The Selecting for Excellence report in December 2014 highlighted the issue of widening access into the medical profession to include those from a wider variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Medicine may lag behind other professions in terms of widening access but has progressed significantly in addressing these issues. The commission notes that ‘a medical profession with access to the widest possible talent pool is essential for producing the best possible doctors’. The ultimate aim is to improve the outreach of medical schools and to create a medical profession more representative of society.
The concept of ‘widening access’ is based on the principle that people who would like to pursue higher education should be able to do so regardless of their social background. In the context of medical school, these programmes aim to allow individuals with the potential to excel in medicine to pursue a career in this field. This goes alongside raising awareness among young people about the higher education options available to them.
All 33 medical schools are required to run widening access activities to benefit the wider community. These activities include support during the application process, personal statement support, mock interviews and mentoring systems for secondary school students with current medical students as their mentors.
For example, Bridge the Gap is an outreach programme offered by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry which recruits those in years 8–13 from disadvantaged London schools. Students are provided with a careers day with a range of speakers, a tour around campus and sessions lead by medical students, a summer school and mentor scheme focused on entry into medical school. Successful candidates will be interviewed and some offered places with a reduced tariff offer of BBB.
Similar programmes are available in other medical schools so it is worth doing some research to see what is on offer to you. Be proactive and interested: there are many opportunities out there waiting to be seized!