OHSU

Message from Dean Richardson: Mission Balance

07/01/10  Portland, OR

 DeanRichardsonWe learned this past month that a new survey published by the Annals of Internal Medicine recognized the OHSU School of Medicine as one of the best in the nation for training the most needed physicians.  

The study, titled "The Social Mission of Medical Education: Ranking the Schools," was designed to develop a metric to evaluate if medical schools are meeting society's health care goals. The authors defined this as producing an adequate number of primary care physicians, adequate distribution of physicians to underserved areas, and a sufficient number of minority physicians. OHSU was ranked #11 out of 133 US medical schools. That's a strong showing.

There are fair questions about the underlying methodology of this new social mission metric – and some of those arguments have been made publically these past few weeks. By definition, such broadly-defined metrics will always be imperfect. However, what struck me when I read the results was the issue of mission balance. The study found that the level of support from the National Institutes of Health for research correlated inversely with output of primary care physicians, stating that schools with smaller "research portfolios" were more likely to meet the social mission of training needed physicians.  

Yet the OHSU School of Medicine is within the top quartile of recipients of research awards from NIH and still, we ranked #11 in the nation in this survey.

As OHSU has grown into a world-class leader in research over the last two decades, and as our clinical enterprise has also grown in size and stature, we have been able to balance that extraordinary success and growth with an enduring commitment to education – and not just to broadly defined educational goals – but a commitment to programs which meet the immediate social needs of Oregon and make a genuine difference in people's lives. One-third of all licensed Oregon physicians received all or part of their training at OHSU.

I credit the dedication and tenacity of vision of our faculty to achieving that mission balance. Far too frequently, I hear stories from incoming residents about how they were told, at the institutions where they earned their MD degrees, that the "best and the brightest don't pick primary care." This new study shows that many of the top-tier research medical schools are disproportionately graduating students interested in specialty care. Here, at OHSU, we have faculty leaders who steadfastly remind us all – through their dedication, accomplishments and actions – of our collective social obligation to primary care education and to balancing our missions.

And while a moment of pride is well-deserved, we have much more to do. Access to basic health care is a challenge for many people and with reform, workforce issues will take on a new significance. We must remain committed to meeting the social mission of medical education and build on this success to do even more, while continuing to balance all our missions.

Thank you for everything you do for OHSU and Oregon.

Best regards,
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Mark Richardson
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine
President, Faculty Practice Plan

Read the OHSU media release about this survey here.