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Medical Education 2012: 46: 21–27

Context  The acquisition of sums of knowledge and mastery of sophisticated technologies by medical graduates is insufficient for their responsibilities to recognise and adapt to people's evolving needs.

Response  A Global Consensus on Social Accountability for Medical Schools brought together 130 organisations and individuals from around the world with responsibility for health education, professional regulation and policy making to participate for 8 months in a three-round Delphi process leading to a 3-day consensus development conference which included weighted representation from all regions of the world. The resulting Consensus reflects agreement on 10 strategic directions to enable a medical school to be socially accountable.

Results  The list of 10 directions embraces a system-wide scope from identification of health needs to verification of the effects of medical schools on those needs, all driven by the quest for positive impact on peoples’ health status. This includes an understanding of the social context, an identification of health challenges and needs and the creation of relationships to act efficiently (directions 1 and 2). Within the spectrum of the health workforce required to address health needs, the anticipated role and competences of the doctor are described (direction 3) serving as a guide to the education strategy (direction 4), which the medical school is called to implement along with consistent research and service strategies (direction 5). Standards are required to steer the institution towards a high level of excellence (directions 6 and 7), which national authorities need to recognise (direction 8). While social accountability is a universal value (direction 9), local societies will be the ultimate appraisers of the achievements of the school and its graduates (direction 10).