U.S. News rankings and interprofessional education

March 22, 2013

Last week the 2014 edition of U.S. News & World Report's "Best Graduate Schools" was released, and the KU School of Health Professions continued its annual tradition of impressive rankings, with five programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: occupational therapy (ranked #2), speech-language-pathology (#6), audiology (#7), physical therapy (#9) and nurse anesthesia (#21).

The School of Nursing also has two programs in the top 25 among public universities: midwifery (#12), and the nursing masters program (#24). And KU's online nursing master's program ranked 16th among public universities in a U.S. News listing of online programs released earlier this year.

Congratulations to Dean Karen Miller and all of our faculty, staff and students in the Schools of Health Professions and Nursing.

I made a pledge with regard to U.S. News rankings - specifically School of Medicine rankings - when I became Executive Vice Chancellor on Feb. 1. My three promises to the state of Kansas: to expand the 21st century health care workforce for Kansas; to become a top 25 school of medicine in U.S. News rankings; and to be recognized as a national leader in biomedical research.

When it comes to rating medical schools, U.S. News has two main categories: research and primary care. Among public universities, the KU School of Medicine is tied for 25th in the primary care categories, which is the same as last year. We are ranked 42nd in research, compared to 37th in last year's rankings.

Maintaining that 25th-place ranking in primary care among public schools could be considered a promise kept. But I can't take credit for it - and I'd like for us to rise among all ranked schools, public and private. On that bigger primary care list of 84 public and private schools, we come in at 37th - not in the top 25, but well ahead of several medical schools that enjoy reputations as the best in the country (for example, Washington University in St. Louis is #44, Weill Cornell Medical College is #58, Stanford is #62 and Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California is #74). I would also like our research ranking to recover from its five-slot drop this year. I'm confident that the portion of the rankings that's based on reputation will rise as we seek the recognition we deserve among our peers - and as we keep doing our No.1 job of educating a 21st century health care workforce.

One way we are doing that, which I have been excited to learn more about in my new role as Executive Vice Chancellor, is our growing emphasis on interprofessional education. Our goal is to teach our medical, nursing and health professions students to work in teams to improve patient care while they are still in school, in the hope that they will carry that over to their clinical practices after graduation.

Although the idea of interprofessional education has been around for decades, it is only in the last several years that most medical schools have begun to integrate the concept into their curriculum. Interprofessional education opportunities are now a major part of the learning experience at KU Medical Center's Kansas City campus. Since its launch last year, our Center for Interprofessional Education has done a fantastic job of providing more of these experiences.

For example, last week a group of medical, nursing and KU pharmacy students gathered in the School of Nursing's Clinical Skills Lab to learn how to work as a team in an emergency situation. Their "patient" - an animated baby mannequin controlled by a School of Nursing faculty member - went into a seizure, and the students, who had been assigned specific roles, had to determine the best course of treatment, whether to call in another physician or a pharmacist, and how to calm a hysterical parent. The first time through the simulation, the students were a bit hesitant and confused. But after a debriefing and advice from KUMC faculty who were observing, they ran through simulation again and the students worked much better as a team. (You can see a similar session with KUMC and KU students in this video.)

Our students have embraced the idea of interprofessional education and, through the Student Government Council, are coming up with some great ideas on how to bring students from all three of our schools together more often both inside and outside the classroom. We are also exploring ways on how to make more interprofessional education opportunities available to our School of Medicine campuses in Wichita and Salina.

As you know, plans on our Kansas City campus call for a new Health Education Building, which would be a space designed specifically for this type of learning. One reason this is such a priority is because we know that interprofessional education is the way of the future. With students from all of our schools training together as teams, our delivery of health care will just keep getting better. I'm excited to watch as our students drive us toward our No.1 strategic goal of providing leadership to shape the future of health and health care.

Last modified: Mar 22, 2013