What's Happening With This Year's 'Best Medical Schools' Rankings?

— Changes have been plentiful after a bevy of top performers stopped participating

 A photo of a training dummy lying in a hospital bed.

In the wake of a tumultuous year, U.S. News & World Report announced that its annual "Best Medical Schools" rankings are on April 9 -- and they come with yet more changes.

Last year's rankings had a delayed roll out after a bevy of top schools publicly announced their decisions to no longer submit data for or participate in the rankings.

This year, the rankings appear to be on schedule, even though several components of the methodology have been cut and others added.

"We firmly believe that more data benefits everyone," Robert Morse, MBA, chief data strategist at U.S. News, wrote in a blog post issued late last year . "We want to ensure that students, as they are making important life decisions, have access to the information they need to make informed choices."

First, U.S. News will no longer issue or take into account peer and residency director surveys, according to the post.

Additionally, the outlet will award a new transparency credit to schools that submit information related to academic achievements either directly to U.S. News or posted on their own websites. This information includes median Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores and grade point averages, acceptance rates, school enrollment, and faculty statistics as well as total research funding.

Finally, U.S. News has added a survey of individuals who are currently in or who have recently graduated from medical school, as well as a series of bibliographic indicators, based on publications and citations, aimed at further identifying how impactful faculty has been in the field.

Full details on this year's methodology will be once the rankings are released.

This year's planned changes come after a number of perennial high performers publicly decamped from the rankings.

Harvard Medical School led the pack in doing so. Dean of its faculty of medicine, George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, stated last year that "concerns and the perspectives I have heard from others are more philosophical than methodological, and rest on the principled belief that rankings cannot meaningfully reflect the high aspirations for educational excellence, graduate preparedness, and compassionate and equitable patient care that we strive to foster in our medical education programs."

A number of other top schools were quick to follow suit, citing largely similar reasons.

Ultimately, last year's rankings still included a number of schools that decided to no longer submit data to or participate in the rankings -- including Harvard at the top of the list -- due in part to data that U.S. News sourced itself.

Adding to the tumult, in April of last year, U.S. News removed a previously released preview of the year's top ranked medical schools from its site, with the outlet stating that it was "dealing with an unprecedented number of inquiries" during its embargo period for the 2023-2024 "Best Graduate Schools" rankings, including requests from schools to update data submitted after the collection period.

And when the final rankings were rolled out in May, there were measurable changes from the preview.

At the time, when asked about the reasoning for the changes to the top of the list, a spokesperson for U.S. News noted in an emailed statement that the preview "did not include affiliated hospitals for NIH funding."

"In order to provide students with the most recent data collected by U.S. News, the 2023-2024 Medical Schools: Research rankings were recalculated for the May 8 embargo files to include total federal research from LCME [Liaison Committee on Medical Education] from FY [fiscal year] 21 and 20, NIH grants to medical schools, and affiliated hospitals using the newest data collected by U.S. News from the schools for FY 22 and FY 21," the spokesperson added. "Within the 2023-2024 methodology, there are four medical research indicators, and 2-year averages were used for those indicators."

Nearly a year later, it remains to be seen whether the new methodology or the previous medical school departures will materially change the U.S. News rankings from last year's or if they will again face delays.

A spokesperson for U.S. News told app in an email that there will not be a public preview in advance of this year's release.

However, medical schools will be provided their rankings under embargo about 1 week prior to release, the spokesperson said.

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    Jennifer Henderson joined app as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.