Many journalists may have first heard the term, “The Dean’s Lie,” when Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians, used it on a panel at last month’s Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Boston. He said at the time:
“The Deans all say they’ll graduate 50-60% into primary care, but track how many stay there after 5 years.”
Now, with “match day” in the news – the day that medical residency positions are matched to applicants – Dr. Kevin Bernstein wrote:
“Once again, medical schools continue their annual fraudulent and misleading statistics in regards to primary care workforce production. The Dean’s Lie is back and rampant across the country. It only seems to get worse.
When will they learn?”
From a journalistic perspective, Bernstein also argues that many news stories and news releases are misleading on the topic as well, and he lists many examples, which you can read in his post. He writes:
“In an effort to properly educate the general public who do not understand the Dean’s Lie, I have initiated an effort to reach out to the various media outlets that are publishing false data with this message:
Your story is misleading, false, and contains fraudulent information provided by medical schools. Also known as “the Dean’s Lie,” only about 20-25% of internal medicine residents remain in primary care (this is from the American College of Physicians, confirmed by a JAMA study 2012;308(21):2241-2247, down from over 50% in 1998). Internal medicine residencies should not be considered primary care residencies if an overwhelming majority do not practice primary care. Moreover, for a more accurate measurement of primary care workforce production, the percent reported that match into primary care should be based on looking at match data from 5 years ago (2 years after residency training). When looking at this data, the overall primary care workforce is trending towards and below 30%, much lower than COGME’s (Council on Graduate Medical Education) recommended 40+ percent primary care workforce.
Is it my personal mission to taint the mirage painted by medical schools? Perhaps.
At some point the truth must come forward. Hopefully a major media outlet will educate the public rather than continue to publish erroneous data while glorifying institutions that minimally provide solutions to primary care workforce production.”
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