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Stanford Report, April 7, 1999

Accrediting agency calls for med school improvements


The national agency that accredits medical schools came close to placing Stanford's School of Medicine on probation this winter due to the condition of the school's educational facilities, members of the University's faculty senate learned Thursday.

Though the accrediting agency's displeasure with the school's facilities had been reported last year following the agency's inspection (Stanford Report, April 15, 1998), the near probation had not been made public until Thursday's meeting of the University Faculty Senate. Ken Melmon, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the medical school Faculty Senate, raised the issue during the meeting's "individual opinion" segment -- a period for senators to raise topics of personal interest. He asserted that the condition of the school's educational facilities discourages potential students from enrolling at Stanford.

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Melmon brought the senators' attention to a stern letter the university received from Donald Kassebaum, MD, secretary of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accrediting agency, that urged President Casper to improve the state of the school's classrooms, library and computer system.

"Stanford has a fine medical school, and its graduates are splendid. [But] no school of the standing and quality and affluence of Stanford has instructional facilities that bad," Kassebaum wrote in the Feb. 17 letter. The letter went on to say that a motion to put the school on probation failed by a single vote.

Melmon also distributed data on acceptance and enrollment rates at Stanford and other top medical schools. He pointed out that when students are admitted to Stanford's medical school and to the school's prime competitors, UC San Francisco and Harvard, only 4 percent choose to attend Stanford -- a statistic he believes may be impacted by the school's aging facilities.

Melmon's remarks were met with supportive comments from medical school dean Eugene Bauer, MD, senior associate dean for education and student affairs Phyllis Gardner, MD and medical student Michael Ennen.

"I agree with -- very much with -- how you presented this," responded Gardner. "What I am not sure came across as loudly and clearly as I wish it could is the really abysmal state of our infrastructure, our library and resources. And while we can attribute the lack of recuriting to -- certain things, the truth is that our library and lecture halls were designed in 1959. The space has decremented since then," Gardner said.

Third-year medical student Ennen concurred. "The facilities that you see as an interviewing student are one of the ... external representations of that school's commitment to education. ... You don't have a chance to see the curriculum; you don't have a chance to be involved in a research experience. What you see is what the school has provided for its students. And in that respect, I think the facilities are tremendously persuasive," Ennen said.

Dean Bauer addressed the issues raised at the meeting during a Tuesday address to students on the medical school's Web site at

"Stanford University School of Medicine is committed to being a leader in medical education and to providing top-notch facilities in which to carry out our mission -- to teach, to conduct research, and to provide state-of-the-art medical care," said Bauer in the recording.

"We have been working to address the concerns cited in the LCME's most recent accreditation report. The issue has never been about the quality of our curriculum or teaching, rather the issue is one of improving the library, instructional facilties, and computer study stations for students."

"We have recognized for some time that these improvements were needed and we are evaluating the entire School of Medicine complex to determine the optimal solutions to address these issues," he said.

In an interview after the address, Bauer said that the School of Medicine has a team in place that is developing a comprehensive improvement plan for the educational facilities. Dean Bauer has accelerated these efforts in recent weeks and hopes to unveil a plan in the near future. SR