Why are Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale's medical schools 'orphan schools'?

Harvard. Johns Hopkins. Yale. In addition to being some of the most elite institutions in the nation, these schools share one other commonality: None of their medical schools have family medicine departments, according to STAT.

Including these three, only 10 medical schools in the U.S. lack departments of family medicine, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The others? Columbia, Cornell, George Washington University, New York University, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.

"We call those schools the 'orphan schools,' because they are deficient," said John Meigs Jr., MD, president-elect of the AAFP. "They're shortchanging their students and also shortchanging the needs of this country."

It wasn't always that way. Back in 1965, Harvard Medical School created one of the nation's first family medicine residency programs. But by the 1970s, the program lost federal funding and failed.

The difficulty in creating a family medicine department now is that Harvard can't do so without more assistance from its affiliated hospitals, according to Jeffrey Flier, MD, dean of Harvard Medical School. Only one of its affiliated facilities — Cambridge Health Alliance — has a family medicine residency program.

In 2013, Harvard attempted to gain more support from its affiliated hospitals, offering them $2 million in matching funds to create a family medicine residency. But none of the hospitals took the bait.

Now a group of Harvard Medical School students — which includes Dr. Flier's daughter, Lydia — is taking another whack at it with a campaign to garner advocacy. The group has gained staff support, including the help of Russell Phillips, MD, director of Harvard's Center for Primary Care.

Perhaps the technique will work, as it has at New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which created a family medicine department in 2012. Neil Calman, MD, chair of its Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, believes the program is important.

"It's bizarre to me that you have these institutions that don't really feel that there's a requirement to introduce their students to the second-largest subspecialty in the U.S.," Dr. Calman said, according to the report.

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