The top 25; #1 Harvard
It was during a research trip to the Fiji Islands that Anne Becker discovered the real power of the reputation of Harvard Medical School, from which she had graduated in the class of 1990. Even though she is on the professional staff at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, as a woman, Dr. Becker was still regarded skeptically by the traditionally chauvinistic Fijians--that is, until local residents learned of her educational background. "They'd say, 'Oh, but she's from Harvard,'" recalls Becker. "Suddenly it was a really valuable thing to throw around."
For the 35-year-old Becker, association with the Harvard name is the least of the benefits that the university has bestowed upon her. Not only was she professionally trained at the medical school as a psychiatrist--other popular specialties for the class of '90 included pediatrics and cardiology--but Harvard encouraged Becker to pursue another academic interest: anthropology, her major while she was an undergraduate at Harvard College. During her second year of medical school, the university established a new program that allowed students pursuing an M.D. to also work toward a Ph.D. in the social sciences. Becker was quick to enroll in the program.
Becker shrugs off the grueling labor that she needed to pursue two difficult degrees simultaneously. Harvard eased the financial burden by giving her free tuition and a stipend that paid her living expenses while she was in the dual-degree program. The medical school even allowed her to do some of her clinical training at a Fiji hospital while researching her Ph.D. dissertation.
After graduation, Harvard continued to provide Becker with professional rewards. When she finished her residency at Mass General, she received a one-year fellowship from Harvard that enabled her to do another year of research in Fiji, where she studied postpartum depression and eating disorders. Now she mostly treats patients who have eating disorders and continues with her research in medical anthropology at the medical school, where she is an assistant professor in the department of social medicine. Says Becker: "Here I am, doing exactly what I always wanted to do and getting paid for it."
When Becker, who comes from Wisconsin, first went off to Harvard, it was virtually preordained that she would become a physician. Her father is a doctor, her mother a nurse; her three brothers are also psychiatrists.
Not all prospective physicians have as much energy or ambition as Becker, but her advice to future medical students has universal application. She urges students to pay close attention to a school's clinical curriculum--the hospitals with which the school is affiliated and the sort of problems brought to those hospitals by patients. Becker also suggests that students pick a school that allows budding physicians to find their professional niches. "The mark of a good medical school," she says, "is that as you're doing the training, you change your mind every month because you're enjoying what you're doing."
Programs ranked best by medical school deans and senior faculty
1. Univ. of California at San Francisco
2. Johns Hopkins University (Md.)
3. Harvard University
4. Univ. of California at Los Angeles
5. Columbia University (N.Y.)
DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
1. Johns Hopkins University (Md.)
1. Yale University
This story appears in the March 18, 1996 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.