Does It Matter Where a Physician Went to Medical School?

If you’re someone who thinks the medical school a physician attended is an important criterion for deciding whether to make an appointment with him/her, what do you consider an acceptable alma mater for your potential physician? Do you judge medical schools based on whether they’ve traditionally been ranked highly or carry highly recognizable, ivy league names?

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Is a doctor’s medical school enough of a basis to judge her by?

If so, you could be missing out on seeing highly effective doctors who attended medical schools that haven’t made your radar.

A 2010 article by Dr. Pauline Chen in the New York Times examined the way medial schools are ranked and viewed by society at large and found that,

“Despite the changes in patient needs, many patients, and their doctors, continue to fall back on old rankings, assuming that institutions that succeeded in addressing the needs of the 20th century can still do so in the 21st.”

Dr. Chen points out that medical schools have traditionally been highly regarded for their roles in making once pressing medical crises no longer a threat to public health. But today’s crises have changed, therefore, the criteria for judging medical schools should as well. Yesterday’s best medical schools were overwhelmingly research focused; today’s should focus on:

“the shortage of primary care physicians; the lack of accessible health care and providers in certain areas of the country; and the yawning disparity between racial and economic backgrounds of those who become doctors and those who are their patients.”

In another article from that same year, Dr. Chen talked about the importance personality plays in the ability of a doctor to be successful, citing a nearly 10-year-long study of 600 medical students in Belgium that assessed their personalities on the bases of extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The study found that, although these personality traits are not tested in a standardized way during the medical school application process in the US, they proved to be important factors in a student’s success; the more neurotic students did not perform as well academically as the more conscientious students, and the more open, agreeable, and extroverted students excelled in their hands-on training with patients.

So, while a doctor’s education shouldn’t mean everything, it is an important factor to consider, along with others. To find out about a doctor’s educational background, along with patient ratings of bedside manner, degree of follow-up, and more, use the Vitals Doctor Finder.

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/health/14chen.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/health/17chen.html