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July 16, 2009

A petition is being circulated regarding the current status of the HMS Division of Primary Care, which includes a request that the School renew its commitment to primary care.

It is important to understand that Harvard Medical School leadership shares the convictions of those who wrote and signed the petition and is deeply committed to primary care medicine and education at Harvard and to strengthening the state of primary care nationally. Throughout the years, and particularly during this difficult economic period, the School has repeatedly reaffirmed this commitment by regularly and significantly investing in primary care programs, such as primary care clerkships, mentoring and debt relief for MD students.

We also want to clarify potential misunderstandings regarding the broad HMS efforts in primary care on the one hand and the Division of Primary Care on the other. The Division of Primary Care has historically been administered by the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention (DACP). The DACP recently underwent an academic and organizational review that resulted in its being renamed the Department of Population Medicine to better reflect the faculty's core research and teaching activities. In addition, from a governance and administrative perspective, it was decided that the DACP would be formally housed within Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the department's partner for many years.

As part of this review, HMS determined the need to reevaluate the Division of Primary Care's structure, leadership and ongoing funding support. HMS funding for the Division of Primary Care has been suspended until the review is complete, at which point we expect to have a much clearer vision of the most meaningful structure for the programs within the division and how they can be most effectively leveraged for primary care education and clinical training.

During this transition, it's important to consider the entire scope of the School's extensive and continuing activities and investment in primary-care medicine and education:

Despite these efforts, we fully appreciate that many members of our community are disappointed with how the Division of Primary Care has been affected by the recent administrative and financial changes and the plan to review our needs in primary care education and mentorship. Dr. Harvey Katz has done an exemplary job shepherding this program, as attested to by many of his students and colleagues.

We look forward to partnering with HMS leaders in primary care as we shape the field's future at HMS.