Harris Berman will step down as dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) at the end of this year, marking the end of his 10-year term. Berman will continue to fundraise for both the medical school and the university on a part-time basis.
TUSM Vice Dean Peter Bates, who will serve as interim dean while the university finds a replacement, has worked extensively with Berman on improving the medical school and launching the Maine Track Program, one of Berman’s major accomplishments during his time at Tufts.
“Dr. Berman has been a wonderful leader for TUSM and a personal mentor for me. His intelligence, vision and humanity will be missed,” Bates said.
The Maine Track Program pipelines students from TUSM to practice in Maine to help address the state’s diminishing physician count.
“The Maine Track Program is probably the signature achievement of my time here. We developed it from scratch, and it’s been an extremely successful program. It provides positions all over Maine, a state that was getting depleted of positions,” Berman said.
“Dr. Berman’s collaborative style encouraged and supported the innovation needed to bring this program to reality. Many rural Maine communities now have new practicing physicians because of this program and Dr. Berman’s leadership,” Bates said.
Beyond this program, Berman has had numerous accomplishments during his time at the medical school.
“Berman has championed curriculum improvements, ushered in a new anatomy lab and other learning spaces … and was actively involved in fundraising, which last year saw gifts of $37 million, the largest one-year total in the school’s history,” according to a TuftsNow article on Berman’s retirement.
Berman briefly commented on the university’s controversial ties to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma.
“We’re finally at the point where we’re about to get the report, at which point an expert committee that [University President Anthony] Monaco has put together will review this and come up with recommendations as to what we should do. I look forward to the day where we put this behind us and move on,” Berman said.
Prior to his time as dean, Berman worked as a Peace Corps physician and as CEO of the Tufts Health Plan. He then became chair of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine and then vice dean of TUSM. His colleagues have spoken highly of him no matter where he worked.
In the TuftsNow article, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who worked at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care while Berman was CEO of Tufts Health Plan, described Berman as a “friendly rival.”
“Harris was an innovator and a leader in every way … His leadership in every role he has ever had has been outstanding, and his commitment to improving health care for everyone has been long lasting and steadfast,” Baker told TuftsNow.
Berman integrated the public health department into the curriculum of the rest of the medical school while he was involved in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, becoming the first dean of public health and professional degree programs.
“We’ve really expanded our programs in public health and included the medical school in this so that the medical students learn about public health and the public health students learn about healthcare,” Berman said.
Berman told TuftsNow that collaboration between medical students and public health students is crucial.
“Medical doctors need to understand public health diseases and get involved in their communities, and public health people need to be able to deal with doctors,” he said.
With all of these accomplishments, Berman recognizes that there is always more work to be done to improve TUSM that the next dean will pick up where he left off.
“We are trying to focus our research in the areas where we can really do world class research as well as any of the larger better-funded institutions. We’re hoping to create a research institute that combines the world class departments and world class faculty across the medical, dental, nutrition and veterinary schools in order to take full advantage of all the resources we have at Tufts,” Berman told the Daily.
Berman said he will continue to fundraise for Tufts and help coach the new deans as they start their new positions and development efforts.
“Fundraising is one of the parts of this job that I like the most because you go out and meet people who care about Tufts. It is a long-term process of getting to know somebody and their interests, and I’ve found it actually to be very satisfying. I never would have predicted 10 years ago that this would be the room that I would fill,” Berman said.
Berman said he is optimistic about Bates’ capacity to serve as interim dean.
“Bates is a remarkable leader who we really look to to do well and to enjoy work with in the 11 years he has been working here,” he said.