Medical School Rankings: What Do They Really Mean?

by Brittney Kuo

The U.S. News & World Report, widely known for its college and graduate school rankings, has recently published its top medical school rankings for 2015. The report is based upon a number of factors, and focuses primarily on rating medical schools in terms of research and primary care.

The 2015 rankings were created on the basis of information received from 114 medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and the American Osteopathic Association in the fall of 2013. The list is based on the weighted average of seven to eight different factors, from admission statistics to surveys from the schools themselves.

Characteristics of each school taken into account in the ranking process include data such as the school’s acceptance rate and its accepted students’ average GPA and MCAT scores. The ratio of faculty to students is also considered.

Another aspect of a school’s ranking is its response to a survey administered to its school officials (such as the deans and directors of admissions) and residency program directors, asking them to rate the school’s programs on a scale of one to five, with five being the best score.

The list of best medical schools in terms of research are also additionally based on the amount of research grants awarded to the school by the National Institute of Health—including the amount of grants awarded per faculty member. In contrast, the list of best primary care medical schools is based on the percent of students of the school that were able to enter primary care residencies post-graduation.

The scores from each of the above qualifications were adjusted and standardized until a chronological list could be formulated. The number one school in each category has a score of 100 and the schools that follow have a score that is a percentage of the top school’s score.

The U.S. News & World Report also has rankings of schools by specialty, including pediatric care, geriatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine. These rankings are only tabulated through the number of nominations from medical school faculty when asked to name the ten schools with the best programs for each specialty.

Certain schools do not appear in the list, due to the fact that they did not give enough information to U.S. News to be sufficiently ranked.

For 2015 Harvard University tops the list of the best research medical schools and the University of Washington is the first on the list of best primary care schools. The full lists can be found on the U.S. News website.

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