'm getting to: While I interviewed at another program for MD/PhD, I met a faculty member who straight up tore at Harvard's clinical training. She says Harvard is one of the best places for money and research but not if you want to be a serious clinician. I didn't even mention Harvard..it just came up when I asked about her background. I also took this as a grain of salt because she was denied tenure by Harvard and felt that it was some sort of discrimination. Anyhow, she says that even Harvard acknowledges that their medical students are not as well prepared for the residencies as students from other schools (she named Hopkins, UCSF, Columbia). Therefore, residency directors in Boston schedule Harvard med students to start off with the easiest/easier rotations while placing grads from other schools in the toughier ones.

    It's hearsay but I think it's interesting...MapK
     
  19. Vasiley Zaitsev

    Vasiley Zaitsev Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Cdc28p:
    <strong>It's really interesting to read all your thoughtful discussion on Harvard. Another thing about Harvard that hasn't been mentioned is the wonderful graduate programs here. For those who are interested in getting another degree besides the MD, Harvard is a great place, with excellent schools of public health, business, education, law, etc...

    Another great school that is unique to Harvard is the John F. Kennedy School of Government. It's hard to imagine that one can find a place like the Kennedy school anywhere else in the country. The school simply attracts the most interesting leaders to come here as professors and students. You will have a chance to take a leadership course alongside an Air Force colonel or a congressman, or a negotiation class with someone who has represented Israel at the Oslo conference. If you're interested in international development, political economy, third-world problems, health care reforms, etc... this is possibly the best place to learn. For example, Amartya Sen will be here to give a talk tomorrow. The people who teach, study, and visit the K school are simply amazing.

    Harvard Med is of course not for everyone. I'm from California and thus love Stanford and UCSF. However, I'm very interested in public policy and international development and would therefore pick Harvard over the other equally wonderful med schools. If you only care about medicine, you will enjoy, say, UCSF. But if you want to learn at depth how medicine, economics, law, politics interact, or how to help Africa develop, or how to bring democracy to China or Vietnam, you should seriously consider Harvard. As a physician I would of course treat my patients' illnesses but I also want to tackle the socioeconomic problems that might have contributed to my patients' medical problems at the first place. Harvard is simply a wonderful place if you are eager to explore fields outside of, but ultimately relevant to, medicine. If you really want to learn, you will not complain of not having enough to do. :) </strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">The absolute best thing about Harvard isn't the education one recieves..it's the *connections* one makes while there! You speak of policy and public health..one can have all the answers, but without the connections, they are in trouble! Luckily, you'll have both :D
     
  20. Sir William Osler

    Sir William Osler Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    I'm going to agree with Vader about his point that UCSF isn't only concerned with medicine. What I respected most about UCSF was the institutions serious interest in issues affecting medicine outside of the sciences. Nowhere else did i find such a concentration of attendings and students who valued cultural diversity, politics and spirituality on par with UCSF. But, it is true that Harvard has some nice graduate programs. Let us not forget that one can always pick up a Harvard degree after a JHU or UCSF medical degree. BTW, the new Surgeon General is a UCSF med grad. I may be wrong, but isn't the Surgeon General quite a political figure? :)
     
  21. Cdc28p

    Cdc28p Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Sir William Osler:
    <strong>Let us not forget that one can always pick up a Harvard degree after a JHU or UCSF medical degree. </strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Absolutely. You know, I sometimes wonder if there's anyone out there with this title: John Doe, Harvard AB '78, JHU MD '82, Yale JD '85, Stanford MBA '87, Harvard Ph.D. '92... Wouldn't it be cool? :) Well, by being cool, I mean not having a life. :D
     
  22. bomback

    bomback Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by bjc:
    <strong> </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by bomback:
    <strong>For me, the only top ten school that I might choose over UCLA and UCSF would be Harvard. I think that it's the only school that might be worth the extra money because of it's name and reputation.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I'd say that most of the top ten schools that are private have equally good names, reputations, and costs. So I think that singling Harvard out as the only one whose name and reputation are worth the extra money is a little silly.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I agree with you, that other private schools have good names, costs, and reputations. But I don't think any of them have the same reputataion as Hravard outside of academics. Almost any person you find has heard of Harvard. That's the point I was trying to make. In terms of actual medical education though, I think any medical school would give you a good education.
     
  23. vyc

    vyc Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    i'm surprised that someone would consider Harvard's clinical training as subpar to some of the other top places...!?!?!

    why would that be?
    i'm under the impression that it is quite the opposite.
     
  24. bots

    bots Member 7+ Year Member

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    I think this is the best thread that we've had on here in a while.

    Cdc, you bring up some really interesting points regarding getting two degrees. Although the opportunities at Havard for getting an MPP are unparalleled, I'd have to say that if you want an MBA, you're better off at Penn-- not only is the program combined, thereby saving you a year, but Wharton is a better school than Harvard.

    For public health, if you're really serious about it, Hopkins is the best place to go. If you're not that serious about it, at Duke you can do both degrees in 4 years, which is really cool.

    The MPP, however, is pretty much unique to Harvard.

    I'm considering getting a double degree, but I'm not sure precisely which degree. Does anybody know anyone who has double degreed, and if so, what are they doing now? What are the different types of opportunities afforded by those who get an MBA vs. a MPH or MPP?

    BOTS
     
  25. EarlGrey

    EarlGrey Junior Member 7+ Year Member

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    Interesting MapK. After I interviewed at Harvard, I talked with a friend of mine who did his fellowship there about what he thought about the med school, and his comment was similar to the faculty member you spoke with. He thought it was a great place if you are interested in research, but did not train it's students to be clinicians very well. He pointed out that Boston is not a very big city, but it has three good-sized med schools, so a lot of students and residents are "competing" for the same patients. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it, but I'd never heard this before about Harvard.

    My own impression of the place was that it is a place with amazing resources and opportunities for the highly motivated individual, but that you have to seek out those opportunities yourself, no one is going to present them to you. Echoing some comments earlier, the PBL system is good if you learn well that way and you end up with a good group, but it seemed that the students learned what they needed to learn because they're bright and motivated, not because of the system. It seems that Harvard is a good place because of the people that are there, i.e. the reputation attracts a certain caliber of students (and faculty) and so the reputation ends up perpetuating itself (am I making sense?)

    Anyway, I suppose I should disclose my bias here, because I love UCSF and feel it is the best fit for me and can't wait to start there in the fall, but I feel I really tried to approach Harvard with an open mind, and am glad I went there and formed my own opinion about the place.
     
  26. darkmatter

    darkmatter Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    I work pt at a Harvard teaching hospital and a good portion of the doctors there say it's overrated. They do state that Harvardis still the number one medical school, but it's a lot closer to other competing school than in the past.
     
  27. synite

    synite Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    i think its downright silly to go to a school based only on its name. HMS is a good place for lots of people, but only for a certain type. if you're into research, you couldn't pick a better place. but if youre interests are less "academic" and more clinical and real-world, i dont think HMS is your best bet. students and faculty are INTENSE and very independent at that place, but while lots of people thrive on that, many dont. Unless youre extremely self-driven and dont need much guidance (faculty support is nill at HMS), you could be miserable at HMS.

    Hopkins provides the best clinical training i believe. but the trade-off at that school is that students tend to be pretty competitive. it's the "Hopkins" atmosphere. location kind of sucks too.

    What it comes down to is that there's not much difference between the top 5-10 schools. get away from the name thing and you'll see that HMS isnt very special. Harvard, Hopkins, UPenn, Duke, Columbia, UCSF....all great places (i've got some bones about Stanford but wont get into that). and to answer the original question, no not everyone turns down other schools for Harvard...i turned it down for another school.
     

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