Harvard medical school’s nascent Center for Primary Care, announced last fall, has as its mission nothing short of transforming primary care.
“This new center will more effectively position HMS to develop programs and train leaders in primary care and health systems research, education, and policy,” says Jeffrey Flier, dean of HMS. “The center will also contribute to innovation in primary care delivery, which we expect to have transformative, global impact.” Made possible by a $30-million anonymous gift, the center will have physical and virtual dimensions, serving as both an actual and intellectual docking point for students, residents, fellows, and faculty from across the School and its affiliated hospitals.
Over the past several years, Flier says, stakeholders nationwide have acknowledged a primary care crisis in the United States. Despite mounting evidence that health care systems with a primary care orientation provide better care at lower cost, primary care receives less funding in the United States in proportion to specialized disciplines than in any other developed nation. Primary care providers are typically underpaid and overworked compared with other medical specialists, and many of them feel disillusioned. Fewer students are choosing to practice primary care, and many primary care physicians are opting out of the system through early retirement or other career changes. In the face of this dire picture, groups around the country are innovating primary care delivery models that better serve patients and physicians alike and offer the potential to help change the health care delivery system.
The School’s Center for Primary Care grew out of a yearlong collaborative effort led by the Primary Care Advisory Group, made up of HMS faculty, students, administrators, and residents. A second group, Primary Care Progress, organized a series of town hall–style meetings that brought together hundreds of members of the Harvard primary care community to contribute to the dialogue. The new center will draw together HMS students, basic science and clinical faculty, experts from other Harvard schools, and an extensive network of national and international collaborators, and provide them with financial resources to tackle three broad areas: primary care education; local, national, and international leadership in primary care; and primary care delivery and innovation research.
“The center’s establishment speaks to the dedication and vision of the HMS community,” says Flier. “It is at moments like these that I’m especially proud to be here.”
Image: Joshua Touster