Association of American Medical Colleges Changes Name of Its Most Prestigious Award

Since 1958, the Association of American Medical Colleges has given out each year the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education. The award is the association’s highest honor and recognizes individuals whose contributions have had a demonstrable impact on advancing medical education.

Often called the “father” of modern medical education, Abraham Flexner was an education specialist who was commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to assess the state of medical education in the United States and Canada in the early part of the 20th century. Flexner visited all 155 medical schools existing at the time and issued a detailed report in 1910 — Medical Education in the United States and Canada, also known as the Flexner Report — that called for major reforms to medical education, including higher admissions standards for students, adherence to the scientific method in research and practice, and oversight by state licensure boards. The Flexner Report is widely credited with standardizing and improving medical education, particularly in its insistence that rigorous scientific methods form the basis of education and training of future physicians.

But Flexner also espoused racist and sexist views. In his report, Flexner wrote that while women were not barred from applying to medical school, they “show a decreasing inclination to enter it” — and that those who did had “obvious limitations.” As a result, the association is dropping the Flexner name from the award. It will now be called the AAMC Award for Excellence in Medical Education.

In 1900, women accounted for 6 percent of practicing physicians nationwide, and in 1909, they were accepted at 91 of the 155 medical schools — including three schools dedicated exclusively to educating women. However, by 1940, just 4 percent of physicians were women, in part due to the closure of many schools that had accepted higher numbers of women but also due to a societal backlash against the role of women in the medical profession.

David J. Skorton, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, stated that “dedicating a namesake award to Abraham Flexner is antithetical to our shared vision of the AAMC and academic medicine institutions as diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organizations. Recognizing the complexity and symbolic nature of awards, the AAMC decided to take this action now to demonstrate our commitment to these ideals.”

Filed Under: Women's Studies

RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply