Answer to "How can I attract people from under-represented minorities or groups to apply to my medical school?"

As mentioned above, people from certain groups, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds or certain ethnic and cultural groups remain under-represented in medicine worldwide. The reasons for this are linked to a myriad of wider, intersecting systemic and societal issues such as parental education, social influences and expectations, aspirations and prior educational attainment. 

One feature that can deter potential applicants from what is often termed “non-traditional” backgrounds is that the messages given by medical schools may be working to embed or further reinforce marginalisation, rather than to combat this. 

There is a small but very useful body of research on this topic which may help medical schools “pitch” their websites and other materials in ways which are more likely to attract applicants from non-traditional groups.  Key papers are:

  • Alexander K, Fahey Palma T, Nicholson S, Cleland J. “Why not you?” Discourses of widening access on UK medical school websites.  Medical Education 2017; 51: 598-611.

  • Razack S, Maguire M, Hodges B, Steinert Y. What might we be saying to potential applicants to medical school? Discourses of excellence, equity, and diversity on the web sites of Canada’s 17 medical schools. Acad Med 2012;87 (10):1323–9.

Many medical schools put macro-level policy decisions related to widening participation into micro-level practice via activities such as outreach (e.g., mentoring, summer school), pipeline programmes, extended medical programmes, foundation-for-medicine programmes and so on.  The below examples from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada, and the UK illustrate the kind of activities that may be on offer. 

This paper gives an evidence-informed framework for diversity-related program development and evaluation:

  • Young ME, Thomas A, Varpio L, Razack SI, Hanson MD, Slade S, Dayem KL, McKnight DJ. Facilitating admissions of diverse students: a six-point, evidence-informed framework for pipeline and program development. Perspectives on Medical Education. 2017 Apr 1;6(2):82-90.

Overall, evaluation of such activities must be robust, looking at metrics of success (e.g., obtaining a place at medical school, graduating) as well as student satisfaction with activities.