A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveled that medical schools at historically black Morehouse, Meharry, and Howard Medical schools ranked first, second, and third in a study of 141 training institutions that produce the highest percentage of physicians practicing in under served communities.
The study was conducted from 1999 to 2001 by a group of George Washington University researchers led by Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D. and rated the schools in "social mission" categories - the percentages of graduates entering primary care practice, working in areas with shortages in health care providers and serving underrepresented minorities.
Harvard, widely regarded as the nation's most prestigious medical school, was 67th; John Hopkins was 122nd, and the University of Pennsylvania was 29th. Vanderbilt, a top-tier southern school, ranked next to last. No highly ranked school was included in the top 10.
Morehouse, only 35 years old, presented its first class of graduates in 1985.
Reached in his Washington, D.C. office, Mullan said the data was "a bit of a surprise for some people, but we thought we should be upfront and not set the black schools aside with any asterisks that would say, 'Yes, they did well in these categories, but ... '"
Mullan's team didn't use its findings to recommend what other colleges should do to improve their scores, he said, "because they all have different missions; some may choose to say 'This is our mission, and we're fine with it,' but we asked all of them to take a look at the findings and spend some effort to consider or reconsider their mission."
Medical schools, Mullan reminded the study's readers, "are the only institutions in our society that can produce physicians; yet assessments of medical schools, such as the well-known U.S. News & World Report ranking system, often value research funding, school reputation and student selectivity factors over the actual educational output of each school, particularly regarding the number of graduates who enter primary care, practice in underserved areas and are under-represented minorities."
Meharry's president, Wayne C. Riley, said the study's results demonstrate "that there are 20 institutions that excel in training physicians who are African-American, Latino and Native American, and that at the top of that list, graduating students at a much higher rate, are historically black medical schools."