Harvard Medical School unveils online certificate program for aspiring clinicians, general public

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Michael Parker

BOSTON–Charting new territory in online medical education, Harvard Medical School has launched for the first time an online program for aspiring clinicians as well as the general public, Harvard Medical School said in a statement.

The certificate program, called HMX Fundamentals, offers coursework in four foundational subjects: physiology, immunology, genetics and biochemistry.

Offering wider access to the knowledge and acumen of some of HMS’s top physician-scientists, the program is open to students of all ages, from high schoolers pondering a career in medicine or health care to scientifically and medically curious adult learners.

Incoming Harvard Medical School students have used the courses to prepare for the demanding curriculum ahead of them, but HMX courses are designed for any students considering or beginning health care careers who would like a preview of medical school instruction, and for individuals training for nursing, pharmacy and physician assistant programs, to those looking to enhance their medical understanding and advance in their fields.

“With this program, I have access to the high level of knowledge and education that I need to pursue a career in medicine,” said Celeste Barker, a current undergraduate at Bucknell University and an HMX student.

Michael Parker

The program, HMS leaders said, represents the democratization of medical education. It is designed to prepare tomorrow’s clinicians for the rigors of medical education and training and, at the same time, stimulate the passion and interest of lay learners seeking in-depth medical knowledge.

“It is part of our mission as health care professionals and physician-educators to encourage the passion and intellect of those considering a medical career but who may not be quite ready yet to commit to medical school,” said Michael Parker, Harvard Medical School’s associate dean for online learning and faculty director of HMX.

“Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a highly motivated high school student or an established professional considering a mid-career change, we’ve designed this program to offer depth and rigor and give learners a head start on their career paths,” Parker added.

The program features real-life case studies and offer an immersive experience, veering away from traditional passive learning and slide show presentations. Students are exposed to actual medical scenarios filmed in clinical settings, such as intensive care units and cardiac catheterization labs, at Harvard-affiliated hospitals, allowing them to work through real-life applications of concepts.

Instead of a lecture-based format, courses combine narrated videos, interactive modules, and state-of-the-art biomedical visualization. Students can discuss course material and related questions with each other in online forums facilitated by advanced students and faculty moderators.

Each course will feature an interactive forum where students can ask questions about the content and receive expert feedback from HMX staff. Students who achieve certain thresholds of mastery based on periodic quizzes and a final exam will be awarded a certificate of achievement or a certificate of completion.

“It’s not enough to have something explained clearly,” said Parker. “It becomes more meaningful when the principles come to life through scenarios in the real world or through interactions captured in a hospital or other clinical setting with real patients.”

While HMX Fundamentals courses are open to learners at virtually any phase of their academic or professional career, they do require a basic understanding of concepts in chemistry, biology, physiology and physics.

The HMX Fundamentals program is now accepting applications for its inaugural summer course, which begins June 20. The application window for the summer courses remains open through May 30.

Tuition for HMX Fundamentals courses is tiered depending on the number of courses taken. For a single HMX Fundamentals course, tuition is $800; for a pair of HMX Fundamentals courses (either HMX Immunology and HMX Genetics or HMX Physiology and HMX Biochemistry), combined tuition is $1,000; for all four HMX Fundamentals courses, combined tuition is $1,800. Partial scholarships are available on a limited basis.

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