Fulfilling the social contract between medical schools and the public

Layton McCurdy, Leslie D. Goode, Thomas S. Inui, Robert M. Daugherty, Donald E. Wilson, Andrew G. Wallace, Bruce M. Weinstein, Edward M. Copeland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


To gain a better understanding of the effects of medical schools related to transformations in medical practice, science, and public expectations, the Associations of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) established the Advisory Panel on the Mission and Organization of Medical Schools (APMOMS) in 1994. Recognizing the privileges academic medicine enjoys as well as the power of and the strain on its special relationship with the American public, APMOMS formed the Working Group in Fulfilling the Social Contract. That group focused on the question: What are the roles and responsibilities involved in the social contract between medical schools and various interested communities and constituencies? This article reports the working group's findings. The group describes the historical and philosophical reasons supporting the concept of a social contract and asserts that medical schools have individual and collective social contracts with various subsets of the public, referred to as 'stakeholders.' Obligations derive implicitly from the generous public funding and other benefits medical school receive. Schools primary obligation is to improve the nation's health. This obligation is carried out most directly by educating the next generation of physicians and biomedical scientists in a manner that instills appropriate professional attitudes, values, and skills. Group members, identified 27 core stakeholders (e.g., government patients local residents, etc.) and outlined the expectations those stakeholders have of medical schools and the expectations medical schools have of those stakeholders. The group conducted a survey to test how leaders at medical schools responded to the notion of a social contract, to gather data on school leaders'-perceptions of what groups they considered their schools most important stakeholders and to determine how likely it was that the schools and the stakeholders expectations of each other were being met. Response from 69 deans suggested that the survey provoked thinking about he broad issue of the social contract and stakeholders. Leaders on the same campuses disagreed about what groups were the most important stakeholders. Similarly the responses revealed a lack of national consensus about the most important stakeholders, although certain groups were consistently included in the responses. The group conclude that medical school leaders should examine their assumptions and perspectives about their institutions stakeholders and consider the interest of the stakeholders in activities such as strategic planning, policymaking and program development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1070
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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