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.


17 thoughts on “MD admissions renewal work will benefit Saskatchewan

  1. Personally I would like to see much younger candidates ( 3-4 out if my 8 candidates were practicing professionals ) as when it comes to retaining and training specialists it takes minimum 5-8 years of postgraduate post MD training!
    Age and experience of candidates is important if we want to retain and train longer training specialties like surgery etc

  2. I think these are great and much needed changes for our med school applicants ( Yaa for us !) and i look forward to the time when this will be implemented.

    • Thanks Rashmi for your comment and support! Lots of excited changes to the College for sure.

  3. Wow! So very exciting! What a well thought out plan of action, certainly placing our school solidly within the societal contract we need to achieve, to carry the delivery of medicine into future decades within our province and Canada.

    Congratulations on a superb job.

    • Thanks Brian for your comment and support. We were mindful to incorporate stakeholders throughout the process and used a lot of data to drive our decisions. We will carefully monitor these changes to ensure they serve the intended purpose. One of the goals is certainly to increase the physician workforce in Saskatchewan!

    • Thanks for your comment and support. It was a great team effort and appreciate all those who helped with this important process.

  4. Can you please provide further insight into what a Saskatchewan connectedness index looks like and whether it has been validated to be effective.

    • Thanks for your question. Saskatchewan connectedness is an assessment of an applicant’s connection to Saskatchewan and rural communities through their life story and demonstrated interests. Our data shows that those individuals with a connection to the province (length of time living in the province, completing studies in the province, working in the province, and other factors) and/or rural communities unsurprisingly have a higher chance of practicing in Saskatchewan after competing their medical studies. Our current definition of Saskatchewan resident is too simplistic and can too easily be exploited. This new process is more comprehensive, is data driven and is more fair to the applicant pool, with the goal of improving physician retention for Saskatchewan.

  5. Hi,

    I have two questions regarding this change. The first is what exactly is meant by “Saskatchewan connectedness” and the second is when this change take place (i.e what admission years)

    Thank you,

    • Thanks for your questions. As mentioned in the blog, the changes are taking place for applicants starting in 2022 (next application cycle), with the exception of the new Indigenous studies prerequisite, which will begin for applicants in 2024. With regard to Saskatchewan connectedness, we have data over the last 20 years showing that our current admission process leads to a Saskatchewan retention rate of about 55% of our USask MD graduates, and even lower for rural/regional retention in the province. The new Saskatchewan connectedness index will help address this gap and will incorporate numerous different factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood of future Saskatchewan-based practice. Applicants will have an opportunity to authentically share with us their life experiences and interests and an applicant’s Saskatchewan connectedness will be determined throughout the application process.

  6. How international students who came to USASK for undergrad from different country and received permanent residence will be accounted? Will they have any chance to get admission, as they have been living in Saskatchewan since came to the Canada?
    Thank you

    • Thanks for your question and sharing your concern. We are mindful that different people come to Canada and Saskatchewan at different times under different circumstances and have other barriers to enter medicine (as addressed with our Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program). It is not our intent with this change to have all of our incoming students to only ever be from Saskatchewan—that doesn’t lead to diversity either. We still encourage applicants from across Canada to apply to our program, even if they don’t have a strong connection to Saskatchewan but are a good fit for us and we are a good fit for them. Students from outside Saskatchewan add a diverse perspective, are valued in our program and we have been successful in recruiting some of these individuals to our province too! We anticipate still admitting approximately 5% of the incoming class without a Saskatchewan connection. However, the College does have a social mandate to serve the best interests of Saskatchewan and that includes selecting applicants that have an interest and are more likely to practice in Saskatchewan after their medical studies. The Saskatchewan connectedness score will look at numerous factors that have been linked to future Saskatchewan-based practice and replaces a Saskatchewan residency definition that had its flaws. The vast majority of the incoming MD class will have a strong connection to Saskatchewan based on the Saskatchewan connectedness score.

      • These changes look great! I had a few questions and thoughts regarding the university entrance average amendment, now increasing to 80%:
        1) I believe it was mentioned that if the 80% GPA had been implemented for prior year medical school matriculants, they would not have suffered significantly. My follow up to this is did any students in the last four graduating years have a GPA between 75% and 80%? If so, why not keep the 75% and use the CASPer, MCAT and GPA to assess interviews cutoffs.

        Many University students have lower GPAs in their initial year(s) due to 1) having part-time work requirements to offset tuition costs, and 2) as a result of the adjustment from high school to university. Not everyone is prepared equally.

        Some medical schools (i.e Queens) therefore take the higher of 1) an applicants entire undergraduate degree; or, 2) the best 2 years or last 60 credits of studies (whichever is higher). In this case, students are not disadvantaged. Best case, the candidate pool is even larger, and, you may even have students that have dealt with hardship (lower grades) in their first two years, but excelled and were on the deans honour list in their final years. An increasing trend in grades shows a sense of character through commitment and perseverance.

        Given this, I’m wondering if the U of S College of Medicine might consider taking a balanced approach to the 80% GPA. More specifically, a four year degree would still be required, but the better of the UGPA or best 2 years of study would be used for the entrance average calculation.

        It is my belief this would strike the appropriate balance between a strong and robust applicant pool with consideration for those with difficult circumstances (whatever they may be).

        Thank you for your consideration,

  7. I’ve been living in Saskatchewan with my family since they brought me here in high school and I continued university here. Throughout this time I feel that I have integrated myself into the community. My family and I became integrated members in society here. I was wondering if this new change would affect me and no longer consider me a part of the 95% Saskatchewan connected applicant pool since I did not grow my early childhood here? What sort of factors will the new Saskatchewan connectedness system look at? How will it deem who is connected to Saskatchewan or not? Will it examine time resided, family presence, in province experiences? Are people born and exclusively raised in Saskatchewan the only individuals eligible in this new system?

  8. These changes are going to do so much good for the province. I grew up in a combination of rural Manitoba and Saskatchewan and getting in to see a family doctor up there was a nightmare. So many people went without the care they needed, especially indigenous people. So many practitioners would practice there for a year or two and then move on to practicing in urban areas, which was very frustrating for us residents. Soon enough it will be my turn to apply and I am looking forward to serving the people I grew up around.

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