The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) is the accrediting agency for medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. It is a peer review process that is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association. Every eight years the LCME provides a full evaluation of each medical school. They cover 125 standards in five main areas: institutional setting, educational program leading to a MD degree, student experience, faculty, and institutional resources. If a school fails to meet these standards, available in more detail here, the school has two years to make changes before it loses accreditation. The school could refute the findings, but most schools focus on addressing the issues identified. It’s important to note that while a school is under probation, it remains accredited. I received confirmation from the American Medical Association that there are no U.S. medical schools that have ever lost accreditation after being placed on probation. It is shocking when it occurs because a school knows when to expect these evaluations and has years to prepare for them. When a school fails to meet these standards, it’s a good indication to a student that they may not want to apply to it because the school is falling behind other schools, often in multiple areas.
When a brand new medical school opens it is given a “preliminary” status. Its status changes to “provisional” after it has been operating for about three years and has met all requirements. Currently, there are six schools with “preliminary” status and four schools with “provisional” status, as listed in the table below.
If a school loses accreditation, there are dire consequences for students in its program. Without LCME accreditation, the students completing their studies would not be allowed to take national board exams or apply for residencies. When selecting medical schools, it’s a good idea to avoid applying to any schools on probation as a precautionary measure to avoid any long-term consequences.
Unfortunately, this year, the Saint Louis University School of Medicine has been placed on probation. They have two years to address the issues in curriculum and policy that were identified; a complete list is available here. Last year, the University of Missouri School of Medicine was placed on probation for issues with gender discrimination, among other issues, available here. However, the school is no longer listed as on probation. For a complete list of the schools and their accreditation status, see here. Currently, the only school listed as being on probation is Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
List of schools with preliminary, provisional and probation statuses:
California Northstate University College of Medicine, 2015
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Medicine, 2016
CUNY School of Medicine, 2015
The University of Texas at Austin Medical School, 2015
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, 2015
Washington State University College of Medicine, 2016
The University of California, Riverside, 2012
Central Michigan University College of Medicine, 2012
Western Michigan University School of Medicine, 2012
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
While no U.S. medical school has ever lost accreditation, it is still a wise course of action to apply only to schools that are not currently on probation. Medical students face serious consequences if their school loses its accreditation. Fundamentally, probation may indicate that professional colleagues believe the school in question is not providing its students with the highest quality education.
UPDATE JUNE 19, 2017: At the time this article was posted, the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Phoenix had provisional status and was on the provisional list. It has since earned full accreditation. Congrats U of Arizona!