Richard M. Schwartzstein, MD
Dr. Richard Schwartzstein’s career embodies his own commitment to lifelong learning and to reinforcing the importance of education, along with patient care and research, in academic medicine.
“At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, we know that education is at the heart of patient care. I am inspired by the passion, curiosity and dedication of our faculty, trainees, and students. They care about being the best doctors possible, and I am motivated to do everything in my power to support their efforts in teaching and learning.
“My interest in education dates back to my college years. As a major in political science while also pursuing premedical studies, I was exposed to a wide range of teaching formats and opportunities. I have benefited throughout my career by contact with caring professors and mentors and have become convinced that the two most important things we can do as educators are to inspire and challenge our learners.
“As a scientist, I have approached medical education much as I have medicine; I believe that BIDMC and HMS should be leaders in education research as much as they are in the study of human health and disease.”
Following residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at BIDMC and a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dr. Schwartzstein joined the HMS faculty in 1986. At the outset of his clinical career, he pursued research on the relationship of basic physiological mechanisms of breathing and respiratory sensations with dyspnea. He actively collaborates with laboratories under the direction of Dr. Robert Banzett. Dr. Schwartzstein’s work has resulted in a greater understanding of the distinct qualitative aspects of dyspnea, the links between the language used by patients to describe their breathing discomfort, and the underlying pathophysiologic disorders causing dyspnea and the origins of chest tightness in asthma. Dr. Schwartzstein is currently Chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at BIDMC, where he directs the Asthma and Dyspnea Center, a multi-disciplinary program that is one of only two national centers for the study and treatment of dyspnea.
While pursuing clinical care and physiologic research, he became increasingly involved in formal teaching roles beginning with leadership of the respiratory section of Integrated Human Physiology (IHP) in the first-year curriculum at HMS in 1996. This was followed by his elevation to the role of course director for IHP in 2000, and the position of Director of Graduate Medical Education at BIDMC in 2001. A graduate of the Rabkin Fellowship in Medical Education, Dr. Schwartzstein led a strategic planning process for education at BIDMC in AY2004 which resulted in the creation of the Center for Education at BIDMC and his appointment as Vice President for Education.
Dr. Schwartzstein has initiated many programs to engage learners from multiple disciplines and learning levels. As Director of the Center for Education, he established the Office of Education Research for the purpose of studying the effectiveness of educational interventions on learning and patient care. As Director of the Academy at Harvard Medical School, He works with the educational leadership of faculty with academies at major Harvard teaching hospitals, to broaden and strengthen scholarship and innovation in medical education, and foster the careers of medical educators. As a senior faculty member and educator, he also led a major curriculum reform at Harvard Medical School, implemented in 2015. Rich’s current educational interests focus on the development of critical thinking and problem-solving.
In 2015, the BIDMC Board of Directors approved implementation of a Strategic Plan for Education under Dr. Schwartzstein’s direction. The plan was developed with the contributions and leadership of hospital-wide faculty and staff, and major recommendations were made for innovations in educational content, faculty teaching models, assessment, and educational infrastructure. Work is underway on all aspects of this multi-year project. Dr. Schwartzstein states, “The goal of the Strategic Plan for Education is to establish Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as the top educational program among academic medical centers in the United States.”