News and Commentary Harvard Macy Institute

In the 20 years since we received a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI) has grown from an initial set of two annually offered courses, to five separate course offerings in Boston, international customized courses, and involvement in post-graduate degree programs. With over 3,500 alumni, we have created an internationally recognized inter-professional incubator for innovators and leaders in healthcare education. It was a challenging and rewarding journey from conceptualizing and receiving a grant designed to build a community of healthcare educators dedicated to innovation to becoming a self-sustaining Institute. See all of our programs and offerings at

Groundbreaking Departure from Healthcare Education Norms

Our goals were ambitious: (1) to create transformational learning experiences for each individual; (2) to require experiential learning based on actual institutional projects; (3) to introduce diverse small group activities, including peer and faculty feedback on projects; and, (4) to shape projects implemented at home institutions with opportunities for HMI and peer support.

With our first two courses, begun in 1994, we were able to build a growing cadre of healthcare educators and leaders. In addition to the thousands of individuals served worldwide, the number of institutions that have sent five or more participants over time to HMI courses is close to 175. These local cadres of healthcare educator innovators create a critical mass at these institutions to challenge the status quo, champion significant change, and collectively create a long-lasting legacy.

Sustainable Change: The First 20 Years

As anyone who has received funding knows, once a grant is obtained the challenge is not only to implement a high quality funded program but also to be flexible and forward thinking enough so the program survives when funding ends. HMI has thrived for 20 years, and demand for its existing courses along with requests for new offerings continues.

Finding a path toward sustainable change required hard, practical financial solutions to bring in enough income through tuition, and constant reflection and action into how HMI could expand its audience and impact and better serve its growing community. Our path required openness to change, experimentation, and risk-taking, which was supported by our community of healthcare educators energized by seeing new possibilities for scholarship and teaching.

Each grantee has to find viable paths towards sustainability. For HMI, a strategy that proved highly effective in building capacity was to invite select HMI course scholars (the term we use for program attendees) to return in subsequent years as “faculty scholars” to teach a session, facilitate small group work, and continue their own professional development. Faculty scholars contribute ideas for updating courses and introducing new courses. They play a vital role in the future of HMI, and as innovators in healthcare education and institutional change. They give a great deal to the community, and in return they are re-energized each year by their immersion in new courses and meeting new scholars.

HMI has clearly benefited by having the same initial course directors committed to this program for 20 years - Robert Kegan of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Clayton Christensen of Harvard’s Business School, and I believe it would be fair to include myself in this list as Director of the Institute from the outset and author of the original grant. The three of us were recently interviewed in preparation for HMI’s 20th anniversary symposium. Unbeknownst to each other, we confessed to the interviewer how gratified we are that HMI succeeded beyond our greatest dreams!

The Next 20 Years: Launched at the 20th Anniversary Symposium

To celebrate this milestone and shape the path for the future, HMI’s 20th Anniversary Symposium with distinguished course directors, faculty, alumni and guests will be held on June 20-21, 2014, at Harvard Medical School. Participation includes discussions with academic and industry thought leaders in the field of health care, education, and technology who are projecting what the future challenges and opportunities will be in training the next generation of health care professionals. Speakers include Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, Toshiba Professor of Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, named one of the world’s most powerful data scientists, and Eric Mazur, Dean of Applied Physics & Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Harvard University, and a pioneer in “flipping the classroom.” HMI scholars will share specific innovations and experiences of personal growth at the poster session. If you are interested in participating in this symposium, let us know!

We are determined to make the next 20 years equally successful. HMI will encourage creation of even more inter-professional, regional, and international learning cohorts. And we will proactively adapt to changing modes of learning including those made possible through technology advances.

About Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong
Dr. Armstrong is the Director of the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI), the premier faculty development program for healthcare educators and academic leaders seeking to innovate in curriculum and healthcare delivery. Founded in 1994, HMI offers five courses annually in Boston and customized programs in academic centers around the world.

More News and Commentary

Macy Faculty Scholar Kelly Karpa on Interprofessional Education

Kelly Karpa, PhD, RPh, of Penn State College of Medicine discusses her new interprofessional program to teach medical and nurse practitioner students about medications.

Modern Healthcare on the New Era of IPE

Last week, Modern Healthcare’s Andis Robeznieks reported on the growing number of academic medical centers and health systems around the country that are offering training to students and working professionals in how...

Are Med School Grads Prepared to Practice Medicine?

Pauline Chen, MD, health blogger for The New York Times Well Blog, recently wrote about the transition new medical grads go through when they start their internships or residencies.

New Issue Brief on Developing new-models-for-clinical-education

We are pleased to share with you our latest issue brief on developing new-models-for-clinical-education, one of five areas where we focus our grantmaking.