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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bridging the rural divide : an exploratory study of a medical school's rural applicants Macala, Catherine


It is widely recognized that rural students are underrepresented in medical schools in Canada and many other countries. Some have argued that this underrepresentation stems from admissions selection biases. This study explores the relationship between the location of high school of graduation and applicant demographics, performance on several admissions measures, and incorporates a comparison of rural and non-rural applicant autobiographical submissions. For this study I allocated 1963 UBC medical school applicants from the 2014-15 application cycle into three categories (rural, regional and urban). Three primarily analyses were conducted: a comparison of demographic characteristics (age, gender, highest level of education earned at time of application, Aboriginal identity, and BC residency) across the applicant subgroups, a univariate and multivariate statistical analysis reviewing the relationship between location of high school of graduation and measures of performance in the admissions process, and a quantitative content analysis that compared rural, regional, and urban applicant non-academic and employment history experiences. Results suggest that subtle differences existed across the applicant subgroups. Primarily, rural applicants were more likely to be female, to identify as an Aboriginal person, to perform more poorly on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), to work, and to mention employment in trades and forestry related professions than their non-rural peers. These differences, however, were unrelated to the rate at which applicants from the different subgroups advanced through the various stages of the admissions process. Because medical schools struggle to balance the goals and values of their programs with the metrics used to evaluate these traits and characteristics, results reinforce the importance of admissions policies designed to evaluate candidates in a background-appropriate manner so that a diversity of applicants, including those from rural areas, can adequately demonstrate their readiness for a career in medicine.

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