Following Harvard Medical School's decision to withdraw from U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings of the "best medical schools" last week, several other prominent medical schools have announced similar decisions—which one dean said would "lead a long-overdue examination of how medical education quality is evaluated and presented to aspiring students."
Harvard Medical School last week announced it would no longer participate in U.S. News' annual rankings of the best medical schools in the country. According to the New York Times, Harvard Medical School was ranked no. 1 for research in U.S. News' 2023 medical school rankings.
The medical school's decision to leave the rankings follows a similar move made last fall by a group of law schools. In November, Yale Law School said it would no longer participate in U.S. News' school rankings, leading several others, including Harvard Law School, to do the same.
In a statement, George Daley, dean of Harvard's faculty of medicine, said he believes the rankings create "perverse incentives" for schools to report misleading information and create policies that increase their standings.
"My concerns and the perspectives I have heard from others are more philosophical than methodological, and rest on the principled belief that rankings cannot meaningfully reflect the high aspirations for educational excellence, graduate preparedness, and compassionate and equitable patient care that we strive to foster in our medical education programs," Daley said.
"What matters most to me as dean, alumnus, and faculty member is not a #1 ranking, but the quality and richness of the educational experience we provide at Harvard Medical School that encourages personal growth and lifelong learning," he added.
Although the medical school will no longer share information with U.S. News, it does plan to share some of the data on its admissions site.
Following Harvard's announcement, several other top-ranked medical schools have followed suit. These schools include Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the University of Pennyslvania's Perelman School of Medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Stanford Medical School.
According to Katrina Armstrong, dean of the Valegos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school rankings "perpetuate a narrow and elitist perspective on medical education" and emphasize "self-reinforcing criteria such as reputation and institutional wealth, rather than measuring a school's success in educating a diverse and well-trained cohort of doctors able to change medicine for the better and meet society's needs."
Similarly, J. Larry Jameson, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, said the rankings "perpetuate a vision for medical education and the future physician and scientist workforce that we do not share" and that they reinforce "a legacy approach to training and a narrow, subjective perception of schools by their peers."
At the Icahn School of Medicine, Dennis Charney, the school's dean, and David Muller, the school's medical education dean, said that "[t]he rankings provide a flawed and misleading assessment of medical schools; lack accuracy, validity, and relevance; and undermine the school’s core commitments to compassionate care, unrivaled education, cutting-edge research, a commitment to antiracism, and outreach to diverse communities."
Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford Medical School, said the school's leaders "believe that [U.S. News'] methodology, as it stands, does not capture the full extent of what makes for an exceptional learning environment."
"We believe that our decision, along with those of a growing number of peer institutions, is necessary to lead a long-overdue examination of how medical education quality is evaluated and presented to aspiring students," Minor added.
Notably, Minor and Jameson both said that their decisions to withdraw from the medical school rankings will not affect affiliated hospitals from participating in U.S. News' "Best Hospitals" rankings.
"Medical school and hospital rankings are separate and independent and use different methodologies," Minor said.
For its part, U.S. News has defended its rankings, saying that they are a service for consumers who are trying to understand different school options across the country.
"Our mission is to help prospective students make the best decisions for their educational future," said U.S. News CEO and executive chair Eric Gertler in a statement. " … We know that comparing diverse academic institutions across a common data set is challenging, and that is why we have consistently stated that the rankings should be one component in a prospective student's decision-making process."
"The fact is, millions of prospective students annually visit U.S. News medical school rankings because we provide students with valuable data and solutions to help with that process," he added. (Korn, Wall Street Journal, 1/24; Henderson, MedPage Today, 1/24; Svrluga/Anderson, Washington Post, 1/24; Taylor, New York Times, 1/18)
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