Officials at leading medical schools across the U.S. are calling for the U.S. News and World Report to overhaul the way it ranks them. Nine medical school deans and two top U.S. News officials met for a first-ever summit on the issue Oct. 27 at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
The dean's panel challenged the popular ranking company's methods. The stakes are high for medical schools, whose reputations can attract top applicants and also affect relationships with philanthropists. Deans fear the rankings are based too much on standardized MCAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages, and not enough on a holistic profile of student and faculty performance.
It's not measuring how we educate our students, Dennis Charney, dean of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, told NPR's medical blog Shots. The center in New York City hosted the discussion.
Basing the rankings heavily on a student body's raw test scores and grades fails to account for factors like the student socioeconomic backgrounds, their marital statuses, whether or not they have kids and whether or not they had to work their way through their undergraduate years, the deans said.
U.S. News & World Report Editor Brian Kelly defended his company's methods for ranking medical schools.
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We are in the business of trying to help people gather information to make decisions. And we feel that if we do our job right, if we get the numbers right, if we are credible, accurate, transparent, we will have done our part of the job, Kelly said at the panel discussion.
Members of the panel voiced their concern that the way U.S. News ranks medical schools could create an elitist hierarchy, favoring students and schools that focus on subspecialties, when what the U.S. currently needs most are primary care physicians and doctors willing to care for underserved populations.
The U.S. News ranking system has limitations that could skew their annual list, according to reports. For example, NPR's Shots reported that one aspect of the ranking process - a survey of residency program directors - has a response rate of only 17 percent.
Good in theory, very bad in the way it turns out, Lee Goldman, dean of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons told NPR.
Kelly admitted that the U.S. News & World Report is not a be all and end all ranking system, and that students should do their own research when choosing a medical school to attend.