Looking At Medical Schools From A Different Perspective

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , June 24, 2010

But seriously, what's wrong with throwing more issues into the debate about medical schools, and broadening the scope of reference, applying some new models to the real, changing country?

"Obviously, medical schools do a lot of good things, they put out a lot of high-tech research, a lot of clinical service," Chen says in response to critics of the study.

"But in the U.S. there's obviously a more apparent need for primary care physicians, and we have a growing minority population and acute access issues for a growing population. Among those with the "highest social mission scores" named in the study are Morehouse College, Meharry Medical College, Howard University, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, and the University of Kansas.

"The three historically black colleges and universities with medical schools—Morehouse College, Meharry Medical College and Howard University—score at the top of the social mission rankings," the study says. "These results are not unexpected as 70% to 85% of each of these schools' graduating classes were underrepresented minorities compared with only 13.5% in all medical schools during the same period."

Having underrepresented minorities "significantly increases the schools' social mission scores," the study notes. "However, all of these schools also score in the top half of the primary care and underserved output measures."

Among those with the lowest scores: Vanderbilt University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of California Irvine, and New York University.

Vanderbilt Hospital, which ranked last, said the study doesn't offer a complete picture or update its goals since 2001. "The findings are outdated and do not capture the vast number of initiatives that Vanderbilt has implemented over the past decade," Bill Hance, assistant vice chancellor for news and communications at the medical center, told The Tennessean.

On the other hand, Wayne Riley, president and CEO of Meharry, which ranked second, told the paper: "This study, in a very elegant way, validates the fact that we are truly a national treasure."

Chen likes the idea that the study is spurring debate. "We are putting so much prestige on some schools, but others that are truly producing physicians performing social services aren't getting the credit they deserve," she says.

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Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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