It was the first day as a master thesis student at the department of Medical Epidemiology and Bio-statistics, aka MEB, at Karolinska Institutet. And I had the opportunity to attend this very interesting and intriguing seminar “Can KI beat Harvard?”
The speaker of the seminar was Professor Hans-Olov Adami and surely he is the right person to discuss this issue. The reason for saying this is his life-long brilliant and distinguished career as an epidemiologist at both Karolinska Institutet and Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health! He is the founder and former Chair of department of Medical Epidemiology and Bio-statistics at Karolinska Institutet and serving as Emeritus Professor at KI. On the other side, he served as a Chair of Department of Epidemiology and as a full Professor at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health until 2011.
He started his presentation by showing the university rankings where Harvard has been placed consistently among the top 3 over time and then KI’s ranking which indicates KI has been stuck in between top 30 – 50 for a long time. And then he tried to disentangle the reasons for this high contrast between these two universities rankings from his personal experiences while serving distinguished faculty positions at both the universities.
He outlined the differences in several categories i.e. teaching and research expertise of the faculty members, criteria for admission entry of grad students and amount of formal training; amount of research funding and external grants; marketing and networking and finally the undying passion for excellence.
Sad but true – he argued how Harvard is way ahead of KI in every point mentioned above! Notably, the amount and rigorousness of formal training of PhD students and research funding had very striking differences. Also, he described that Harvard faculty members enjoy much more prestige and authority to decision-making than those of KI faculty members.
Finally, he concluded by saying that it’s not the difference in the talent but difference in the passion for excellence which makes Harvard a home-ground of success for years. He also emphasized that excellence is not a state; rather it’s a dynamic process where one has to wake up every morning deciding to give one’s best efforts in what he/she is doing. And importantly, considering we are already excellent is the first pitfall in the road of excellence!
Links to Professor Hans-Olov Adami’s professional webpages: