Three medical schools in Canada – the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary – have collaborated to initiate an admissions process specifically for Black students starting this year.
Dr. Remo Panaccione, director of undergraduate admissions at the Cumming School of Medicine in Calgary, said “Introducing this process is just one step, really, in the right direction as part of our commitment to anti-racism and equity.
” Having more Black doctors is a plus for Black patients as well.
Panaccione noted that”research suggests that a lack of Black physicians has really resulted in Black patients suffering from a poor quality of care and poorer health outcomes,” he said. “As a medical school our primary obligation is to meet the needs of the population that we serve, and this can only be achieved if our student body reflects the diversity of the population.”
A recognition of the need for more diversity at Canada’s medical schools began in the last decade with the inclusion of students from underprivileged, rural and racial backgrounds instead of predominantly white, wealthy applicants who could hire tutors to help them prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), he said.
Attributes such as empathy, collaboration, resiliency and advocacy are now scored along with academic smarts at some medical schools, while all of them have created a range of admission processes for Indigenous students as well, he said.
In a typical year, about 1,700 people apply for admission to the medical school and about 150 of them succeed, Panaccione said, adding the competition will remain stiff due to a traditional lack of funding for more spots.
Dr. Genevieve Moineau, president of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, said a pilot survey launched last year at eight faculties asks incoming applicants to provide information on ethnicity, social economic status and health and wellness.
The association will also introduce a survey of all medical-school applicants, whether admitted or not, that asks for detailed information on their backgrounds, parental education level and status in Canada, Moineau said in a statement.
“We recognize that without a diverse applicant pool to draw from we cannot create a diverse class and we are working towards ensuring diversity and equity at the point of application
Applications must be submitted by Oct. 1 for the first cohort of students who apply through the Black Applicant Admissions Process.