Context: Very little is known about medical students from rural areas currently enrolled in Canadian medical schools.
Purpose: We aimed to compare rural and non-rural students in terms of demographics, socioeconomic status, financial status and career choices.
Methods: As part of a larger Internet survey of all students at Canadian medical schools outside Quebec, conducted in January and February 2001, we conducted post-hoc analyses to compare students from rural and non-rural areas. Canada Post's classification system was used to determine rural status. To compare differences between rural and non-rural students, we used logistical regression models for categorical variables and factorial analysis of variance for continuous variables.
Results: We received responses from 2994 (68.5%) of 4368 medical students. Eleven percent of Canadian medical students come from rural backgrounds. Rural students tend to be older and originate from families of lower socioeconomic status. Students from rural areas report higher levels of debt, increased rates of paid part-time and summer employment, and greater stress from their finances. Nevertheless, rural students are not more likely to state that financial considerations will affect their choice of specialty or practice location.
Conclusions: Canadian medical students who come from rural backgrounds are different from their non-rural counterparts. Students from rural areas face numerous financial barriers in obtaining a medical education and report greater levels of financial stress. Medical schools should examine and address barriers to admission of rural students and they should consider directing more financial resources toward this financially vulnerable group.