Are Medical Schools Picking the Wrong Students?

UC-Riverside-Humanities-MedicineAn Australian medical school professor suggests that medical students need more humanities courses.

Here is a taste of Joseph Ting’s article at The Financial Review:

A seminal University of Newcastle follow-up study, Time for a review of admission to medical school? published in The Lancet in 1995, found the only predictor of “competent and caring” internship was studying humanities and science subjects at either high school or university level before starting medical school.

It is the only study of its type to date and reported on the experience of 104 interns. It found that mode of entry (high school or graduate admission) and age at commencement. did not affect supervisor ratings. The areas assessed included diagnostic and procedural skills, clinical judgement, approach to management, relationships with patients/families/other professionals, self-directed learning, overall team performance, reliability and dependability.


But its finding, that medical school applicants make better interns if they have studied both humanities and sciences at some stage before admission, was ignored. Even though having a science-based undergraduate degree (and necessarily more mature age) at admission makes no difference to intern quality, most Australian medical schools still insist upon it.

It’s time to listen to the findings of the Newcastle study. We should allocate proportionally more places to students who excel at both high school humanities and the sciences (they make just as good interns as the graduate entrants), rather than subject them to the much feared Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test (UMAT).

Once again, other nations seem to be thinking more creatively about the role of humanities in public life.

2 thoughts on “Are Medical Schools Picking the Wrong Students?

  1. I was a TA for a history of modern medicine course that was designed to satisfy the humanities requirement for the premed majors (along with other medical/bio fields.) Considering the level with which they were able to engage with the kind of big ethical and empathetic questions that are the hallmark of the humanities, I’d say medical professionals could use even more!

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