News: Information breaks barriers for prospective medical students

By Jennifer Parraga, BA’93

A group of Black medical students across Canada are doing their part to break down the barriers to medical school and have created the Unofficial Guide to Canadian Medical School. Led by the Black Medical Student Association at the University of Toronto, the guide was inspired by a similar one in the US, which was started by women striving to break down barriers for women interested in medicine.  

“The scale of the barriers to apply to medical school are hard to understand before you go through the process,” said Mobolaji Adeolu, PhD, a member of the Medicine Class of 2021 and a contributor to the Guide. 

The initial idea for the Guide began in the spring of 2020, during the first-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of University of Toronto medical students reached out through networks to others across the country with the concept.

“We were home due to COVID-19 and were looking for ways to give back to the community and support future generations of medical students,” said Adeolu.

Within weeks, medical students representing all 17 medical schools across Canada logged onto Zoom and after hearing the pitch from the planning group, signed on to contribute to different chapters of the Guide. An editing team was available to review material and pull chapters together. In total, 70 medical students were involved with the initiative.

The result is a comprehensive guide that takes readers through a journey of discovery to determine if a career is medicine is right for them, how to apply, how to approach the MCAT, the interview process, finances, wellness and what to do if your application isn’t successful. The Guide is now being shared through personal networks, social media accounts and medical school student societies.

Adeolu is proud of the Guide and believes that it will serve as an important and factual resource.

“It is challenging to find reliable information,” said Adeolu. “And if you don’t have a mentor or a network, you have to wade your way through hearsay. This is an entire book of advice from medical students, that we are making freely available.” 

Reflecting on his own academic journey, Adeolu is grateful for the support of his family who exposed him to a career in health care. He says, however, that mentorship was a struggle. Interested in clinical questions and the clinical application of questions, the fourth-year medical student completed his PhD before his medical studies. It was thanks to the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and the Community of Support at the University of Toronto (link) that provided guidance and support throughout his process.

“Our goal was to reduce the informational and mentorship barriers to medical schools for Black, Indigenous and people of colour,” said Adeolu. “The very act of the medical students coming together and creating the Guide is a major step forward.”