Harvard Medical School recently announced that it would loosen its restrictive policies regarding student-media interaction. Called “ill-advised” and “problematic” by Harvard professors themselves, the old policy stated:
All interactions between students and the media should be coordinated with the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Public Affairs. This applies to situations in which students are contacted by the media as well as instances in which students may be seeking publicity about a student-related project or program.
Dr. Nancy Oriol, the developer of a guideline that essentially censored HMS students on medical conflicts of interests, continues to insist that the policy’s goal was to “help students, rather than limit speech or control what they say on controversial topics.”
This comes after HMS came under fire for its dubious approach to medical ethics and suspiciously opportunistic professors, including those who served as paid consultants to drug companies and brushed off questioning students who didn’t want to kill their future patients. (HBS is looking less corrupt by the minute.) But in a less than prudent choice of PR action, HMS didn’t even bother submitting its conflict of interest policies for review to the American Medical Student Association last year, promptly receiving the very non-Harvard grade F from the board in 2008.
Read more about the irony of Harvard’s crappy report card after the jump.
After learning their lesson, they didn’t fare much better–the AMSA gave them a B this year after reviewing the school’s interaction with pharmaceutical companies (out of the Ivy League medical schools as well as Stanford, only Yale received a lower score). Maybe the fact that some professors have earned $1 million in the course of a year in benefits from drug companies as well as blatant outside financial interest has something to do with it.
According to Duff Wilson, who spent a month researching Harvard’s interaction with big pharm and an administration that has been encouraging students to STFU:
We [still] haven’t got to the bottom of the amount of influence drug companies and other special interests have on medical education or continuing medical education. As we reported, Harvard Medical’s dean wants to increase, not decrease, the school’s connections with industry.
Three cheers for the future of medicine, in which the common cold will be cured with Paxil, if Harvard has anything to say about it.