Academic performance of UK doctors and medical students varies by ethnicity

March 9, 2011

UK trained doctors and medical students from minority ethnic groups tend to underperform academically compared with their white counterparts, finds a study published in the British Medical Journal today.

This attainment gap has persisted for many years and must be tackled to ensure a fair and just method of training and assessing current and future doctors, say the authors.

A third of all UK medical students and junior doctors are from minority ethnic groups. Although universities and the NHS are legally required to monitor the admission and progress of students and staff by ethnic group, evidence remains patchy.

So researchers at University College London analysed the results of 22 reports comparing the of 23,742 medical students and UK trained doctors from different ethnic groups.

They found that candidates of non-white ethnicity underperformed compared with white candidates.

The effect was statistically significant and widespread across different medical schools, different types of exam (including those marked by machines), and in both undergraduate and postgraduate assessments.

Ethnic differences in attainment seem to be a consistent feature of in the UK, say the authors. They have persisted for at least the past three decades and cannot be dismissed as atypical or local problems.

While exam performance is by no means the only marker of good performance as a doctor or medical student, they add, the fact remains that without passing finals, cannot become doctors, and without passing postgraduate exams, it is much harder for doctors to progress in a medical career.

The authors call for more detailed information to track the problem as well as further research into its causes.

"Without these actions, it will be a struggle to ensure a fair and just method of training and assessing our future and current doctors," they conclude.

"Such complex problems are unlikely to have simple solutions - what happens in medical schools is a reflection of wider society," argues Professor Aneez Esmail from the University of Manchester in accompanying editorial. He believes the solutions will be found "through critically appraising assessment methods, curriculums, the way that we engage with students in an increasingly multicultural society, and the role models that we provide."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.