Purpose: Policy groups recommend monitoring and supporting more diversity among medical students and the medical workforce. In Canada, few data are available regarding the diversity of medical students, which poses challenges for policy development and evaluation. The authors examine diversity through a framework of surface (visible) and deep (less visible) dimensions and present data regarding a sample of Canadian medical students.
Method: Between 2009 and 2011, nine cohorts from four Canadian medical schools completed the Health Professions Student Diversity Survey (HPSDS) either on paper or online. Items asked each participant's age, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, marital status, ethnicity, rural status, parental income, and disability. Data were analyzed descriptively and compared, when available, with national data.
Results: Of 1,892 students invited, 1,552 (82.0%) completed the HPSDS. Students tended to be 21 to 25 years old (68.3%; 1,048/1,534), female (59.0%; 902/1,529), heterosexual (94.6%; 1,422/1,503), single (90.1%; 1,369/1,520), and unlikely to report any disability (96.5%; 1,463/1,516). The majority of students identified with the gender on their birth certificate (99.8%; 1,512/1,515). About half had spent the majority of their lives in urban environments (46.7%; 711/1,521), and most reported parental household incomes of over $100,000/year (57.6%; 791/1,373). Overall, they were overrepresentative of higher-income groups and underrepresentative of populations of Aboriginal, black, or Filipino ethnicities in Canada.
Conclusions: The authors propose the development of a National Student Diversity Database to support both locally relevant policies regarding pipeline programs and an examination of current application and selection procedures to identify potential barriers for underrepresented students.