Each phase of the preclerkship and PCE years of the MD curriculum follows from, builds upon, and reinforces the preceding one, and students are ordinarily expected to progress developmentally in an uninterrupted temporal sequence. Interrupting the MD curriculum after the Pathways or HST preclerkship curriculum to pursue a Master’s degree disrupts this important pedagogic sequence. The value of this continuity is recognized, in fact, by most Master’s degree programs, which prefer or require that medical students complete three years of medical school before enrolling. Moreover, entering a Master’s program prior to the completion of the PCE creates logistical and scheduling problems for both the MD and Master’s programs. Because Master’s degree programs follow a traditional academic calendar, the programs do not generally begin until September. Harvard medical students interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in conjunction with their MD degree are eligible to enroll in a Master’s program (either at another Harvard school or at another university) only after successfully completing the first three years of medical school.
Under unusual circumstances, a student in the Pathways curriculum may petition the Program in Medical Education (PME) Council of Academic Societies (CAS) to pursue a year of research after nine months of the PCE. The research project in such situations would ordinarily be one that has begun during the first year of the MD program and that an externally funded program requires the research year to begin in July (see Section 1.05, Five-Year MD Program). In most cases, such requests involve situations in which the student wishes to continue on-going research; for example, if a student has been involved in an intensive research program during the preclerkship curriculum and would benefit from continuing this research. Approval must be obtained from the Advisory Dean or Advisor in the student’s Academic Society as well as the CAS.
This policy has no effect on Leaves of Absence that are taken for extenuating personal or academic circumstances. In addition, this policy does not apply to the MD-PhD Program or to dental students. The PME, Academic Societies, and PCE leadership will strive to maintain a degree of flexibility to accommodate curriculum interruptions for extraordinary and compelling personal or academic reasons.