Accreditation report cites 'extraordinary' faculty, inadequate library
BY RUTHANN RICHTER
The Medical School has come through its biggest exam of the '90s with general accolades, a passing grade and a few notes of criticism from its examiners. A final, detailed report arrived last month from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) saying that Stanford has received renewed, seven-year accreditation for its education program leading to the MD degree.
LCME is the national body that certifies medical schools. The renewal followed a five-day visit last November by a team of six reviewers, as well as a self-evaluation by 150 faculty, students and staff and compilation of an eight-inch-thick file of documentation.
"I think they did a pretty fair appraisal of what we have here," said Dr. Lewis Wexler, professor of radiology, who shepherded the school through the process. "They listened to what we said. They certainly felt we had a lot of strengths. The weaknesses that they point out are certainly not things we were unaware of."
Medical School Dean Dr. Eugene Bauer said he was pleased to see the school pass this critical benchmark. "I am grateful to the department chairs and steering committee members for helping make the accreditation renewal process a relatively smooth one," he said.
In their report, the LCME examiners said that one of Stanford's greatest assets is its highly talented faculty, who show an "extraordinary" commitment to teaching. They also praised the school's flexible curriculum, diverse student body, preeminent research program, outstanding clinical facilities, visionary leadership and excellent student support services.
Their criticisms dealt in large part with deficiencies in physical facilities and in some specific areas of the curriculum. In particular, the examiners cited the inadequate space and lack of bathrooms and air conditioning in Lane Medical Library, as well as the "primitive" study carrels, the lack of space for teaching in small groups and the need for upgraded computer facilities. The library's inadequacies had been noted in previous LCME reviews in 1983 and 1991.
"This is an issue we are well aware of," Wexler said. "We have made some improvements, but unfortunately, there are problems with expansion in the present site. We have been looking at various alternatives, such as adding a floor or an entirely new building, but no final decision has been made yet."
LCME has asked the dean to submit a progress report in several key areas by the year 2000. These areas include progress in implementing the recommendations of the school's Ad Hoc Committee on Primary Care, which had proposed creating a clerkship that would give medical students experience in following patients with chronic illnesses over a period of time. The issue was debated at the March 18 meeting of the medical faculty senate, with some students opposing the idea because of concerns that a yearlong course would limit the flexibility of the school's curriculum. The issue is now being considered by the Committee on Courses and Curriculum, which is expected to come up with a clerkship proposal that would retain flexibility.
LCME also has asked for an update on any merger-related developments that might affect the academic program, a reevaluation of staffing in the Office of Medical Education and updates on any changes in performance assessment for students, among other things.
"I think this [review] will provide the stimulus for some change," Wexler said. "I see opportunities for improvement in the curriculum, and while we are constantly making incremental changes in the curriculum, the LCME review will give us some direction for change. I think we may also see a new building for the Medical School and its library.
"Stanford Medical School provides a great environment in which to learn medicine, and the LCME report recognizes and affirms what we do best and where we need to do more," he added.
The next accreditation review will
take place during the 2004-2005 academic year. SR