Medical school mission statements as reflections of institutional identity and educational purpose: A network text analysis

Douglas Grbic, Frederic W. Hafferty, Phillip K. Hafferty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: A medical school's mission statement (MS) is an expression of its vision and a reflection of the broader social environment in which it is embedded. The authors examine how the institutional identity of U.S. medical education is projected through the MSs of all U.S. MD-granting medical schools. In addition, the authors examine the extent to which differences between subsets of schools (public versus private; research-intensive versus "social mission"-oriented) are reflected in their respective MSs. Method: Whereas existing studies have typically sought to uncover core themes using content-analytic approaches, for this 2011 study the authors combined text analysis with network analysis to elaborate core concepts within larger networks of meaning across MSs. They computed measures of centrality (i.e., density or "connectivity") for each concept and presented the aggregations of MSs as semantic networks (i.e., representations or maps of the relationships among concepts). Results: Analysis across all MSs revealed a dense set of ties among a core set of concepts, indicating a general uniformity among all medical schools; however, the authors identified appreciable differences within subsets of MSs (public versus private and research-intensive versus social-mission- focused). Conclusions: MSs of U.S. medical schools are meaningful statements about values and direction. The use of social network text analysis provides an innovative method for understanding the structure of meaning within MSs and, potentially, how these documents might speak to institutional performance outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-860
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

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