Are medical students with equal access to the medical profession?

medical students 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Abdul-Rahman Toufik, originally from Ghana and currently a third year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The study and practice of medicine has always been an integral part of the life of man. Records of practices from as late as 500AD – 1500AD have been discovered and coined down by archaeologists and researchers alike. As mankind reached into the stages of industrial revolution in the early 1200s, so did the improvement in other fields follow suit – medicine included. The first ever medical school in the USA established in 1765 in the University of Pennsylvania went on to admit students wishing to pursue a course in the field.

Admission at that time was quite unique as most of the admitted were the majority from more prominent backgrounds. Their minority counterpart rarely had such opportunities as studies then was more practical based and the resources used in practical work and research was quite expensive. People started to have the opportunity to delve into medicine – both men and women, old and young. The earliest records of admission into medical schools has shown that the majority of the admitted were men with women making up only a few. As the years progressed this has not been the case anymore. There has however been always been discrimination against some of the applicants. The earliest of such recorded were women back in the late 90s. As this practice almost became the norm, a law was passed in the 1970 in the US which addressed discrimination against women thereby paving the road for them to pursue their dream of being a medical practitioner.

In contrast to the situation back then in the USA and most parts of the world, white women in the UK have more chances of being admitted to medical schools than their ethnic counterparts as stated by McManus’s analysis conducted in 1998 concerning admission to medical schools in the UK. Caribbean’s remain more disadvantaged than African and Indians less than their Pakistani and Bangladesh counterparts. Even if their grades were brought into account, that gave no assurance of some of them getting a chance to be admitted. In addition, according to McManus’ analysis, student who in their motivation letters did not give or show earnest interest in the field were not considered for admission. The same goes for older applicants. There has been cases of this in the US and other parts of the world.

Moreover, a study conducted by Yale university researchers in the US found that some students of different genders, race and sexual orientation were discriminated against not only by their fellow students but by the medical faculty as well. Most of the affected were female, multiracial, lesbian, gay and bisexual students.

The world is now a globalized place with people from almost all ethnic backgrounds, gender, age and sexual orientation found in every part it. Knowledge and expertise in a particular field is something everyone is capable of if given the proper guidance and resources. One of such fields is the medical field and it is a very crucial field for the continued survival of mankind.


1)Cole, S. (1986). Sex discrimination and admission to medical school, 1929-1984. American Journal of Sociology, 92(3), 549-567.

2)McManus, I. C., Richards, P., Winder, B. C., & Sproston, K. A. (1998). Clinical experience, performance in final examinations, and learning style in medical students: prospective study. Bmj, 316(7128), 345-350.

3)Hill, K. A., Samuels, E. A., Gross, C. P., Desai, M. M., Zelin, N. S., Latimore, D., … & Boatright, D. (2020). Assessment of the prevalence of medical student mistreatment by sex, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. JAMA Internal Medicine, 180(5), 653-665.

About the author

Abdul-Rahman Toufik comes from Ghana and is currently a third year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine and the academic committee chairman for the national Union for Ghanaian Students in Sumy.

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