On the heels of last week’s news that Harvard Medical School would no longer submit data to or participate in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, other institutions have followed suit.
As of press time on Tuesday, top schools, including Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Stanford School of Medicine, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, had also announced their withdrawals. The medical school decampment follows a group of the nation’s top law schools last year.
Katrina Armstrong, MD, dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, detailed the school’s intention to withdraw from the U.S. News rankings in a letter sent to staff and students late last week and shared with MedPage Today in an email on Tuesday, noting that she wanted to “speak to one driving factor in our decision that goes to the essence of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.”
The U.S. News medical school rankings “perpetuate a narrow and elitist perspective on medical education,” she wrote. “Their emphasis is on 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.”
“Their focus on standardized test scores comes at a time when it is widely understood that prioritizing these scores rewards well-resourced applicants without regard for selecting the individuals who can best serve the future needs of a diverse and changing world,” she added.
However, Armstrong also pointed out that the medical school recognizes that in making the decision to withdraw from the U.S. News rankings, there is a need to establish “effective means for sharing information” with prospective students.
“I look forward to productive discussions and innovative thinking across the larger medical education community on this matter,” Armstrong wrote, adding that Columbia “will be actively engaged in this effort, exploring ways to provide consolidated data that is both meaningful for prospective students and ensures accountability.”
In a letter announcing Stanford School of Medicine’s withdrawal from the rankings, Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the school, wrote that, “Ultimately, we believe that the methodology, as it stands, does not capture the full extent of what makes for an exceptional learning environment.”
He said that, beginning March 1, Stanford School of Medicine will begin independently reporting data about its performance.
“Our metrics will reflect and assess the efforts and accomplishments of our faculty in education, research, and patient care as well as the innovation and impact of faculty and trainees on biomedicine and their roles in developing tomorrow’s leaders,” Minor wrote. “Our reporting will also represent our tripartite mission and key priorities that our students have identified as important to their educational experience, including access to extensive patient care and research opportunities.”
He further explained that the medical school’s process will “reflect our core values, emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and will ensure that our metrics are measurable, verifiable, and transparent,” adding that opportunities to discuss the school’s metrics with stakeholders will be welcomed as they are finalized.
Notably, Minor stated in the letter that the medical school’s withdrawal does not change Stanford Health Care’s or Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s participation in the annual “Best Hospitals” rankings from U.S. News.
“Medical school and hospital rankings are separate and independent and use different methodologies,” he pointed out.
J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, also stated in a letter announcing his school’s withdrawal from the rankings that its decision does not affect participation in the “Best Hospitals” rankings. However, when it comes to the medical school’s decision to no longer participate, Jameson was clear.
The U.S. News rankings “perpetuate a vision for medical education and the future physician and scientist workforce that we do not share,” Jameson wrote, noting that the outlet “reinforces a legacy approach to training and a narrow, subjective perception of schools by their peers.”
“While the Perelman School of Medicine has consistently ranked well by these measures, and we are proud of our reputation, we aspire to be judged more on our innovation, impact, the far-reaching accomplishments of our faculty and graduates, and our ability to keep our sights forward,” he added.
Jameson said that the kinds of data previously shared with U.S. News for the rankings will now be included on the medical school’s admission website. “And we will work with others to develop new and better measures that are valid, meaningful, and more reflective of what students and the world need from us,” he wrote.
For its part, U.S. News declined further comment beyond its initial statement on the matter when Harvard Medical School announced its withdrawal.
At the time, U.S. News CEO and Executive Chairman Eric Gertler said 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 continued.
The extent to which other medical schools will also withdraw from the U.S. News medical school rankings remains to be seen.