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Letters to the Editor

More About Who Should Oversee Preparation of the Dean’s Letter

Schroth, W. Scott MD, MPH; Barrier, Patricia A. MD; Garrity, Maureen PhD; Kavan, Michael G. PhD

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182594c00
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In Reply:

The authors of both the above letters point out the importance of an unbiased and objective Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE). Gliatto et al reference the rigorous and detailed 2002 MSPE guidelines that were developed collaboratively by student affairs deans and program directors. Schools that follow these guidelines provide information that is comprehensive, unbiased, unedited, and comparative. Shea et al1 analyzed MSPEs from 84% of MD-granting medical schools and found that 75% of the MSPEs adequately followed these guidelines.

Certainly, continued efforts to improve the objectivity of the MSPE, such as those described by Gliatto et al, are warranted, and improved compliance with guidelines across schools will enhance the standing of the MSPE as a valuable resource for program directors. Although Gliatto et al state that “committees involving faculty and leadership outside of student affairs are also good ways to make sure processes are followed and individual biases minimized,” we believe that just because student affairs officers are seen as student advocates does not mean they are biased when preparing the MSPE. Other groups involved in the evaluation and advising of students may be subject to biases themselves when writing the MSPE, thus highlighting the need for an MSPE format that adheres to objective standards of reporting.

Weissman states that the MSPE should be the initial basis for evaluating residency candidates. We agree, since the MSPE provides a holistic view of the applicant. Student affairs officers possess comprehensive and unbiased information about the achievement of medical students in regard to academic metrics, experiences, and personal attributes relevant to their likely success in residency training. As such, we can employ the “clear and fairly applied process” envisioned by Gliatto et al to the writing of the MSPE and still provide an environment that is compliant with accreditation standards of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and that minimizes barriers to students seeking assistance from student affairs offices for sensitive academic or personal concerns.

W. Scott Schroth, MD, MPH

Associate dean for administration, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.; [email protected]

Patricia A. Barrier, MD

Senior dean for student affairs, Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota.

Maureen Garrity, PhD

Associate dean for student affairs, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado.

Michael G. Kavan, PhD

Associate dean for student affairs, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska.


1. Shea JA, O’Grady E, Morrison G, Wagner BR, Morris JB. Medical Student Performance Evaluations in 2005: An improvement over the former dean’s letter? Acad Med. 2008;83:284–291
© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges