Curriculum Overview and Organization

The HSDM curriculum in Years 1 and 2 departs from standard curricular formats. The courses are interdisciplinary in nature and are presented one at a time in block form, permitting students to learn, synthesize, and apply essential scientific knowledge. This style marks a departure from the memorization that characterizes college-level learning. Faculty-led small-group tutorials in each course permit students to apply the knowledge they have gained in lecture and laboratory to real-patient cases, which in turn reinforces the learning process.

Each basic science course taken with Harvard Medical School (HMS) colleagues is paired with an analogous HSDM dental basic science course—for example, Human Anatomy is paired with Craniofacial and Neck Anatomy, Human Genetics with Craniofacial Genetics, Physiology with Oral Physiology. The sequence of learning progresses from the study of full-body systems to the specifics of the head and neck/oral cavity. See Curriculum Map.

Academic Societies

The curriculum is anchored in a commitment to a mentored relationship between students and faculty, which occurs in all aspects of the curriculum—lecture, laboratory, and especially tutorial. The Patient-Doctor course sequence brings the study of science in lecture and case-based tutorial to mentored patient interactions.

The academic societies, headed by faculty at both HSDM and HMS, play a pivotal role, guiding students in navigating the curriculum and the professional-school environment. A mix of medical and dental students (approximately 50) is randomly assigned to one of four academic societies, which serves as a home base for students throughout their education at HSDM. Significant coordination between society faculty from HSDM and HMS assures dental students comprehensive guidance during the “dual-citizenship” phase of Years One and Two. The HMS societies are located around an atrium in the Tosteson Medical Education Center, the main building for the first two years of study, permitting interaction with classmates from across campus.

Tutorial Groups

Each academic society forms faculty-led tutorial groups made up of 8 to 10 dental and medical students together. Tutorial groups work on a series of cases for the duration of a course. With the tutor as a guide, students set the learning agenda, work in a team, and actively learn from each other, paving the way for the eventual responsibility of patient care. Each course brings a new mix of colleagues in the tutorials. Each academic society houses a skills area, as well as tutorial and lecture rooms.

HSDM course tutorials include only HSDM students. As students transition to clinical training in the third and fourth year, these society colleagues form a treatment team in the Harvard Dental Center Teaching Practice. The HSDM society faculty member (called a senior tutor) serves as the head of the treatment team and the primary mentor in clinical education. The Senior Tutors’ Office is part of the Office of Dental Education.