Facts & figures

  • 20% MD students from non-science educational backgrounds
  • 25% MD students from international settings
  • 25% MD students from rural or regional areas
  • Highest intake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the MD 2020

New medical curriculum strives for diversity

20 April 2020
Diversity and cultural safety are core values of Sydney Medical School
Sydney's Doctor of Medicine program accepts students from a wide range of educational and cultural backgrounds, strengthening the learning environment and preparing graduates to work in multidisciplinary health teams.

In 2020, a major overhaul to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) curriculum was launched after Australian Medical Council Accreditation. 

The new program offers enhanced learning opportunities for clinical placements, options for students to delve more deeply into areas of interest, a final preparation for practice year to make students more ready for the workforce and an enhanced curriculum in Indigenous Health.

With teamwork a key component of the course, every student has an opportunity to share their unique experiences and approach problems differently, strengthening the preparedness of the graduates to work in a multidisciplinary health team.

Benefits of the new curriculum

Professor Cheryl Jones, Head of School and Dean at Sydney Medical School, believes the new curriculum facilitates a more rounded graduate with capacity to adapt to the rapidly changing health care system.

“The new curriculum encompasses aspects which allow students to explore their own interests through personalised pathways* and dedicated time toward a research project of their own choice. In this way we feel that our students will be engaged, well rounded and community minded as they embark on their career in medicine,” she said.


Preparing non-science students for medicine 

When moving from the former MD curriculum to the new MD2020, Sydney Medical School (SMS) freed up time in the early years for clinical exposure through development of a highly innovative online foundational knowledge course.

This course was designed by Dr Rosa Howard, a lecturer in SMS, and is open to students on enrolment into the MD degree. The course prepares students for entry into the MD program by ensuring a baseline knowledge in anatomy, physiology, molecular and cell biology, and is supported by weekly biomedical tutorials for students in their first year of medicine according to need.*

Patrick Ryan, a current Doctor of Medicine student with a combined undergraduate degree in arts and law was positive about his first experiences of the course.

“I was quite worried coming into this course as a non-science student, but I have really enjoyed the first month,” he said.

“The early release of the online foundational course (prior to starting the MD) was particularly useful, and gave the non-science students time to get our heads around a lot of terms and concepts at our own pace.”

“The early clinical exposure has also been great. It is nice to be in a workplace, seeing actual patients instead of textbook learning alone. It’s quite inspiring.”

We are also striving to increase the diversity of our cohort of medical students.

The Sydney MD program does not require an undergraduate degree in biomedical science prior to entry. This is a distinguishing feature of the University of Sydney’s MD, and is unlike several medical programs around the world.

Since this change occurred, Sydney Medical School has seen an influx of students from diverse educational backgrounds into the MD program including business, law, arts and engineering, complementing the cohort from science and health backgrounds.

Students from non-science backgrounds make up approximately 20 percent of the 2020 MD cohort.

Training culturally competent doctors

Sydney Medical School has also recently reaffirmed its commitment to cultural safety through a joint statement with the Sydney University Medical Students Society, and is working toward a vision of a culturally safe teaching, learning and research environment, which respects the voice of Australia’s First Nations peoples.

This has been led by a proud Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli man, Associate Professor Peter Malouf, Head of Indigenous Health, of the Sydney Medical Program who joined the University in 2019.

Further embodying this commitment, Professor Malouf introduced a cultural immersion day for Doctor of Medicine students.

He believes this initiative will support the students’ journey to become culturally competent doctors by gaining a greater understanding of our First Nations peoples’ culture.

“The Cultural Immersion Day seeks to ensure our MD students learn more about the rich culture of our First Nations peoples and their connection to country. Our graduates appreciation of our First Nations peoples ways of knowing, being and doing will be a big step towards increasing cultural safety in health care settings,”said Associate Professor Malouf.

Encouragingly, SMS has seen its largest intake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in 2020.

The School also welcomes students from rural and international settings as well as different cultural backgrounds. This year, approximately 25 percent of the cohort are international students from countries including Canada, Hong Kong, China, the UK and the United States of America.

Increasing the rural workforce

Professor Jane Bleasel, Director of the MD program welcomed the 25 percent of students of rural origin, which reflects our commitment to increasing the rural and regional workforce.

The Sydney MD places its students in rural clinical schools in Dubbo/Orange, Lismore and Broken Hill, and in 2022, SMS will launch a beginning to end, rural based cohort of the Sydney MD program in Dubbo.

“The diversity of our students in terms of their educational backgrounds, ethnicity, domestic metropolitan or rural background, and our international students all contribute something different to the program with the intention of enhancing the entire cohort’s understanding and experience toward providing healthcare in a local and global context,” said Professor Bleasel.

The University of Sydney School of Medicine is proud of the diversity within its Doctor of Medicine program and is continually evaluating its processes to enhance inclusivity. The School always encourages students from different educational, cultural or geographic locations to apply.

Applications for the Sydney based Doctor of Medicine open on 28 April 2020 at 10am. Review the 2021 domestic admissions guide or the 2021 international admissions guide for detailed steps on how to apply.

*These course opportunities are not currently available as a result of Covid-19.


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