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Wash U bows out of annual list of the nation's top medical schools

Buildings at Washington University's medical school campus in the Central West End in St. Louis
Wikimedia Commons
Washington University officials announced earlier the year that the school would withdraw from the U.S. News & World Report ranking of medical schools.

Washington University will no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report's annual best medical schools list.

Wash U joins Harvard, the University of Chicago, Stanford and other historically top-ranked schools that made similar announcements this year.

School officials say they’ll stop submitting data to the publication, which provides one of the nation’s most popular college rankings.

In a letter to Washington University School of Medicine students, faculty and staff earlier this year, Vice Chancellor David Perlmutter said that schools can manipulate data to change their rankings and that the ranking system does not reflect Wash U’s focus on community health and the social causes of medical problems.

“Our focus on the social determinants of health and the changing landscape of medical care in the U.S. prepares students to become the leaders we will need in the years ahead,” he wrote. “Commercialized rankings have not kept up with these transformations.”

Critics of the college rankings have said the lists reward schools with money and prestige and don't accurately reflect the true value of some institutions.

“They recognize the values and aspirations of the past, not the skills and tools that will carry us into the future,” Perlmutter said.

Professors at the school had been considering bowing out of the list for a while, Perlmutter wrote. He made the decision along with university Chancellor Andrew Martin and other School of Medicine faculty members.

Those behind the rankings say the lists provide prospective to students with data and information to help them make one of their most financially important decisions — and offer a comprehensive and cohesive way to compare schools.

“We know that comparing diverse academic institutions across a common data set is challenging, and that is why we have consistently stated that the rankings should be one component in a prospective student’s decision-making process,” U.S. News CEO Eric Gertler said in a statement published on its website after Harvard made its announcement.

U.S. News ranks colleges based on admissions, medical test scores, research activity and other factors. Schools provide information to the publication, which rates them and releases a list of “top” schools. Prospective students can spend more to view certain ranking information kept behind a paywall.

Wash U says it will continue to provide information to prospective students independently.

The medical school has historically been ranked high on the U.S. News list. This year, the publication listed it at No. 11 in the country.

Missouri’s other medical schools are at St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The school has two osteopathic medical schools, in Kirksville and Kansas City.

A UM medical school spokesman said Mizzou has no plans to withdraw from the rankings.

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.