Education, research, and service are well-established missions of health professions schools and teaching hospitals in the United States. The role of social mission in these institutions is vitally important but less clear. Broadly defined, the social mission of a health professions school is the contribution of the school in its mission, programs, and the performance of its graduates, faculty, and leadership to enhancing health equity and to addressing the health disparities of the society in which it exists.1 School characteristics that are associated with commitment to social mission, include community engagement, promotion of diversity, reduction in health disparities, the responsible use of health resources, and a focus on the social determinants of health.
Social mission is about making health not only better but fairer—more just, reliable, and universal. It focuses on the purpose of education in the health professions, the ethical dimension of what it is to be a teaching institution and to whom the institution is accountable. What will the graduates of the school, generalist or specialist, learn about the health disparities in their communities and their potential roles in reducing them? Will they gain an understanding of the challenges of diversity in the health professions? Will they be taught to respect and protect medical resources? Will these missions be modeled by their faculty? Will the education they receive prepare them to be practitioners and leaders in a transforming health care system./.../