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UBC medical school standards called into question

06/01/2012 10:03 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT

There appear to be two different sets of criteria for admission to the different medical schools at the University of British Columbia, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

The documents show that students in the northern medical program don't have to meet the same requirements for the rest of UBC's medical schools.

UBC doesn't tell successful candidates how they were picked.

Unlike the medical schools in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, the northern campus in Prince George doesn't require completion of medical entrance exams.

The documents show a student's suitability for living in northern B.C. far outweighs academic achievement when it comes to filling coveted spots in the Prince George program.

Only six of last year's northern class of 32 ranked high enough for the other medical school locations. Others got into the Prince George school campus with GPAs as low at 70 per cent.

The person who leaked the documents to CBC News, who asked to remain anonymous, said they believed it was important for the information to be made public.

"The people of B.C., especially the unsuccessful MD applicants and their parents, need to know that an unfair selection process has been in place.”

UBC defends practice

When asked for comment, Bruce Fleming, UBC’s dean of admissions, said the process is not unfair.

Fleming said the school looks beyond marks, choosing students most likely to practice where B.C. needs them most.

“There are some students that are just better suited for living, working, staying in the north. There's four years of a commitment to studying medicine in the north,” Fleming said. “And beyond that, it’s predicting those that will [have] enough of a connection that they will return to practice.

Fleming could only speculate on why the documents were leaked.

“Maybe people just don’t understand what we're trying to achieve and maybe they don’t understand the success that we've had.”

Fleming said he views the establishment of eight permanent northern doctors out of the 48 who graduated in the last two years as a positive step.

A $100-million B.C. government program devotes about $90,000 in subsidies for each medical student at the Prince George Campus, with the intention of having them stay in the province’s north once they graduate.

But the students are under no obligation to do so.

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