James Cook University’s rurally orientated medical school selection process: quality graduates and positive workforce outcomes
Citation: Ray RA, Woolley T, Sen Gupta T. James Cook University’s rurally orientated medical school selection process: quality graduates and positive workforce outcomes. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3424. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3424 (Accessed 19 October 2017)
Introduction: The regionally based James Cook University (JCU) College of Medicine and Dentistry aims to meet its mission to address the health needs of the region by using a selection policy favouring rural origin applicants and providing students with early and repeated exposure to rural experiences during training. This study seeks to determine if the JCU medical school’s policy of preferentially selecting rural and remote background students is associated with differing patterns of undergraduate performance or graduate practice location.Key words: Australia, medical graduates, policy, recruitment, selection.
Methods: Data at application to medical school and during the undergraduate years was retrieved from administrative databases held by the university and the medical school. Postgraduate location data were obtained either from personal contact via email, telephone or Facebook or electronically from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority website. Practice location was described across Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) categories, with 1 being a major city and 5 being a very remote location.
Results: The 856 Australian-based students accepted into the JCU medical program between 2000 and 2008 came from all geographical regions across Australia: 20% metropolitan (ASGC-RA 1), 20% inner regional (ASGC-RA 2), 56% outer regional (ASGC-RA 3), and 5% from remote or very remote locations (ASGC-RA 4 and 5). Having a rural or remote hometown at application (ASGC-RA 3–5) was significantly associated with a lower tertiary entrance score (p<0.001), a lower interview score in the medical school selection process (p<0.001), being less likely to be admitted into the Honours program (p=0.001), being an advanced standing student (p=0.025), being awarded a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (p=0.005), taking longer to complete the 6-year course (p=0.009) and having a lower academic achievement across years 1 to 3 (p=0.002, p=0.005 and p=0.025, respectively). Graduates having either a rural or a remote home town at application were more likely to practise in rural (RA 3–5) towns than graduates from metropolitan/inner regional centre across all postgraduate years. For example, the prevalence odds ratios (POR) for graduates practising in a rural town at postgraduate year 1 (PGY 1) having either a rural or remote hometown were 2.6 and 1.8, respectively, times that of graduates having a metropolitan/inner regional hometown, while at PGY 9 the PORs had increased to 4.2 and 9.5, respectively. Bonded medical place students showed many similar trends to rural students in both their pre-medical school and undergraduate performance indicators but lower engagement in rural practice in the 5 years of data available.
Conclusions: Some significant differences were noted between rural and remote origin students and metropolitan or inner regional origin students in terms of academic achievement in the first 3 years of the course and length of time taken to complete the course. However, this group of rural and remote-origin students seems to do just as well in the exams in the clinical years (years 4–6) and are much more likely to practise in rural and remote areas. These data suggest that JCU’s selection process favouring rural origin applicants does not compromise academic standards, but does produce graduates whose patterns of practice accord with the mission of the school.
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