University News

Med School rankings rise in primary care, fall in research

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Alpert Medical School slid six spots in research, but moved up four spots in primary care in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of the nation’s top graduate schools released Tuesday. The report released rankings for graduate programs in computer science, engineering, humanities, medical education and the sciences.

Medical schools are ranked in two main categories – expertise in primary care for patients and research. In an improvement from last year, the Med School moved from 28th to 24th in primary care. The Med School was ranked 35th in research, a drop from its ranking of 29th place last year. Under the research category, the Med School was ranked 9th in the alcohol and drug abuse research category.

Med School administrators pay some attention to the rankings, said Ed Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, but he added that the Med School is not driven by them. “We want to pick the best students, and we don’t just go by the numbers,” Wing said.

The Med School works on criteria that factor into ranking decisions such as attracting high-profile faculty, seeking federal funding in research and accepting students with high Medical College Admission Test scores, Wing said, but he added “we don’t go overboard with it.”

The U.S. News rankings place a great emphasis on a university’s financial resources, resulting in higher rankings for colleges with larger endowments like Harvard, according to Wing. But he added that the Med School has made progress in recent years when compared to larger institutions.

“We’re still a new medical school and still growing our research profile,” Wing said, adding that the University actually outranks Harvard in terms of funding from the National Institutes of Health per faculty member. The administration is focused on attracting the best faculty members available while pushing for greater federal funding for research, Wing said.

Wing pointed to the annual variability of the rankings as proof of their role as only a rough indication of a university’s strength.

“Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why there’s variability,” Wing said. “It’s been very widely criticized by deans of medical schools.”

The report also ranked many of the University’s other graduate programs highly, including ranking computer science 20th, economics 19th, English 13th, history 17th, math 14th and engineering 46th, one lower than its ranking of 45th last year. In certain sub-fields, the University scored high rankings, including a score of 5th in applied math.

The University does not consider improvement in rankings an impetus for changes at the grad school, wrote Peter Weber, dean of the graduate school, in an email to The Herald. He called the rankings “one of many tools available to prospective students,” but wrote students should focus on the individual training environments at respective schools. Weber highlighted the graduate school’s close mentoring of students and described the open curriculum as key to the University’s success.
“Brown has a collaborative, flexible environment with strong support and training for graduate students,” Weber wrote.

“I can’t say I gave rankings a single thought,” said Megan Reilly GS. “I think my decision to come to Brown had much more to do with the reputation of the faculty and those in my field than people working at U.S. News and World Report.”

Reilly said she hopes the University keeps its focus on hiring high-quality faculty rather than aiming to invest in boosting its rankings. “I think what’s more important is how we can improve medical education and how we can improve patient care,” said Rahul Banerjee ’10 MD ’14, a participant in the Program in Liberal Medical Education who continued his studies at the Med School. He cited the Med School’s new building in the Jewelry District as a key asset for the University and as evidence that rankings are not essential.

“The amount of money the University would have to pump in just to boost its rankings by a few numbers is not worth it,” said Michael Kim ’10 MD ’14.

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