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AAMC Renames Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education

November 17, 2020

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MEDIA CONTACTS
John Buarotti, Sr. Media Relations Specialist

Action demonstrates commitment to racial justice

The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) today announced it is renaming the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education to the AAMC Award for Excellence in Medical Education, effective in 2021. The award recognizes the highest standards in medical education and is the AAMC’s most prestigious honor.

The change, approved unanimously by the AAMC Board of Directors, was announced by AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, during his address at the association’s annual meeting on Nov. 17, 2020.

“Historically, Abraham Flexner has been associated with rigor in academic medicine. In fact, his report recommended valuable changes in medical education, many of which still have positive impact today,” Skorton said. “But that report also contained racist and sexist ideas, and his work contributed to the closure of five out of seven historically Black medical schools. This has negatively affected the training of Black and African American physicians and adversely impacted the health of the Black and African American communities in the United States.”

The decision to rename the award follows the AAMC’s commitment to becoming a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organization, which is detailed in the new AAMC Framework for Addressing and Eliminating Racism at the AAMC, in Academic Medicine, and Beyond.

“Having one of our most prestigious awards named to honor Abraham Flexner is antithetical to our shared vision of the AAMC and academic institutions as diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organizations,” said Skorton. “We are renaming the award as a demonstration of our commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. In addition, we plan to look at the names and selection criteria for all our AAMC presidential awards, and we hope other organizations examine their awards programs and take action as needed.”

The AAMC first presented the award in 1958 to honor an individual or a team of two individuals whose contributions have had a demonstrable impact on advancing medical education.

“For more than half a century, this award has recognized individuals whose work has had a profound impact on medical education. The name change does not in any way diminish the prestige and value of the award for previous recipients,” said Alison J. Whelan, MD, AAMC chief medical education officer. “But just as we recognize the positive impact that Flexner had on modern medical education, we also can no longer ignore the negative repercussions of Flexner’s words and work.”

To view criteria for the AAMC Award for Excellence in Medical Education or to nominate an individual or a team of two individuals whose contributions have had a demonstrable impact on advancing medical education, visit aamc.org/what-we-do/aamc-awards/excellence. Nominations are due Jan. 22, 2021.

To learn more about the AAMC’s annual awards program, visit aamc.org/what-we-do/aamc-awards.

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The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health through medical education, health care, medical research, and community collaborations. Its members are all 155 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; more than 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, including Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 70 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC leads and serves America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their more than 179,000 full-time faculty members, 92,000 medical students, 140,000 resident physicians, and 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.