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Giving thanks

Having just spent a beautiful weekend with family and friends reflecting on all I am thankful for, my thoughts turn to reflecting on giving thanks in my work environment.

A concerning trend in Canada is the increasing financial burden of medical education in the context of a progressively worsening socio-economic diversity of medical students. A survey of medical students in 2015 revealed an overrepresentation of higher income families in respondents when compared to the general population. While 62.6% of study respondents reported a combined parental income above $100,000 annually, only 37.1% of couple and lone parent families in the country were in that same income category in 2014, according to Statistics Canada. In fact, in the 2016 AFMC Graduation Questionnaire, 72% of respondents reported having no pre-medical school debt.

The costs are not only related to the tuition during medical school but also the cost of getting there. This includes the cost of three or more years of university education and steps in the application process.  For the majority of students, this includes taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Students also feel compelled to take commercial MCAT prep courses that have never actually been shown to improve applicant performance.

For many years now, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has administered a Fee Assistance Program for American students in financial need. Over the last several months, the AAMC and leaders in Canadian medical admissions discussed the possibility of piloting a program for Canadians with financial need wishing to take the MCAT exam. And we’re so pleased with the result of these conversations!

The AFMC, Canadian admission deans, and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students worked together to develop a best practice in identifying applicants, establishing a simple confidential application process housed at AFMC, and a safe way of confirming eligible applicants to the AAMC, who then award reduced fees. Applications will be accepted as of November 1, and AFMC is ready to make determinations on the approximately 700 students in greatest financial need. This represents 7% of the total number of Canadian examinees who took the MCAT last year. These students will receive reduced scheduling, rescheduling, and cancellation rates from the AAMC for the 2018 and 2019 testing years.

On behalf of our students and faculties, the AFMC would like to thank the AAMC for their generosity and consideration in offering this fee assistance to our students. The AFMC is thrilled to have made this happen in collaboration with our faculty and student leadership. Anything we can do to reduce the financial strain and perhaps increase the socioeconomic diversity of applicants is a worthy cause. AFMC continues to consider new ways to support our students.

Please tell your friends and family and pass the word to any pre-med groups as we would love to connect with them directly. We need to get the word out!

Again I am so thankful to our American friends.

Geneviève Moineau, MD, FRCPC