April 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm (Applying to med school)
The pop-culture magazine U.S. News & World Report recently released its latest edition of the university rankings. This list—published on or around April 1 each year—attempts to tell readers which colleges are the best in the country. A look at this year’s rankings reveals that Harvard and Johns Hopkins University are once again the top two medical schools in the country. The magazine then goes on to record 60 other names in sequential order as if going to medical school at #10 somehow produces a better doctor than #20. While I’m glad to see that my school is named amongst these ranked universities, I wonder if these numbers mean anything. Besides, who’s ever heard of Washington University (#3) anyway?
Each medical school goes through a rigorous accreditation process and is forced to turn out some of the world’s best physicians. I’ve looked at the match list for several universities this year and noticed that medical students can land top residencies no matter where they get their initial training.
Further, patients really don’t care where their doctors have gone to school. There is no shortage of people waiting to get treatment from my university’s attendings. As much as I like to rail against the inefficiency of my medical school, our alumni fare well after graduating. They can enter any specialty imaginable, have published tons of papers on various diseases, and can do a pretty good job of taking care of patients, too.
To this day I have never heard of physicians say that finding a job is difficult. A quick glance at any set of classified ads for doctors will reveal that there is a huge demand for our services, regardless of where we did our training. Heck, I even had one psych patient asked me if I had gone to Yale, Harvard, or Princeton for medical school. He was shocked to find out that my program even existed. My own personal internist went to a Caribbean medical school. But if his American residency program believe that he was good enough to become an internist, I’m certainly willing to continue seeing him.
The take-home message is that the ranking system does more to inflate the egos of people who are applying to medical school than it does to instill confidence with patients. I don’t know why med school applicants put so much stock into these numbers.