Problem: To quantify the relative prevalence of traditional (education, research, service) and emerging (prevention, diversity, primary care, distribution, cost control) themes in medical school mission statements.
Approach: In 2011, the authors obtained and analyzed the mission statements from 136 MD-granting and 34 DO-granting medical schools. They read each for the presence of traditional and emerging themes and then compared the mission statements by category of school (MD-granting versus DO-granting, level of National Institutes of Health funding, public versus private, date of initial accreditation [before or during/after 2000], and community-based versus non-community-based).
Outcomes: Traditional themes were common in medical school mission statements—education (170; 100%), research (146; 86%), and service (150; 88%). Emerging themes were less common—distribution (41; 24%), primary care (32; 19%), diversity (27; 16%), prevention (9; 5%), and cost control (2; 1%). DO-granting and community-based medical school mission statements cited the traditional theme of service and the emerging themes of primary care and distribution more frequently than those of MD-granting and non-community-based schools.
Next Steps: The traditional themes of education, research, and service dominate medical school mission statements. DO-granting and community-based medical schools, however, more often have incorporated the emerging themes of primary care and distribution. Although including emerging themes in a mission statement does not guarantee tangible results, omitting them suggests that the school has not embraced these issues. Without the engagement of established medical schools, the national health care problems represented by these emerging themes will not receive the attention they need.