Responsiveness to societal needs in postgraduate medical education: The role of accreditation

Ingrid Philibert, Danielle Blouin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Social accountability in medical education has been defined as an obligation to direct education, research, and service activities toward the most important health concerns of communities, regions, and nations. Drawing from the results of a summit of international experts on postgraduate medical education and accreditation, we highlight the importance of local contexts in meeting societal aims and present different approaches to ensuring societal input into medical education systems around the globe. Main text: We describe four priorities for social responsiveness that postgraduate medical education needs to address in local and regional contexts: (1) optimizing the size, specialty mix, and geographic distribution of the physician workforce; (2) ensuring graduates' competence in meeting societal goals for health care, population health, and sustainability; (3) promoting a diverse physician workforce and equitable access to graduate medical education; and (4) ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment that promotes the professional development of physicians along with safe and effective patient care in settings where trainees participate in care. We relate these priorities to the values proposed by the World Health Organization for social accountability: relevance, quality, cost-effectiveness, and equity; discuss accreditation as a lever for change; and describe existing and evolving efforts to make postgraduate medical education socially responsive. Conclusion: Achieving social responsiveness in a competency-based postgraduate medical education system requires accrediting organizations to ensure that learning emphasizes relevant competencies in postgraduate curricula and educational experiences, and that graduates possess desired attributes. At the same time, institutions sponsoring graduate medical education need to provide safe and effective patient care, along with a supportive learning and working environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number309
JournalBMC Medical Education
StatePublished - Sep 28 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Accreditation
  • Diversity
  • Equity
  • Postgraduate medical education
  • Societal accountability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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