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  • Doctors call for more diversity in medical students

    Author: AAP

Two doctors have called for better opportunities for medical students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Students from low socio-economic backgrounds should be given fair opportunity to become doctors, say two medical school selection interviewers.

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Writing in The Conversation on Wednesday, doctors Evelyn Chan and Paul Leong say two-thirds of Australian medical students come from affluent backgrounds while less than one in 10 come from low socio-economic backgrounds.

"As selection interviewers for an Australian medical school, one of our scripted questions was `how have you helped disadvantaged people?

"A memorable candidate began, `well, our family has a maid'."

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The doctors say it's unsurprising most students come from affluent backgrounds, given selection criteria is biased against low socio-economic candidates.

But given just 25 per cent of Australians are classified as affluent, there's a risk the medical community is out of touch with its patients.

In one recent example, two families that delivered premature babies facing high chances of disability both wished to withdraw care, but for different reasons.

The family from the lower socio-economic background were concerned they couldn't afford the cost of caring for a disabled child, while the affluent family were concerned the disability would impact the child's quality of life.

"Although both sets of parents wished to withdraw care, they were perceived and treated differently by their health team.

"One set of parents was eventually referred to child protective services, and the other family had their wishes carried out."

Dr Chan and Dr Leong are calling for change, urging medical schools to do more to get a broader representation of doctors from different backgrounds.

They say doctors who've come from low socio-economic backgrounds are better equipped to understand patients from similar backgrounds.

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