Ensuring a fair and equitable selection of students to serve society's health care needs

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

This study aimed to evaluate a selection and programmatic intervention designated ‘Conditional Admissions’ (CA), which is intended to expand access to medical education for individuals from under-represented ethnic, racial and rural groups. Further aims were to establish principles of practice designed to increase access for under-represented groups based on an empirical comparison of programmatic changes made to CA in 2005, and to quantify the costs associated with its implementation.

METHODS

Data for all students admitted between 1999 and 2009 (n = 3227) were compiled; these included demographic data, undergraduate college performance grades, medical school performance indicators, and information on honours, residency placement and md degree completion. To examine the outcomes of the CA intervention, students were divided into two cohorts of those admitted through the CA initiative during 1999–2004 and 2005–2009, respectively, and analysed for differences. Costs associated with CA were also calculated.

RESULTS

There were 274 students admitted through CA (8.5% of all admittances) during 1999–2009; of these, 81.4% were from under-represented ethnic or racial backgrounds and 18.6% were from rural backgrounds. These students had more hours of science coursework, lower science and cumulative grade point averages (GPAs), and lower mean Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores than non-CA students. However, first-time pass rates and mean scores on the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge increased significantly in the CA cohort during 2005–2009. Additional costs incurred per student ranged between US$849 and US$3801.

CONCLUSIONS

Interventions such as CA can significantly increase diversity in the physician workforce. Interventions must be based on careful assessment of academic preparedness, as well as on non-academic factors that contribute to ability to successfully manage the rigors of medical education. Furthermore, the selection and subsequent professional development of students must nurture commitment to addressing the health care needs of diverse communities. Equity must be viewed as a means of increasing fairness for both prospective medical students and the residents of communities that may benefit from the eventual service.

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