Accreditation review gives high marks to med school

After 18 months of preparation, the School of Medicine has passed its big test with high marks, earning full accreditation for the next eight years.

The news arrived in a letter mid-March from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada. The LCME's survey team visited the campus in October and reviewed materials presented by the medical school before issuing its 205-page report detailing the school's strengths, as well noting a few areas where it hopes to see progress.

"This was an outstanding report," said Oscar Salvatierra, MD, professor of surgery and of pediatrics and the faculty leader for the effort, noting that it was an "incredible turnaround from 1997," when the LCME cited a number of significant problem areas. The success, he added, can be credited in part to the "great faculty and students who came together to present the best the medical school had."

The school began preparing two years ago for the review, which involved more than 200 faculty, staff and students. Some 3,000 pages of documentation and a 50-page report were submitted before the LCME team's visit in October.

The team's final report praised Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, for his commitment to medical education and for serving as a catalyst for major curriculum reform. [See Pizzo story, page 1.] It noted that he has committed significant financial resources to education, encouraging more faculty involvement in teaching through financial support to departments for faculty time in the classroom. It also lauded the faculty collaborations that cut across disciplines in many areas.

Among other strengths, the report cited the school's investment in information technology and the creation of a "library without walls" giving students and faculty access to information anytime, anywhere. The new information technologies help faculty to use various computer-based applications to teach and evaluate students, it noted. The LCME also applauded the school's effort to minimize student debt. Average medical student debt at Stanford is less than half that of other private schools, the report said.

The LCME asked for the school to give a progress report in 2007 addressing several areas, including how the school is resolving scheduling conflicts between students' regular classes and their work in their scholarly concentrations, as well as an update on the new system for evaluating students' clinical skills.

With the new curriculum in place, the LCME noted that advising of students has become more important. It praised the revamped and expanded advising program with five new academic advisors, as well as a new "personal life" advisor.

Cited repeatedly in the past for "inadequate facilities," the school was finally commended for the "significant improvement" in its facilities, including plans for the 120,000-square-foot education building, known as the Learning and Knowledge Center, approved in concept by the university's trustees in October. The LCME also lauded the $17 million investment in completed renovations to classrooms, the Fleischmann laboratories and anatomy labs.

The LCME also asked for progress on three areas of concern:

  • It wanted a system for giving students feedback on their performance midway through their clerkships.
  • As part of its ongoing effort to ensure that students get appropriate clinical experience, it asked for the school to continue to monitor the number and type of student interactions with patients. Rebecca Trumbull, project manager for the accreditation process, noted that this monitoring is a new LCME requirement that is now being implemented at Stanford.
  • The LCME urged the medical school to step up its efforts to improve faculty diversity, an issue that has been high on Pizzo's agenda. It noted that Stanford and its peer schools have fallen short in recruiting and retaining faculty members of diverse backgrounds, but it praised the school for the diversity of its students.
  • The school is already at work to address the issues raised by the LCME, after celebrating the positive results.

    "Of course I am very pleased with the laudatory report that we received from the LCME," Pizzo said. "Many individuals throughout the school worked incredibly hard to make this happen and I am deeply grateful to each of them.

    "While we can take some comfort with our progress, we have additional work to accomplish, especially in bringing our new Learning and Knowledge Center from concept to reality," Pizzo added. "When that happens, it will truly be a time for celebration."