Social Accountability: A Framework for Medical Schools to Improve the Health of the Populations They Serve

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Social accountability has gained importance and greater acceptance in the ever-increasing complexity and interconnectivity of patient care, education, and research that is the threefold mission of academic health science centers and networks. In this Invited Commentary, the author provides a brief overview of the development of the concept of social accountability and the criteria for the Association for Medical Education in Europe ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award for Social Accountability, which provide a useful framework for medical schools to consider when examining their own social accountability. Per these criteria, schools are expected to document social accountability plans in their organization and functions; document social accountability actions in their education and research program activities; and demonstrate positive impacts of their education, research, service, graduates, and partnerships on the health care and health of their community, region, and nation. Award-winning schools integrate social accountability into the school’s mission, planning, and day-to-day management. The health needs and diversity of the school’s community, region, and nation are reflected in the school’s admissions, curriculum, learning experiences, research activities, health care partnerships, and graduates. The author also describes three award winners as exemplars of social accountability and concludes by challenging every medical school and graduate medical education program to focus on meeting the needs of the populations it serves, especially those who are marginalized, vulnerable, and underserved.

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