The Medical School Admissions Process and Meeting the Public's Health Care Needs: Never the Twain Shall Meet?

Jennifer Cleland

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Medical schools typically assess how good their selection process is using metrics such as students' assessment performance and the academic success of alumni on later indicators of academic ability and clinical competence, such as Royal College of Physicians or specialty board examinations. To address global issues with the maldistribution of doctors and increasing numbers of new medical school graduates choosing not to work in a clinical context requires different measurements of medical school admissions processes, like those related to graduates' career outcomes (e.g., working in underserved regions and/or working in certain specialties). This shift in focus is not straightforward. Medical education is a complex social system where, intentionally or not, medical schools focus on reproducing cultural, historical, and social norms. Simple solutions are often proposed but they are insufficient to address these complex drivers. Instead it is time to step back and think very differently about medical school admissions. In this Invited Commentary, the author proposes new solutions to address these issues, including: bringing in to the medical school selection process the perspectives of other key stakeholders; increasing collaboration and dialogue across these stakeholder groups; changing the performance metrics by which medical schools are assessed in the global education marketplace; and developing and evaluating new selection processes and tools. Medical schools must engage more reflectively and collaboratively in debates about how to align medical school admissions and meeting the health care needs of the public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-974
Number of pages3
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number7
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

J. Cleland is John Simpson Chair of Medical Education, Centre for Healthcare Education Research and Innovation, Institute of Education for Medical and Dental Sciences, School of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


  • Journal Article


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