U.S. News & World Report’s Flawed Rankings Plus One

HJ Humphrey, D Levinson. Stat. 11/22/22. Deans: Dump that USNWR ‘best medical school’ survey Thanks to John Barnard’s twitter feed for this article.

This article recommends medical schools stop participating in U.S. News & World Report’s (USNWR) ‘best medical school’ survey. I would advocate for eliminating USNWR’s reports more broadly including their ranking of hospitals and medical specialties.

The medical school rankings rely on the following:

  • Federal research dollars
  • Reputation – “assessed by a survey (with an abysmal response rate) of medical school deans, department chairs, and residency program directors”
  • Ratio of full-time faculty to students
  • Students’ median scores on the Medical College Admission Test and their undergraduate grade-point averages
  • Acceptance rate 

Some excerpts:

  • “Yale and Harvard Law Schools recently announced they would no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report’s (USNWR) flawed ranking system, followed closely by additional schools. The nation’s medical schools need to follow their lead. Why? The USNWR ranking system is in direct opposition to medical schools’ goal of educating a well-trained, diverse, and culturally competent medical workforce..”
  • “It is hardly a secret among medical school deans that the USNWR rankings are based on data not directly related to educational process, quality, and outcomes. Nor can they trust the veracity of the data that are provided, given the recent scandals reported in other professional schools and colleges that manipulate the formula to their own advantage.”
  • Comprehensive analyses of USNWR rankings have long demonstrated that the methodology is ill-conceived, that the response rate of those completing the questionnaires that feed into the ranking formula would not meet the standards of a peer-reviewed publication, and that the most important aspects of educational quality are largely ignored.”
  • “There is peer pressure to stay within the system and to compete for the top prize because it feels good to see your school on top, no matter how flawed the measuring stick.”

My take: It is difficult to measure quality. I do not trust USNWR’s rankings with regard to “best” medical school, “best” hospital or “best” subspecialty. I think medical care would be better off without these reports. Another option would be to focus on reporting hard data, rather than the current aggregate format. This data could include federal research dollars and reputational surveys; the latter would need to be transparent with regard to methodology.

From The Washington Post, 11/23/22. Opinion  Americans are choosing to be alone. Here’s why we should reverse that. “Spending less time with friends is not a best practice by most standards, and it might contribute to other troubling social trends — isolation, worsening mental health (particularly among adolescents), rising aggressive behavior and violent crime. “