C/O Luis Melendez

Medical students from rural backgrounds can help resolve the inequities of the Canadian healthcare system 

While the Canada Health Act has always maintained that all Canadians should have equal access to healthcare, the unfortunate reality is that this ideal is far from the truth. Although many Canadian cities have sufficient doctors for their population, the same cannot be said for rural communities.  

Comparatively studying the doctor-per-capita ratios between urban and rural communities exposes a harsh inequity. In fact, the country’s overall value for doctor-per-capita is one in 450 while rural areas average one doctor for every 3000 residents.  

Clearly, there is a severe problem in our current healthcare system that needs to be resolved. Unfortunately, this statistic cannot be taken at face value and the snowball effect that is a result of this inequity must be studied as well. 

Due to limited access to healthcare, individuals living in rural areas are more likely to have a significant disease burden. What this means is by the time someone in a rural community can see a doctor, their disease has progressed even further leading to higher rates of chronic disease and poorer mental health.  

If you take a step back and really look at the problem, you notice that by allowing this population to go underserved, the Canadian healthcare system is essentially shooting itself in the foot. They are manifesting a sicker and more expensive population, in concordance with their healthcare needs.  

By now, I’ve hopefully illustrated the dire need for a solution. My proposition? Increase medical school admissions for students with a rural background.  

Studies have shown that when students who come from rural communities are admitted into medical schools and ultimately become physicians, they are more likely to practice in rural areas. Unsurprisingly, medical schools that have noticed and applied this phenomenon in their admissions strategies have seen benefits. 

The Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine visits undergraduate students in rural areas who have an interest in healthcare and guides them through the admissions and financial aid processes. By providing guidance to students from a rural background and linking them to residencies in rural areas, OHSU has proven successful in filling the gap. 

This is especially impactful when you consider that over 50% of medical residents in the United States end up practicing in the state they trained in.  

It’s undeniable that one possesses an innate connection to the community that they grow up in. This connection to serving rural communities is one that is best understood by students who have lived there and have the drive to give back to those exact areas.  

The medical community should look to advance the practice of culturally competent care — care that meets the cultural and social needs of diverse communities. Where better to start than the medical schools themselves?  

Other plans, such as incentivizing doctors to practice in rural areas with higher salaries have proven expensive. Rather, medical schools should commit to leveraging the passion that already exists in so many students that have a better understanding and connection with Canada’s rural areas.  

Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor 

Taking on too many commitments causes undue stress and declining quality of work

In a day and age filled with endless opportunity, we can be quite eager to try out different pursuits. Especially as students focus on education and career-building, the prospect of new extracurriculars appears promising.  

A kind addition to one’s resume or LinkedIn page, an answer for an interview or even a conversation starter with a professor or classmate are among the various benefits of such activities.  

However, although it is often overwhelming when we take on too much, it is difficult to say “no” when we ponder all the paybacks. For students especially, we need to allow ourselves to say “no” more often and be honest with ourselves about how much energy we can really afford to put out.  

The process of getting into schools and obtaining jobs is becoming increasingly competitive. Admission rates to many universities are reaching record lows and the job market for new graduates is especially complex, with employers setting standards far higher than in the past.  

The process of getting into schools and obtaining jobs is becoming increasingly competitive. Admission rates to many universities are reaching record lows and the job market for new graduates is especially complex, with employers setting standards far higher than in the past.  

Ardena Bašić, Contributor

In this sense, it seems logical for students to want to take on more clubs, volunteering positions, internships and part-time work. After all, anything could be the advantage that sticks out to a recruitment officer at a firm or school.  

Reflecting on this idea makes it challenging to quit any opportunity, even if it may make one’s life far too overwhelming.  

School is already challenging given deadlines, expenses and long hours required by most programs. Adding a reasonable number of other commitments can be managed to an extent, but there comes a point of diminishing returns.  

For example, choosing to write blogs for three websites as opposed to one might reduce the time and energy one can put into them and by extension their quality. Moreover, choosing to do many sports over focusing on one or two makes it difficult for one to put their full energy in.  

Yet, it looks good on a resume, doesn’t it? A future employer might find it impressive that one juggled so many pursuits, no matter the overall quality of them individually. It is this circular thinking that can cause undue strain and pressure on a student’s already busy life.  

Although it may be difficult, students need to be honest with themselves about how much they can reasonably take on. How many hours — outside of school — do you have to spend on putting quality energy into a pursuit?  

Although it may be difficult, students need to be honest with themselves about how much they can reasonably take on. How many hours — outside of school — do you have to spend on putting quality energy into a pursuit?  

Ardena Bašić, Contributor

Then, look for where your passions lie. This might mean balancing some things you don’t love, but look good on your resume, with other things that light up your spirit. Our life is filled with compromises and our time as a student is no exception.  

Furthermore, analyze what you’re doing in your free time. It is easy to pick up our phones and scroll through social media and then fret about not having enough time for other things.  

Being more cognizant of these factors through critical reflection will help us better manage our time and be able to pick and choose our endeavours more accordingly.  

Overall, students can easily get caught up in the chase of doing as much as we can to gain the most reward. This will catch up to us eventually in not being able to put as much effort as we want into what we’re doing.  

Stepping back and asking ourselves tough questions: what we really want, like and hope for can help us make more prudent decisions in how we fill our time. It is this process than can help us overcome yet another hurdle of being a student and improve this season of life for the better.  

Yoohuyn Park/Production Coordinator

Do grades have to be everything?

By: Hadeeqa Aziz, Contributor

This one is for all the first years. So you’ve heard your grades will drop and you’re rather terrified of what the next couple of years will bring. And rightfully so, because according to data collected by the University of Waterloo, the average Ontario high school student’s grades will likely drop by a factor of 16 percent. Some of you may not worry too much because you’re confident in the way your high school conditioned and prepared you for post-secondary education. 

After all, you’ve earned your way into your program, haven’t you? The feeling of accomplishment is even more incredible now, especially since admissions averages have been steadily increasing over the last few years. For example, according to student observations on r/OntarioUniversities, McMaster’s life sciences gateway program has seen an increase in cutoff averages since 2019, from high 80s to low 90s. 

There’s nothing short of a plethora of reasons to explain these increases, from larger applicant pools to better overall student performances, especially in light of online learning. There’s one factor, however, that remains prominent — one that we all know exists but seldom find the courage to thoroughly talk about: grade inflation. 

It’s a sensitive topic because implying the existence of grade inflation is an implication that not everyone sitting in your lecture hall has rightfully earned their way into their program. The onus, however, is not on the student, but seemingly on the high schools they come from. 

All Ontario universities value grades when assessing high school seniors for undergraduate admissions, taking the form of an average of your top 6 courses in Grade 12. It appears to be the most plausible evaluation tool, as it’s supposedly designed to gauge your competence as an academic. Here’s a shocking revelation though: not all students have been to the same high school. What does this mean? It essentially implies that a 95 percent average at one school may not hold the same value as a 95 percent at another. 

Grade inflation is often rooted in a decrease in academic standards or when faculty don’t have clear expectations of their students. This leads to grade inequality, meaning that equal qualities of work are assigned different grades across schools, departments or courses. 

Many speak to the problematic nature of grade inflation, while others outright deny that it’s even a problem. When inflation leads to increased admissions averages, it sets grade standards to an all-time high, so much so that some career prospects may be taken away from students who fail to reach those standards. 

The process of achieving the ridiculously high grade requirements for the University of Waterloo’s engineering programs, for instance, is not the same for all students. Those who don’t reap the benefits of grade inflation would have to work much harder than those who do. Here, universities risk being unfair to the students who have more rigorous marking standards. And we haven’t even touched upon other factors that contribute to student issues such as socioeconomics, race or geographics. 

Entering university with inflated grades isn’t all that fun either. If inflation leads to misinterpretations of a student’s competence and studying habits, perhaps it can lead to similar misinterpretations on a student’s fitness for their program of entry. Students unprepared for the demands of university education may be more vulnerable to mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. 

In an attempt to be fairer to high school applicants, the University of Waterloo used data from their engineering program to develop a list of what they call “adjustment factors” for each high school. This factor uses a student’s admission average and their first-year average to gauge the effects of grade inflation by measuring the “gap” between the two grades. Essentially, the higher the gap, the higher possibility that the student’s grades were inflated in high school. The faculty supposedly take this adjustment factor into consideration during the admissions process. 

Schools at the top of the list argue that Waterloo’s student sample is too small to reflect the hard work of their teachers and students. From their perspective, it’s quite difficult to collect robust data on inflation and adequately prove such a claim. 
Instead, more individuals wish to see a discussion on whether or not standardized testing can play a role in the solution. Standardizing students, however, comes with its own set of issues and instead, I think most students would appreciate more individualized assessments of their accomplishments. If universities continue to treat grades as “everything,” they’re effectively missing the bigger picture.

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