Washington, DC – As the health system girds for an influx of newly insured patients, a new study in the June 15 Annals of Internal Medicine examines the record of the nation’s medical schools in graduating physicians to meet this new public need. The study, the first to score all U.S. medical schools on their ability to meet a social mission, shows wide variations among institutions in their production of physicians who practice primary care, work in underserved areas, and are minorities.
Key findings from the George Washington University study of 141 medical schools:
With medical schools expanding for the first time in over 30 years, the findings bring attention to the role that medical schools play in determining the make-up of the U.S. physician workforce. “Where doctors choose to work, and what specialty they select, are heavily influenced by medical school,” says lead author
To determine the true outcomes of medical education rather than the intermediate preferences of medical students and residents, Mullan and his team studied physicians in practice after the completion of all training and national obligations (such as military service or National Health Service Corps placements). The researchers examined data from medical school graduates from 1999 to 2001, which provided a very different picture than previous studies. Previous analyses, such as the popular U.S. News & World Report rankings, have relied on the initial residency selection or reported specialty preference of students. The George Washington University study pinpoints where graduates are and what type of medicine they actually practice. The study provides a real-time and real-place report on the actual career selections of medical school graduates and the health care they currently provide.
The 20 schools with the highest social mission scores (ranked from highest to lowest):
The 20 schools with the lowest social mission scores (ranked from highest to lowest):
The authors note that these findings are important in the context of U.S. health care today. “The social mission of medicine and medical education should be important to everyone. It isn’t just about rural areas or just about poor people, it’s about the entire fabric of how we deliver care,” says Mullan. “As patients are insured through health reform, the first place they will go is the primary care office. Medical schools need to be mindful of the nation’s requirements for primary care, for doctors prepared to work in underserved communities, and for minority physicians to help meet the growing and changing needs of the country.”
“The Social Mission of Medication Education: Ranking the Schools” is published in the June 15, 2010, Annals of Internal Medicine.
The research was performed under the auspices of The Medical Education Futures Study (www.medicaleducationfutures.org), a research program that examines the social mission of medical education during the current period of medical school expansion and health care reform. It is funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.