Introduction: To date, traditional biomedical hospital-centered models of medical education have not produced physicians in quantities or with the competencies and commitment needed to meet health needs in poor communities worldwide. The Global Health Education Consortium conducted an initial assessment of selected medical education programs/schools established specifically to meet these needs. The goals of this assessment are to determine whether there is a need for and interest in collaborating and developing a common framework of core principles and evaluation standards to measure the impact of the programs on access to care and on health status in the communities they serve.
Methods: A literature review of 290 articles was conducted focusing on standards, tools and multi-institutional evaluation efforts of socially accountable medical education programs designed to increase the number of doctors in underserved communities. Site visits, which included semi-structured interviews with deans, faculty and students, were carried out at eight schools on five continents, whose core mission is self-described as training to meet the needs of the underserved. Preliminary findings form the framework around which a rigorous outcome and impact evaluation tool will be developed by participating schools.
Findings: No systematic international evaluation of socially accountable medical schools was found and current tools to measure the social responsiveness of programs need more rigor. All target schools identified a need to develop common evaluation and collaborative frameworks. Preliminary findings suggest that these schools, although operating in different contexts and employing somewhat different strategies, share common principles and a core mission to serve marginalized communities.
Conclusion: There is a clear need for a common rigorous evaluation tool for socially accountable medical education, particularly for schools created to address the shortage of doctors in neglected areas. While it will be difficult to determine the impact of socially accountable medical education on health outcomes, target schools agreed to collaborate and develop a common evaluation framework to strengthen the evidence base on how to train doctors to meet health needs in underserved area.
Citation: Pálsdóttir B, Neusy AJ, Reed G. Building the evidence base: networking innovative socially accountable medical education programs. Educ Health (Abingdon). 2008;21(2):177. Epub 2008 Aug 26.