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'The Doctor Is In': An Exploration of the Role of Affirmative Action in Medical School Admissions Policies in Addressing Geographic and Demographic Maldistribution of Physicians

Year: 2012
Working paper number: 311
Author: Gauld, Zoë
Unit: SSU
Abstract:
In recent years, the use of 'race'-based affirmative action at the University of Cape Town Medical School has become a highly contested subject. However, the practicality of implementing an alternative inequality-reducing policy remains unknown. The present study aims to discover whether is it possible to develop a multi-dimensional points system to replace the current 'race'-based affirmative action and what the impact of such a policy would be on the 'racial' demographics of the admitted student body and their likelihood of responding to South African healthcare needs. Based on the relevant existing literature, various point systems are developed, which award points for attributes such as rural origin or disadvantage, in addition to academic achievements. Subsequently, the impact of these point systems is assessed in comparison to the impact of the current 'race'-based affirmative action policy. The data suggest that within the context of the University of Cape Town Medical School, it is possible to utilise factors other than 'race' to create an effective affirmative action policy aimed at redressing inequality. Additionally, such a policy has promising implications for addressing both demographic and geographic maldistribution of South African physicians.
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