The Canadian healthcare system is forged in the value of equality of access. As stated in the preamble to the Canada Health Act, continued access to quality health care without financial or other barriers will be critical to maintaining and improving the health and well-being of Canadians. Despite these egalitarian goals, research has shown that various social determinants impact the quality of care received by Canadians. Public health concerns raise the question of diversity within faculties of medicine. The paucity of doctors from Indigenous and Black communities as well as rural and low-income backgrounds is a systemic problem with health consequences. The continued under-representation of certain groups creates physician shortages in these communities. This deficiency is exacerbated by students’ scarce interactions with people from these communities during their medical studies, thereby reducing future doctors’ effectiveness.
When we talk of equity and diversity issues in medical education we often draw the link between a diverse profession and better health for a diverse population, as in the paragraph above. There are certainly many data that successfully demonstrate this link, but this is only half of the story. In the Faculty of Medicine we are concerned with issues of equity and diversity not only because of demonstrated links to population health, but because we seek to eliminate barriers for well-qualified, capable applicants to our programs and let them share in the opportunities and rewards that careers in the health professions can offer. We feel it is the right thing to do because everyone who graces the doors of our clinics, classrooms, and corridors is entitled to a space that is culturally safe and engaging and tolerant of difference.
In the Office of Admissions, Equity and Diversity, we seek to facilitate the promise of accessible health care and the creation of a culturally safe training environment. Recognizing the diversity that already exists within the Faculty of Medicine, we are working to create an environment whereby students and faculty can learn from this diversity. We believe that the best physicians are those who can combine the humanistic aspects of healing with the science of medicine. As a complement to other elements of the McGill Physicianship curriculum, experiences of diversity will enable future doctors to engage in self-reflection. Across a lifetime of practice, the average health care professional will see approximately 70,000 patients. That’s 70,000 unique histories to appreciate, and 70,000 unique ways to live a life. The true privilege of a career in the health professions is to be a witness to this diversity, and the training available within the faculty helps students gain the tools to practice effectively in this context.
In order to enhance the pedagogical opportunities of such an environment, we hope to increase the diversity of our incoming classes while maintaining the exceptional academic backgrounds of our students. To this end, our Towards Health pipeline program is providing support to high school students from under-represented communities and encouraging them to consider medicine or one of the other health professions as a career. As we encourage communication between adolescents and the medical domain, we strive to strengthen both the formal institution of our Faculty and the greater whole of the profession of medicine.