Welcome for more men doing medicine


A NUMBER of medical school heads have welcomed the restoration of gender balance to medical degree courses, following the news that the trend for significantly more women achieving places has been reversed in this year’s offers from the Central Applications Office.

The introduction of the Health Professionals Admissions Test (HPat) for the first time has benefited males, with 52 per cent of offers going to females, while 48 per cent of medical school places have been secured by males.

This compares to a previous 60-40 ratio in favour of female candidates nationally, with medical schools here reporting 70 per cent of women in some classes.

Professor of academic medicine and director of undergraduate teaching and learning at Trinity College Dublin Seán McCann said one of the original aims in amending the entry system to medical school was to change the gender balance.

“From the [medical] profession’s point of view, a 50/50 mix is desirable,” he said yesterday.

Prof McCann confirmed that while Trinity College still required the highest number of Leaving Certificate points for entry of the State’s five undergraduate medical schools, points among those offered places at Trinity ranged from 530 to 600.

Prof McCann also welcomed the higher percentage of first-time Leaving Certificate candidates who gained entry this year. Some 83 per cent of this year’s successful applicants sat the Leaving Certificate for the first time in June, compared with under 60 per cent in 2008.

Noting that postgraduate medical schools here had achieved a 50-50 gender balance since they were introduced some three years ago, foundation head of the graduate entry medical school at the University of Limerick Prof Paul Finucane also welcomed the gender change in undergraduate medical schools.

“The pendulum had swung too far in favour of females,” Prof Finucane said. “It is important we have a system that doesn’t disadvantage males in the way that 40 to 50 years ago it disadvantaged females.”

Professor of public health and primary care at TCD Tom O’Dowd welcomed the new system. “It will be interesting to see if we are getting a broader mix of entrants, although in fairness medicine has done better in this regard than some other courses,” he said.

Head of medical education at University College Cork (UCC) Dr Siún O’Flynn said the college had been contacted by a number of disappointed candidates with 590 and 600 Leaving Certificate points who had not been offered a medical school place.

Following HPat’s introduction, “we do have a different population entering medical school today”, she said, adding that UCC planned to look in detail at the new entrants’ “progression and performance” through medical school.

Head of teaching and learning at University College Dublin school of medicine and medical science Dr Jason Last said some people were surprised that HPat had delivered a widening of access to medicine. On gender balance, he said there was a need to include the ratio of men to women who had applied for medicine in assessing any change.

The allocation of medicine places is based on a combination of Leaving Cert and HPat scores.