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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 277-278

Beyond flexner alliance: Social mission in health professions education

Vice Chancellor for Community Health, University of New Mexico, NM, USA

Date of Web Publication11-Apr-2017

Correspondence Address:
Arthur Kaufman
2400 Tucker, NE Albuquerque, NM 87131
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_345_16

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How to cite this article:
Kaufman A. Beyond flexner alliance: Social mission in health professions education. Educ Health 2016;29:277-8

How to cite this URL:
Kaufman A. Beyond flexner alliance: Social mission in health professions education. Educ Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Aug 8];29:277-8. Available from:

Dear Editor,

The Network: Towards Unity for Health's (TUFH's) role in promoting the social determinants of health (SDH) is finding kindred spirits in North America. While addressing, SDH have been promoted by the WHO as strategy for improving global health, and while our US neighbor, Canada, has required that its academic health centers demonstrate a commitment to social accountability, a strong push toward SDH is relatively new in the US.

However, times and incentives are changing. Under the Affordable Care Act (”Obama Care”), health systems are incented to manage the resources and health outcomes of the populations they serve. At its heart, health-care providers in a growing number of systems are given a fixed amount of public money to manage the care of their assigned payments. They no longer make more money for doing more “things,” for hospitalizing patients or doing procedures that have no basis in scientific evidence. This kind of payment is called “capitation,” “bundled payments,” or “global payments.” Moreover, large organizations that care for large groups of patients are considered “Accountable Care Organizations.” Because SDH have a much greater impact (over 50%) on health than does the healthcare system (about 10%), are there models of academic health centers investing in SDH or in a Social Mission?

The Beyond Flexner Alliance (BFA) is a new and growing collaborative initially funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Carnegie Foundation. BFA just held its third annual, national conference in Miami, Florida, the previous ones being held in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, New Mexico. What was the origin of this initiative? Dr. Abraham Flexner' famous and scathing report on the status of medical education in North American schools a century ago led to the closure of most and the movement toward a more scientifically-based education with necessary ties to universities. However, while embracing the biological sciences more tightly, schools lost their social mission. For example, the aftermath led to the closure of most of the women's and African-American medical schools.

Since its inception, BFA has expanded to health fields beyond medicine, incorporating interprofessional education, health service reform, socially responsible research, and learning from socially responsible health movements in other countries. The meetings are lively, highly interactive, much of it in small groups, and featuring community visits built upon the models we use in our annual Network: TUFH meetings. In fact, three Network stalwarts – Art Kaufman (who is on the BFA Advisory Committee), Michael Glasser, and Dan Blumenthal have attended BFA meetings and are promoting the idea of a more formal relationship between BFA and The Network: TUFH. The Network has much to offer BFA from its decades of experience in sharing strategies among global member institutions for addressing community health in different societal contexts. In addition, most North American academic health centers are unaware of the work of The Network and, we feel, could become contributing members. In turn, The Network would benefit from exchanges with a much broader Network of North American academic health center taking a leadership role in SDH who are beyond the small number of large, research-oriented institutions well-known abroad.

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There are no conflicts of interest.


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