Drop Out of Med School

Walter van den Broek
April 11, 2011

Important topic since drop out from med school is often accompanied with a direct economic loss to society. Knowledge about drop out could possibly prevent drop out from med school.
In a recent literature review 625 studies were found about the topic of drop out from med school. Only 13 were included in this analyses because they attempted to account for confounding and were better in overall quality.

The 13 studies eventually included originated from the USA (n = 5), Australia (n = 3), the UK (n = 2), the Netherlands (n = 2) and South Africa (n = 1).

The influence of gender, age, and ethnicity on drop out was either modest or non-existent. Nine out of 12 studies found poorer student entry qualifications of various sorts, to be associated with drop out. The variety of entry qualifications were diverse. Academic struggle especially in the first year was strongly associated with drop out in two studies who explored this association. Only one in two studies found curriculum type associated with drop out. Traditional curriculum was associated with higher drop out compared to problem based learning curriculum.

Overall evidence for conclusive factors for drop out of med school seem to be absent. Event the strong correlation between lower
entry qualifications generally and drop out is a difficult construct because it’s defined in a broad variety of entry qualifications. Academic struggle e.g. failing at least one basic science course, is probably the only factor worth developing educational initiatives for. These educational initiatives need further research in efficacy against drop out of med school.

Very few studies have examined the association between educational initiatives and student withdrawal. Comprehensive
causal models of dropout that include educational, organisational and institutional influences need to be tested if we are to learn more about what might be done to prevent medical student withdrawal.

O’Neill, L., Wallstedt, B., Eika, B., & Hartvigsen, J. (2011). Factors associated with dropout in medical education: a literature review Medical Education DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03898.x


One Response to “Drop Out of Med School”

  1. “drop out from med school is often accompanied with a direct economic loss to society”

    I don’t accept the initial premise that drop out from med school is necessarily a bad thing. Do we really accept that the admissions process for med school is so perfect that it really is %100 accurate in only accepting students who are cut out to be good doctors?

    I am based in the uk, where med school education is heavily subsidized by the gov, and would rather bad students drop out sooner rather than pay their whole way through uni before they realize it’s not meant to be. But even in North America, drop out is probably more costly to ‘medical schools’, who are in the business of training doctors and profit by having more students in their classes, than it is to ‘society’.

    Along similar lines, as a patient, I would feel more confident going to the doctor if I knew the education system was willing to give bad students the boot, or let them drop out rather than do their darndest to keep them paying fees.

  2. Guest on April 11th, 2011 at 11:47 am

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