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Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School is on track to implement a new standard that will bolster its rising status. After careful consultation with the Medical Curriculum Committee, which includes medical students and undergraduates in the Program in Liberal Medical Education, the school's officials have advanced a proposal to require Alpert's students to pass Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination before graduating. They are already mandated to take Step 1 and Step 2, though not to pass them; the final step follows during their first year as residents. The first component of the USMLE tests students' application of scientific concepts, and scoring well is essential to securing sought-after residencies.

Official approval is expected early next semester, and Alpert's graduating class of 2014 will be the first to be officially mandated to pass. The new requirement is primarily a symbol of the progress that the University's young and burgeoning medical school has made. Re-established in 1975 after a hiatus of more than a century, in years past the school has suffered from lagging rates of Step 1 passage among graduates. The new requirement demonstrates confidence in the diligence and intellect of Brown's future doctors, and will serve to further motivate those few who might otherwise fall behind. It also signals to potential staff and students that Alpert is a serious institution that is gaining ground on its more established peers.

The initiative is doubly welcome in the wake of a misguided attempt last month to strip PLME undergraduates of their currently guaranteed spot at Alpert if they apply to other medical schools as well. This would have started with the class of 2011, thus constituting a violation of trust and a deeply unfortunate precedent for future University decisions. After widespread student outcry, the administration scaled back this policy, and now PLME students who apply out only risk deferral from Alpert rather than outright rejection.

Superficially, the new standard resembles the misguided proposal for the PLME admission option, because it may become official policy after some medical students have made their decision to attend. Certainly, some of the administration's perpetual detractors will grumble that the new standard is unfair. But virtually all graduates pass Step 1 already, and those who are heading into a PhD. program rather than aiming to get their license are eligible for a waiver of the requirement. And any hypothetical underachievers whose plans would be seriously disrupted by the change might want to reconsider their career path — no matter how leisurely they dawdle through the licensing process, they will be facing plenty of shifts that will make Step 1 look like a cakewalk.

The new mandate is a sound decision arrived at through diligent deliberation and close consultation with those who are in the best position to understand its impact: students. Its implementation will serve as a reminder not only of the Medical School's progress, but of the generally — though far from exclusively — high quality of University decisions. Seeking out opportunities to work with administrators tends to be much more constructive than simply waiting to pounce on their missteps.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to



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