1.07 MD Degree with Honors in a Special Field

Harvard Medical School awards the MD degree with Honors in a Special Field (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) to graduating MD degree candidates who have performed original and meritorious investigation and demonstrated ability, scholarship and special knowledge of their research field. Honors candidates submit an original thesis, describing basic or clinical research or other scholarly investigation (e.g., social sciences, ethics, history of medicine) that will be the basis for an oral examination. A student must be in good academic standing in the MD program to be considered for the MD degree with Honors in a Special Field. 

The MD Honors Thesis must be distinct from any prior or concurrent graduate-level thesis (e.g., MPH, PhD). Students from the Cannon, Castle, Hinton, and Peabody Societies may write an MD Honors thesis based on their scholarly project research or other research. London Society/HST students may write an MD Honors thesis based on their thesis research or other research.

Thesis research should attempt to answer a question that is worth pursuing and amenable to resolution by the student’s approach and by available technologies. The student’s role in the research should not be merely technical-supportive, but reflect a high degree of responsibility for the project. Students should also demonstrate sufficient intellectual command of the research, meaning that they would have a significant authorship position in any published work.

Students interested in writing an Honors thesis should speak with one of their Society Fellows to determine if their research meets these criteria.

All medical students scheduled to graduate at the end of the current academic year will receive an introductory announcement about the Honors Program in mid-August. Interested students must then complete and submit all required documents, see information available on the Honors Website (eCommons ID required) , no later than the first Monday of October of their final year to the Office of Scholarly Engagement. The thesis submission deadline is during the first week of February. Thesis defenses are held in March and April.

Honors candidates also submit their theses via the electronic thesis/dissertation system, ETDs @ Harvard. ETDs submission deposits the student’s thesis in the online, open access repository, DASH (Digital Archive of Scholarship at Harvard). Students may elect to embargo their MD Honors theses in DASH when necessary.

NOTE:  The Honors Program is in the process of policy review and the policies described here are subject to change without notice.


Last updated 10/9/18