Lessons in Learning – April 17, 2008
Series: Lessons in Learning
Authors: Canadian Council on Learning (CCL)
Collection: Research Materials
Aboriginal people represent 4.5 percent of the Canadian population, but less than one percent of first-year medical students in Canada surveyed for a 2001 study were Aboriginal people. The same study showed that while almost a quarter of Canadians live in rural areas, only about 11 percent of medical students were from such communities.
Given the low numbers of rural and Aboriginal students in medical schools, it is not surprising that rural and Aboriginal communities face critical shortages of medical personnel, the authors of this paper point out. Although roughly 20 percent of Canadians live in rural areas, only 10 percent of Canadian physicians practise in such areas.
Increasing the number of doctors who come from under-represented populations can help improve health among such groups, as research shows that when underserved populations are treated by a physician from a similar background, they are more likely to seek care and comply with physician directives, and are more responsive to health promotion and prevention advice.
The authors discuss efforts to address the issue of under-representation, including trying to inspire children to consider a career in health care while they are in elementary school; modifying admission criteria for rural and Aboriginal students; setting aside seats in medical schools specifically for targeted minorities; altering the nature of admissions committees to include representatives from under-represented minorities; and changing the structure of government aid for needy students.