Examining The Gender Gap in Attrition Rates for Students in Premed Classes

A new study by scholars at the University of Pittsburgh finds that despite the fact that large numbers of young women in high school express an interest in careers in medicine, more so than the number of young men. But by the time they are in college women take qualifying exams and enter medical school at substantially lower levels than predicted by their interest in medical degrees at the end of high school.

The study examined a group of 8,253 undergraduate students taking the traditional premed sequence of introductory science courses at a public research university between 2008 and 2016. The researchers discovered that women were dropping out of the premed track at higher rates than men. Furthermore, among women and men with identical grade point averages in premed courses, women dropped out of the premed track at a higher rate than men. Surprisingly only 30 percent of women who had an A average in premed science classes went on to take the Medical College Admission Test. For men who had an average grade of A in premed science courses, 65 percent took the MCAT. The authors concluded that “gendered attrition was not based in academic performance but was grounded in competency beliefs.”

The authors recommend that “motivational interventions in premed science courses will be critical for retaining high-performing women in premed, an important outcome with implications for equity and women’s health.”

The full study, “When Making the Grade Isn’t Enough: The Gendered Nature of Premed Science Course Attrition,” was published on the website of the journal Educational Researcher. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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