U S News and World Report’s annual rankings of the best medical schools have been hit by a wave of withdrawals from top

U S News and World Report's annual rankings of the best medical schools have been hit by a wave of withdrawals from top

Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine have joined the five institutions below in announcing that they will no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings.

Because of the “perverse incentives” and “harmful impact,” five of the best medical schools in the country have announced publicly that they will no longer participate in the annual U.S. News & World Report “Best Medical Schools” survey “impact that the annual rankings could have on focusing on higher-level skills.

Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley announced in a blog post on January 17 that the school would no longer provide the outlet with data on admissions. Daley said he had been considering this move “since becoming dean six years ago.”

Daley said that his and others’ “more philosophical” concerns were the driving force behind the decision to withdraw from U.S. News, despite mentioning criticisms of the specific methodology U.S. News uses to build its rankings.

He wrote that rankings have “perverse incentives for institutions to report misleading or inaccurate data, set policies to boost rankings rather than nobler objectives, or divert financial aid from students with financial need to high-scoring students with means in order to maximise ranking criteria.” As one expert put it, “the suitability of any particular medical school for any given student is too complex, nuanced, and individualised to be served by a rigid ranked list, no matter the methodology.”

Harvard Medical School, according to Daley, will keep submitting raw data to the AAMC’s Medical School Admission Requirements Reports for Applicants and Advisors and posting other “key information” publicly on its website.

U.S. News Executive Chairman and CEO Eric Gertler released a statement the next day in which he said that students “deserve” to have as much information at their disposal as possible when making one of the most consequential decisions of their lives.

 Eric Gertler

As Gertler put it, “we know that comparing diverse academic institutions across a common data set is challenging,” so the rankings should only be one factor in a prospective student’s decision. U.S. News Medical School Rankings is a popular resource for prospective students because it provides them with useful information and tools.”

Even so, the decision by Daley and Harvard Medical School appears to have released the pent-up anger of other medical institutions.

The Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine all announced last week that they would also be withdrawing from the survey in the coming year due to similar concerns of inaccuracies, overrepresentation of federal funding, and limited characterization of applicant diversit.

According to Stanford School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor, M.D., “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.”

Some of the medical school deans have said that the similar revolt at top law schools in recent months played a role in their decision.

Also, every year, U.S. News publishes a list of the best hospitals in the country based on a survey of medical professionals. Both UPenn and Stanford noted in their respective statements that the decisions they made would not affect their respective health systems’ participation in the hospital rankings because “medical school and hospital rankings are separate and independent and use different methodologies.”

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They “will re-evaluate our participation in other U.S. News rankings over time,” according to Mount Sinai’s deans, who clarified that the school’s withdrawal only applies to its medical school rankings at this time.

Chief Academic Officer of the AAMC Alison Whelan, M.D., said in an email statement that the organisation “encourages medical schools to regularly collect internal data and assess themselves against their own institution’s missions” in response to the announcement from Harvard Medical School. The academic medicine community is in a better position to meet the healthcare needs of its communities and the nation the more medical school leaders focus on their institutions’ missions.

Academic medical centres have long had reservations and criticisms about consumer-facing school ranking systems such as U.S. News’.

In addition to Whelan’s remark, an AAMC representative also referenced a 2013 journal commentary by former President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D., and former Chief Academic Officer John Prescott, M.D.

In it, the former AAMC leaders referred to a “growing consensus” among higher education leaders that rankings for medical schools, undergraduate, and graduate programmes “fail to acknowledge and appreciate the varied and complex missions of educational institutions.” Rather, they advocated using objective metrics, such as their own Medical School Admissions Requirements and Missions Management Tool, to accomplish their goals.

Nearly ten years ago, they wrote, “Some institutions allow the convenience of popular rankings to serve as a proxy for achievement, sometimes linking them to everything from public relations, to fundraising campaigns, to executive compensation incentives.” “Given the difficulties we face in national healthcare, health professions workforce development, and medical research funding, the times require that we abandon the pursuit of arbitrary measures such as popular rankings.”

Daniel Harrison
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