Viewpoint: Medical schools should be rated, not ranked

Medical schools should not be pitted against one another in rankings. Instead, they should be rated based on how successfully they achieve their own missions, according to a recent Medpage Today opinion piece. 

U.S. News & World Report's medical school rankings have been under the microscope since January, when 13 leading institutions decided they would no longer submit data for evaluation. The withdrawers believe the popular annual ranking system misconstrues their values, inaccurately whittling their complex environments down to one number. Many raised equity concerns, alleging the ranking system encourages an elitist mentality. 

Toyese Oyeyemi Jr. — executive director of the Social Mission Alliance, senior Atlantic fellow for health equity at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and author of the Medpage opinion piece — agrees that there are better ways to gauge medical schools' performance. 

The key difference between ratings and rankings is "that while rankings incentivize comparison against others, ratings encourage measuring your performance against the social mission of health education," Mr. Oyeyemi wrote. 

The current ranking systems measure "privilege more than purpose," per Mr. Oyeyemi. 

"The rankings provided by the U.S. News and World Report calculate factors such as peer assessment, student selectivity, and MCAT scores," Mr. Oyemi wrote. "Exclusive access to a school may be a strong indicator of public demand, but that in and of itself is perverse. That demand is then increased further by rankings that place a disproportionate value on public perception, making it more appealing based on visibility instead of effectiveness." 

Instead, Mr. Oyeyemi argues, schools should be rated. He says this would provide a more comprehensive picture of each institution's contribution to healthcare and its social mission. 

For example, a 2010 article in the Annals of Internal Medicine assigned each medical school a composite social mission score, analyzing the ways they help close health disparity gaps. Scores like these allow prospective students to understand how schools perform more effectively than the traditional ranking systems, Mr. Oyeyemi said. 

"Even without an ordinal ranking list, rating how schools are doing in these areas gives us a better idea of if and how they contribute to a social mission," he wrote. 

Read Mr. Oyeyemi's full article here

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