Gender balance in medicine: letter to Irish Times

Madam, – Correspondents to your paper calling for a 50:50 ratio of male and female students in medical schools may have information I have not been able to find. What is the ratio of males to females applying for places? The CAO would not tell me for reasons of confidentiality when I asked years ago, but anecdotal evidence I gathered suggested more girls than boys applied.

The HPat test was devised apparently, to increase the number of boys getting places. I regret that any form of gender discrimination was brought in by a Minister for Education, particularly a female one, Mary Hanafin.

The CAO points system was fair and transparent. I have seen no scientific studies which show that clever people are less compassionate, caring, and alert to the needs of their fellow human beings then those who are less intellectually able. The HPat test will favour those from rich families who can pay for grind schools and even a repeat year with more ease.

If it must be changed, a fairer method of selection for all has to be found.

There are examples elsewhere. In the Netherlands, all those who achieve a certain academic level can enter a lottery for a place.

About 150 students entered pre-med with me. We’d lost about 20 by Christmas and a few more over the rest of the year. Then those of us who remained competed for the 60 places.

Much the same process still takes place in France today.

This issue is not about feminism. It is about fairness. Some very able boys as well as girls have not gained the places they had expected. – Yours, etc,


Burlington Road,

Dublin 4.


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