Opening doors and minds: a path for widening access

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Abstract

Background:

Students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are under-represented in UK medical schools. Many successful interventions are also highly labour-intensive for medical schools to implement. We describe and evaluate a sustainable, low-cost strategy that provides participants with targeted support, advice and experience.

Methods:

Year-12 participants (29–74 annually) from schools in areas of deprivation were paired with e-mentors from the medical student population. Engagement with this programme was used as one criterion to select approximately 20 mentees per year for participation in a 1-week summer school. All participants were offered consultant-led work experience during their summer holiday and were guaranteed places at a student-led outreach conference, where they received specific help with the writing of personal statements and interview skills. Summer school participants were followed-up by questionnaire to establish their career plans.

Results:

We have delivered this programme annually for 3 years. All respondents to follow-up applied to study medicine, dentistry or a related bioscience, to degree level. The success rate of these disadvantaged students was similar to that of the general population of UK applicants who applied to study medicine at this medical school.

Discussion:

By collaboratively linking multiple activities organised by the Outreach Office, academic staff and medical students, an annual cohort of approximately 20 participants from non-traditional backgrounds was provided with sustained support in preparing for applying to medical school. The limited data available from follow-up suggests that this approach may have helped overcome the social disadvantage facing these applicants.

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