Answer to "Can you select students with attributes that will make it more likely they will pick a certain area of medicine to work in?"

There is some evidence that selecting applicants to medical school on the basis of the school’s mission (e.g., to produce a large proportion of general practitioners, or rural doctors, or doctors working in under-served areas) results in a larger proportion of graduates opting for that career pathway.  The evidence for this comes mostly from schools with a remote and rural mission. For example

  • Wooley T, Sen Gupta T, Bellei M.  Predictors of remote practice location in the first seven cohorts of James Cook University MBBS graduates.  Rural and Remote Health 17(1)

  • Hay M, Mercer AM, Lichtwark I, Armstrong EG, Gorman D.  Selecting for a sustainable workforce to meet the future healthcare needs of rural communities in Australia, Advances in Health Sciences Education 2017: 22(2); 533-551.

However, admissions policy and processes are only one part of the package.  Career pathways are influenced by individuals’ characteristics (e.g., rural origin, gender), the curriculum of the medical school (formal, informal and hidden), exposure to different experiences during medical school and early training, and individual preferences.


  • Budhathoki SS, Zwanikken PA, Pokharel PK, Scherpbier AJ. Factors influencing medical students’ motivation to practise in rural areas in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review. BMJ open. 2017;7: e013501. pmid:28232465

  • Cleland JA, Johnston P, Watson V, Krucien N, Skatun D. What do UK medical students value most in their career?  A discrete choice experiment.  Medical Education 2017; 51(8): 839–851.

  • Puddey IB, Mercer A, Playford DE, Riley GJ.  Medical student selection criteria and socio-demographic factors as predictors of ultimately working rurally after graduation. BMC Medical Education 2015: 15(1);74.

In short, selection is only one of many factors related to student future practice outcomes.