Staff Editorial: GW Medical School on life support

The GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences needs 100 CCs of credibility – stat.

Just over a week ago, the University announced that GW Medical School was being put on probation by its accrediting body, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, for “noncompliance” with basic standards.

Of the 130 U.S. and 17 Canadian medical schools the LCME oversees, GW is only the fifth medical school to be put on probation since 1994 and is the only one currently on probation.

Even though the high-profile GW Hospital is unaffiliated with the Medical School’s LCME accreditation, this is embarrassing for the University as a whole. Medical School officials must publicly own up to the mistakes that were made and make an announcement of what exactly is going to happen to fix this.

According to The Washington Post, Provost and Vice President for Health Affairs John Williams stated that the problems LCME identified in the report had to do mostly with “curriculum management,” “administrative processes” and “inadequate study space.”

The LCME puts schools on probation if “areas of noncompliance have seriously compromised the quality of the medical education program.” The information the Medical School released has vaguely pointed to paperwork issues, curriculum detail concerns and a lack of study space. If probation is a severe enough sanction that only five schools in the last 14 years have received it, are these really the problems that induced the punishment?

School officials have declined to release the actual LCME report with its findings, making it easy to assume the worst even if that is not the case. The Medical School should either release more details of the report or make it clear why they are withholding them. More transparency from Medical School officials could increase confidence in the plan and put the damning assessment into context.

While GW is in little danger of losing its accreditation – no school put on probation by the LCME ever has – this is obviously a wake-up call.

Even though the LCME has set a deadline of two years, the Medical School has at least taken the initiative to resolve the issue within one year. However, based on our limited information, officials appear to be mishandling this situation by keeping so much of the report a secret.

The sooner officials are more forthright with the public, the sooner the Medical School’s reputation can be upgraded from critical to stable condition.

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