MD admissions renewal work will benefit Saskatchewan

Guest blog by Dr. Trustin Domes, Director of Admissions

Earlier this week we announced a renewed approach to MD admissions in our college.

Over the past few years, the admissions team and a broad range of stakeholders have looked at our processes with a focus on ensuring we attract a strong applicant pool. We are ultimately striving for successful candidates who will be the best trainees for our province and who will find success and fulfillment of their own aspirations in our program. In other words, we have developed a more robust approach to make sure that applicants are a good fit for us, and we are a good fit for them.

After an external review of MD admissions in 2019 followed by a visioning retreat in early 2020, stakeholders strongly endorsed that those admitted into the CoM medical doctor program should have a strong personal connection to the province, that we need more diversity in our processes and applicants, and that we need more data to drive our decisions going forward.

In response, an admissions renewal committee was created, composed of five subcommittees, with the task of evaluating and operationalizing the proposed recommendations. The committee was diverse, with broad representation from across the province and included medical students, residents, faculty, staff, patients, the Division of Social Accountability, Indigenous Admissions, our Regina campus, the University of Regina, the Saskatchewan Medical Association, First Nations and Metis Knowledge Keepers, and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan.  Each subcommittee focused on a different priority area to be considered for selection to the program.  These priority areas are academic preparedness, diversity, communications skills/emotional intelligence, Saskatchewan “connectedness,” and professionalism.

Based on the admissions renewal and admissions committee work, the following changes to MD admissions have been recently approved through all university governance processes:

  • submission of short personal essay(s)—opportunity for applicants to share their background and relevant experiences
  • participation in a panel interview
  • minimum entrance average requirement of 80% for all applicants (a lower average of 75% for Saskatchewan-residents had been introduced when there was a shift to a four-year degree requirement in consideration of a smaller applicant pool; the applicant pool has increased now to historic levels and this new threshold would not have significantly disadvantaged the last four years of matriculants)
  • implementation of an Indigenous Admissions Circle, which will increase Indigenous representation and add a more holistic and cultural lens to the admissions process for Indigenous applicants; the goal is increasing the number of Indigenous applicants and students in the program, and strengthening our college’s response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
  • introduction of an Indigenous studies prerequisite beginning with 2024 applicants, also a response to the TRC Calls to Action
  • the Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program (DSAAP) will be expanded by transitioning it from an opt-in program (where applicants had to meet a strict financial threshold) to an opt-out program where all applicants will have the opportunity to respond to the DSAAP questionnaire and a DSAAP index will be calculated based on those responses
  • the Saskatchewan resident and non-Saskatchewan resident pools will be eliminated and applicants will be assessed through a Saskatchewan connectedness index based on admission factors linked to continued practice within the province; the goal is to admit more applicants that have a greater chance of practicing in the province after completing their medical studies

Existing requirements of a four-year degree, the MCAT exam and participation in multiple mini-interviews will continue.

I want to thank everyone who offered feedback and participated in our admissions renewal process. This critical and time-intensive work helped us to collaboratively arrive at new processes and procedures that are evidence-informed and strategically aligned.

Our admissions team is excited to begin implementing these new changes! Our goal is to admit a diverse incoming medical school class that will not only be successful in our program but will also reflect the patients that we serve in Saskatchewan, will have a propensity to develop leadership capacity and will have a desire to serve the province as future physicians. I believe we are well on our way to achieving these important goals in medical education and, ultimately, delivery of care for Saskatchewan.