DMS climbs medical school rankings
By Sasha Dudding, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, March 26, 2012
Dartmouth Medical School jumped to 38th place from 67th place in the primary care category of the 2013 US News & World Report graduate school rankings released on March 13, the largest improvement of any school. DMS also rose to 31st place in the research category, an increase from last year’s 32nd-place ranking.
The rise in the primary care and research categories marks a step toward the goals of the 20x20 strategic plan, designed to place DMS among the nation’s top 20 medical schools by 2020, according to Assistant Dean for Advancement Gary Snyder.
Using the plan’s recommendations, instituted in June, DMS faculty and administrators hope to improve the school’s research program, curriculum and relationship with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, according to Snyder. By focusing on raising the “excellence and quality” of the work produced at DMS, the school can improve results of external surveys and rankings.
Despite recent recognition, DMS may be at a disadvantage in the rankings due to its size, according to former DMS Dean James Strickler. It is among the smallest of the 114 ranked schools, with 371 students currently enrolled. Only one school ranked above DMS has fewer students.
“I think our rankings will continue to improve, but we will never be able to compete with the ones at the very top,” Strickler said. “We are a tiny school, and to some extent the rankings are affected by the size of the institutions.”
Strickler said he became familiar with these challenges as dean of DMS from 1973 to 1981, during which time he oversaw the creation of a four-year MD program.
Despite the challenges DMS faces in the U.S. News rankings, it continues to provide a high-quality curriculum for its students and is “on the right track,” Strickler said.
“If you just look at education, I think we’re better than 31,” he said. “I think we’re right up there.”
DMS’s size is a benefit in that it gives students the opportunity to work more closely with faculty members, according to Strickler. Simultaneously, DMS faces a comparatively small number of patients and a lower overall research budget, he said.
The benchmarks used also make climbing the rankings difficult, and DMS would benefit from a change in the methodology, he said.
Currently, 15 percent of each ranking is based on overall research budget rather than the number of professors receiving funding, according to the U.S. News website. In order to perform well in the rankings, small schools must look to other areas of improvement, according to DMS professor Hugh Huizenga.
“It speaks to how well we performed on the other factors included,” Huizenga said. “We don’t design things here with an eye toward those rankings, but I think they reflect efforts at the school.”
Continuing to rise in the rankings may be difficult, but improvements made under the 20x20 plan may aid the school’s overall ranking and reputation, DMS professor James Geiling said. Instituting new programs can also diversify the school’s offerings without changing the number of enrolled students.
“I think the evidence of DMS rising in the rankings is a reflection of the energy of new leadership, new programs and new education to bring DMS into the 21st century,” Geiling said. “There’s a great synergy that’s developing here with the medical school, DHMC, which includes the [Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center], and the College.”
College President Jim Yong Kim has helped support these programs, publicize DMS accomplishments and attract philanthropic donations, increasing the school’s visibility both within the community and nationally, Huizenga said.
Kim and other Dartmouth administrators recognize the medical school’s importance to Dartmouth, including the need to increase research funding, improve health care delivery and increase the College’s global standing “via a stronger medical school,” according to Snyder,
Kim has also supported specific and successful programs, such as curriculum reform and The Dartmouth Institute, according to Strickler.
While the rankings may not be important to all prospective students and constitute only one way of looking at a school, the rise is promising for the school’s future, Geiling said.
“Regardless of how they’re looked at, going up is better than going down,” he said.