Schools are key to raising aspirations for next generation of doctors

Teachers and careers advisers are key to improving access to the medical profession for young people in some of the country’s most socially disadvantaged areas – but universities must reach out to give them the support that they need, says the new Head of our Medical School.

Furthermore, some areas of the country may be losing out on valuable local talent joining their healthcare services as their young people don’t receive the advice they need on applying to medical schools, or options such as foundation degrees.

Professor Richard Holland (pictured), Head of Leicester Medical School, said: “Evidence suggests that medical school recruitment is not diverse enough.  Whilst we do very successfully draw in young people from all ethnic backgrounds, young people from poorer backgrounds are less likely to apply than those from more well-off families.  We need to work to change this.

“Learning in a group that is diverse allows medical students to begin to understand the different cultures, pressures and challenges that patients face depending on their social circumstances. This is likely to lead on to developing more understanding, compassionate doctors, who can better manage and advise their patients.

“Many students return to practise near to their family once they have qualified as doctors.  This is why it is so important to try to recruit students in to medicine from those areas that are currently ‘under-doctored’.”

Leicester’s proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds has increased in both applications and registrations over the past three years.

From this year, Leicester’s Medical School is offering scholarships worth £9,000 to East Midlands students joining its new Foundation Year that is designed to attract more students from local state schools and lower socio-economic groups. The Foundation Year and scholarships have been make possible by a charitable trust, which has donated £2 million towards the cost.

Professor Holland spoke ahead of ‘A journey to medicine and healthcare’, a conference on 29 June for teachers and careers advisers spearheaded by the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham, in association with the Medical Schools Council.