Measuring the Social Responsiveness of Medical Schools

Setting the Standards

Published in: Academic Medicine, v. 74, no. 8, suppl., Aug. 1999, p. S59-68

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1998

by John Peabody

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This article calls for medical schools to use a new set of standards to gauge how well they contribute to social welfare. Because medical schools receive public funding and are given the authority to certify that providers are sufficiently trained, they incur an obligation to be socially responsible. In addition to setting and using higher standards, medical schools should call on their credibility and use their scientific expertise to find new policies that promote social welfare. In particular, they should do research on socially oriented policies and participate more actively in debates about health sector reform. Although societies vary and have different values, most countries and peoples probably share the following social objectives: they want to use limited public and private resources rationally to produce the best possible health, they do not want individuals or groups to suffer, and they want to protect people against catastrophic illness and associated financial losses. Although new standards are needed, medical schools should be encouraged to continue producing technically sophisticated providers and conducting high-level basic and clinical research. Available evidence suggests that medical schools can further contribute to the three social objectives noted above by increasing the intensity and relevancy of primary care training, expanding the curriculum beyond its biomedical focus, encouraging research in health services and assessing the effectiveness of social policy in improving the health of the population.

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