Select schools recently expanded their mission statements to describe how their mission impacts their curriculum, student life, admissions practices, and graduates’ career choices.
If you’ve seen one medical school, you’ve seen one medical school. Every medical school shares the goal of graduating physicians, but each school likely differs from the others in almost every other respect. Some differences are obvious: class size, location, single versus multiple campuses, educational tracks and dual degree programs, and even curriculum style.
Even more fundamentally, schools differ in their visions, missions, and values. These differences are sometimes difficult to discern from the outside looking in. To be fair, all schools have an interest in promoting education, research, service, and health equity, but each school prioritizes these in accordance with its specific mission. No value judgment need be applied; all these different missions add value to society and result in a diverse physician workforce that is well suited to meet the current and future needs of humanity.
Why is this important to prospective medical school applicants? The answer is easy. Aspiring medical students also have their own values, interests, and life goals. They look for schools whose missions are best attuned to their personal wavelengths. Both medical schools and applicants ideally look with a “mission-match” in mind. Here’s a simple example: School A’s mission is to create a physician workforce for its specific geographic region. So, this school naturally favors candidates with a demonstrated attachment or commitment to its region. An applicant from this location will likely have more of a chance of admittance at a school that sees them as likely to help the school achieve its mission. Beyond that, once accepted and matriculated, the chances for students to be happy tend to be greatest if they are at a school that allows them to exercise their personal values and fulfill their personal and professional goals.
Understanding and aligning with a school’s mission are critical, so how can prospective applicants learn more about the missions of various medical schools? First, of course, browse through a medical school’s website. But comparing schools via this route can be laborious. The AAMC’s Medical School Admission Requirements™(MSAR®) website has comprehensive profiles and free reports with information from all LCME®-accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada. Recently, a “Mission in Action” pilot project with nine medical schools was launched with the goal of enhancing each school’s ability to communicate its mission in a more meaningful, nuanced fashion. Participating schools were asked to update their current mission statements in the MSAR website to answer the following questions:
- How has your school’s mission informed the content and structure of your curriculum?
- How is your school’s mission reflected in the daily life of a student (including student support services)?
- How does your school’s mission impact admission priorities and practices?
- How is your school’s mission reflected by the career choices of your graduates?
To discern if the updated statements add value, we’ve created a survey to collect feedback and solicit suggestions for further improvement. We hope that when you use the MSAR website, you will review the enhanced mission statements of the pilot schools listed below and provide your feedback in the brief seven-question survey. The survey link can also be found in the MSAR website in the banner at the top of the landing page highlighting what is new in this edition.
Medical schools participating in the pilot:
- Boston University School of Medicine
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
- University of Florida College of Medicine
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
- University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School
- University of Illinois College of Medicine
- University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
- Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
Learn more about this pilot by visiting the Mission In Action Pilot Working Group website.
By Bruce Blumberg, MD, professor of clinical science at Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.