2019 1107 edit

Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, dean of the Joan C Edwards School of Medicine, played a key role in helping the medical school recover from probation and now gain a full eight-year accreditation.

Those associated with Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine received a shock in June 2011. The late Stephen Kopp, president of Marshall at the time, was notified that the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for medical schools in the United States and Canada, was about to place the medical school on probation.

News of the pending probation also was a shock to the broader community, for the medical school was a point of pride for the Huntington area, especially the school’s focus on developing family practice physicians to meet a crucial need in the region.

Marshall appealed the LCME’s finding, but to no avail. In October of that year, the probation was upheld, meaning the school of medicine had some work to do to overcome areas where LCME said it had fallen short. The accrediting organization said the medical school did not meet standards in nine areas, including a lack of diversity for students and faculty, lower-than-average scholarship support and higher-than-average student debt, limited programs to promote student well-being, limited advising, lack of a financial aid and debt management program, and curricular issues.

And go to work they did. After two years of work internally and in conjunction with the accrediting committee, the LCME notified Marshall in October 2013 that the probation was lifted. The school had increased scholarship support and assistance for students with financial aid; it hired a full-time assistant director of financial aid who previously was shared with the undergraduate campus; and a student wellness committee recommended personal budgeting classes for first-year students. The school also launched its Project P.R.E.M.E.D. program aimed at allowing undergraduate and graduate students of color to explore and experience medical school.

All that effort paid off. Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, who was brought in as dean of the school in 2012 and certainly deserves recognition for his part in the turnaround, said most of the changes in response to the LCME probation were carried out by people already on staff. That’s a testament to their urgent response to overcome the shortcomings that had been identified.

Clearly, that diligence has continued since that day of six years ago. The proof is in the news last week that the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine has now been fully accredited for eight years, the maximum period of accreditation that a school can receive. The length of that accreditation is evidence that the accrediting organization has placed its full confidence in the medical school.

The new finding was based on a review committee visit last spring. The school of medicine next faces a full LCME survey in 2026, but meanwhile plans to measure its performance closely to remain compliant.

Shapiro was understandably pleased with the full accreditation. “This is a tremendous achievement for a school of medicine,” he said in a release. “The LCME continues to raise the bar for medical education, and I am so pleased with how our school has worked to meet and exceed those benchmarks.”

Congratulations to all those involved in elevating the medical school from those troubled times earlier this decade. Now it’s a matter of remaining diligent going forward.

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