Medical School Rankings
I am writing to inform you that the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons will no longer submit data to U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) for their medical school rankings. The reasons for this decision principally include the selection of rankings criteria with implicit incentives misaligned with the highest goals of medical education. They have been well described by thoughtful critics of this ranking system, and I need not elaborate on all of them here.
I do, however, want to speak to one driving factor in our decision that goes to the essence of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The USNWR medical school rankings perpetuate a narrow and elitist perspective on medical education. 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.
The USNWR medical school rankings perpetuate a narrow and elitist perspective on medical education. 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.
The Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first medical school in the nation to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of qualified applicants through a program funded by alumni, faculty and friends of the medical school with lead support from Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos. The program goals are twofold—to make medical education at VP&S accessible to talented students irrespective of socioeconomic background, and to encourage our graduates to choose a career path that reflects their true passion and highest calling, not the income level dictated by the demands of student loans. This approach is consistent with our embrace of community engagement and public service, an ethic born of our history, our values, and our physical location in Washington Heights, one of the nation’s most diverse and culturally rich neighborhoods. We are rightly proud of the medical school’s reputation, but our dedication to improving health and addressing pressing societal needs points us to the future, not the past.
In making this decision, we recognize the need to establish effective means for sharing information about VP&S with prospective applicants seeking to identify a medical school that fits their educational ambitions. I look forward to productive discussions and innovative thinking across the larger medical education community on this matter. VP&S will be actively engaged in this effort, exploring ways to provide consolidated data that is both meaningful for prospective students and ensures accountability. I want to underscore that we remain committed to publicly sharing information even as VP&S abstains from providing data to this survey.
I have the greatest respect and deepest admiration for my many colleagues here at VP&S and at other academic medical centers who have devoted their careers to training new generations of physicians and have done so with the insight and sophistication earned from their experience. And I am excited to continue down the shared path of reshaping how we train doctors who can serve the world.
All my best,
Katrina Armstrong, MD
Dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Columbia University