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1.  Disciplined doctors: Does the sex of a doctor matter? A cross-sectional study examining the association between a doctor's sex and receiving sanctions against their medical registration 
BMJ Open  2014;4(8):e005405.
To examine the association between doctors’ sex and receiving sanctions on their medical registration, while controlling for other potentially confounding variables.
Cross-sectional study.
The General Medical Council (GMC)'s List of Registered Medical Practitioners (LRMP) database of doctors practising in the UK.
All doctors on the GMC's LRMP on 29 May 2013. The database included all doctors who are or have been registered to practise medicine in the UK since October 2005. The exposure of interest was doctor's sex. Confounding variables included years since primary medical qualification, world region of primary medical qualification and specialty.
Outcome measures
Sanctions on a doctor's medical registration. Sanction types included warnings, undertakings, conditions, suspension or erasure from the register. Binary logistic regression modelling, controlling for confounders, described the association between the doctor's sex and sanctions on a doctor's medical registration.
Of the 329 542 doctors on the LRMP, 2697 (0.8%) had sanctions against their registration, 516 (19.1%) of whom were female. In the fully adjusted model, female doctors had nearly a third of the odds (OR: 0.37, 95% CI: 0.33 to 0.41) of having sanctions compared to male doctors. There was evidence that the association varies with specialty, with female doctors who had specialised as general practitioners being the least likely to receive sanctions compared with their male colleagues (OR: 0.26, 95% CI: 0.22 to 0.31).
Female doctors have reduced odds of receiving sanctions on their medical registration when compared with their male colleagues. This association remained after adjustment for the confounding factors. These results are representative of all doctors registered to practise in the UK. Further exploration of why doctors’ sex may impact their professional performance is underway.
PMCID: PMC4127941  PMID: 25104057
2.  Construct-level predictive validity of educational attainment and intellectual aptitude tests in medical student selection: meta-regression of six UK longitudinal studies 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:243.
Measures used for medical student selection should predict future performance during training. A problem for any selection study is that predictor-outcome correlations are known only in those who have been selected, whereas selectors need to know how measures would predict in the entire pool of applicants. That problem of interpretation can be solved by calculating construct-level predictive validity, an estimate of true predictor-outcome correlation across the range of applicant abilities.
Construct-level predictive validities were calculated in six cohort studies of medical student selection and training (student entry, 1972 to 2009) for a range of predictors, including A-levels, General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs)/O-levels, and aptitude tests (AH5 and UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)). Outcomes included undergraduate basic medical science and finals assessments, as well as postgraduate measures of Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom (MRCP(UK)) performance and entry in the Specialist Register. Construct-level predictive validity was calculated with the method of Hunter, Schmidt and Le (2006), adapted to correct for right-censorship of examination results due to grade inflation.
Meta-regression analyzed 57 separate predictor-outcome correlations (POCs) and construct-level predictive validities (CLPVs). Mean CLPVs are substantially higher (.450) than mean POCs (.171). Mean CLPVs for first-year examinations, were high for A-levels (.809; CI: .501 to .935), and lower for GCSEs/O-levels (.332; CI: .024 to .583) and UKCAT (mean = .245; CI: .207 to .276). A-levels had higher CLPVs for all undergraduate and postgraduate assessments than did GCSEs/O-levels and intellectual aptitude tests. CLPVs of educational attainment measures decline somewhat during training, but continue to predict postgraduate performance. Intellectual aptitude tests have lower CLPVs than A-levels or GCSEs/O-levels.
Educational attainment has strong CLPVs for undergraduate and postgraduate performance, accounting for perhaps 65% of true variance in first year performance. Such CLPVs justify the use of educational attainment measure in selection, but also raise a key theoretical question concerning the remaining 35% of variance (and measurement error, range restriction and right-censorship have been taken into account). Just as in astrophysics, ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ are posited to balance various theoretical equations, so medical student selection must also have its ‘dark variance’, whose nature is not yet properly characterized, but explains a third of the variation in performance during training. Some variance probably relates to factors which are unpredictable at selection, such as illness or other life events, but some is probably also associated with factors such as personality, motivation or study skills.
PMCID: PMC3827328  PMID: 24229353
Medical student selection; Undergraduate performance; Postgraduate performance; Educational attainment; Aptitude tests; Criterion-related construct validity; Range restriction; Right censorship; Grade inflation; Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm
3.  The Academic Backbone: longitudinal continuities in educational achievement from secondary school and medical school to MRCP(UK) and the specialist register in UK medical students and doctors 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:242.
Selection of medical students in the UK is still largely based on prior academic achievement, although doubts have been expressed as to whether performance in earlier life is predictive of outcomes later in medical school or post-graduate education. This study analyses data from five longitudinal studies of UK medical students and doctors from the early 1970s until the early 2000s. Two of the studies used the AH5, a group test of general intelligence (that is, intellectual aptitude). Sex and ethnic differences were also analyzed in light of the changing demographics of medical students over the past decades.
Data from five cohort studies were available: the Westminster Study (began clinical studies from 1975 to 1982), the 1980, 1985, and 1990 cohort studies (entered medical school in 1981, 1986, and 1991), and the University College London Medical School (UCLMS) Cohort Study (entered clinical studies in 2005 and 2006). Different studies had different outcome measures, but most had performance on basic medical sciences and clinical examinations at medical school, performance in Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP(UK)) examinations, and being on the General Medical Council Specialist Register.
Correlation matrices and path analyses are presented. There were robust correlations across different years at medical school, and medical school performance also predicted MRCP(UK) performance and being on the GMC Specialist Register. A-levels correlated somewhat less with undergraduate and post-graduate performance, but there was restriction of range in entrants. General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)/O-level results also predicted undergraduate and post-graduate outcomes, but less so than did A-level results, but there may be incremental validity for clinical and post-graduate performance. The AH5 had some significant correlations with outcome, but they were inconsistent. Sex and ethnicity also had predictive effects on measures of educational attainment, undergraduate, and post-graduate performance. Women performed better in assessments but were less likely to be on the Specialist Register. Non-white participants generally underperformed in undergraduate and post-graduate assessments, but were equally likely to be on the Specialist Register. There was a suggestion of smaller ethnicity effects in earlier studies.
The existence of the Academic Backbone concept is strongly supported, with attainment at secondary school predicting performance in undergraduate and post-graduate medical assessments, and the effects spanning many years. The Academic Backbone is conceptualized in terms of the development of more sophisticated underlying structures of knowledge ('cognitive capital’ and 'medical capital’). The Academic Backbone provides strong support for using measures of educational attainment, particularly A-levels, in student selection.
PMCID: PMC3827330  PMID: 24229333
Academic Backbone; Secondary school attainment; Undergraduate medical education; Post-graduate medical education; Longitudinal analyses; Continuities; Medical student selection; Cognitive capital; Medical capital; Aptitude tests
4.  Ethnicity and academic performance in UK trained doctors and medical students: systematic review and meta-analysis 
Objective To determine whether the ethnicity of UK trained doctors and medical students is related to their academic performance.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources Online databases PubMed, Scopus, and ERIC; Google and Google Scholar; personal knowledge; backwards and forwards citations; specific searches of medical education journals and medical education conference abstracts.
Study selection The included quantitative reports measured the performance of medical students or UK trained doctors from different ethnic groups in undergraduate or postgraduate assessments. Exclusions were non-UK assessments, only non-UK trained candidates, only self reported assessment data, only dropouts or another non-academic variable, obvious sampling bias, or insufficient details of ethnicity or outcomes.
Results 23 reports comparing the academic performance of medical students and doctors from different ethnic groups were included. Meta-analyses of effects from 22 reports (n=23 742) indicated candidates of “non-white” ethnicity underperformed compared with white candidates (Cohen’s d=−0.42, 95% confidence interval −0.50 to −0.34; P<0.001). Effects in the same direction and of similar magnitude were found in meta-analyses of undergraduate assessments only, postgraduate assessments only, machine marked written assessments only, practical clinical assessments only, assessments with pass/fail outcomes only, assessments with continuous outcomes only, and in a meta-analysis of white v Asian candidates only. Heterogeneity was present in all meta-analyses.
Conclusion Ethnic differences in academic performance are widespread across different medical schools, different types of exam, and in undergraduates and postgraduates. They have persisted for many years and cannot be dismissed as atypical or local problems. We need to recognise this as an issue that probably affects all of UK medical and higher education. More detailed information to track the problem as well as further research into its causes is required. Such actions are necessary to ensure a fair and just method of training and of assessing current and future doctors.
PMCID: PMC3050989  PMID: 21385802
5.  The effect of a brief social intervention on the examination results of UK medical students: a cluster randomised controlled trial 
Ethnic minority (EM) medical students and doctors underperform academically, but little evidence exists on how to ameliorate the problem. Psychologists Cohen et al. recently demonstrated that a written self-affirmation intervention substantially improved EM adolescents' school grades several months later. Cohen et al.'s methods were replicated in the different setting of UK undergraduate medical education.
All 348 Year 3 white (W) and EM students at one UK medical school were randomly allocated to an intervention condition (writing about one's own values) or a control condition (writing about another's values), via their tutor group. Students and assessors were blind to the existence of the study. Group comparisons on post-intervention written and OSCE (clinical) assessment scores adjusted for baseline written assessment scores were made using two-way analysis of covariance. All assessment scores were transformed to z-scores (mean = 0 standard deviation = 1) for ease of comparison. Comparisons between types of words used in essays were calculated using t-tests. The study was covered by University Ethics Committee guidelines.
Groups were statistically identical at baseline on demographic and psychological factors, and analysis was by intention to treat [intervention group EM n = 95, W n = 79; control group EM n = 77; W n = 84]. As predicted, there was a significant ethnicity by intervention interaction [F(4,334) = 5.74; p = 0.017] on the written assessment. Unexpectedly, this was due to decreased scores in the W intervention group [mean difference = 0.283; (95% CI = 0.093 to 0.474] not improved EM intervention group scores [mean difference = -0.060 (95% CI = -0.268 to 0.148)]. On the OSCE, both W and EM intervention groups outperformed controls [mean difference = 0.261; (95%CI = -0.047 to -0.476; p = 0.013)]. The intervention group used more optimistic words (p < 0.001) and more "I" and "self" pronouns in their essays (p < 0.001), whereas the control group used more "other" pronouns (p < 0.001) and more negations (p < 0.001).
Cohen et al.'s finding that a brief self-affirmation task narrowed the ethnic academic achievement gap was replicated on the written assessment but against expectations, this was due to reduced performance in the W group. On the OSCE, the intervention improved performance in both W and EM groups. In the intervention condition, participants tended to write about themselves and used more optimistic words than in the control group, indicating the task was completed as requested. The study shows that minimal interventions can have substantial educational outcomes several months later, which has implications for the multitude of seemingly trivial changes in teaching that are made on an everyday basis, whose consequences are never formally assessed.
PMCID: PMC2717066  PMID: 19552810
6.  Ethnic stereotypes and the underachievement of UK medical students from ethnic minorities: qualitative study 
Objective To explore ethnic stereotypes of UK medical students in the context of academic underachievement of medical students from ethnic minorities.
Design Qualitative study using semistructured one to one interviews and focus groups.
Setting A London medical school.
Participants 27 year 3 medical students and 25 clinical teachers, purposively sampled for ethnicity and sex.
Methods Data were analysed using the theory of stereotype threat (a psychological phenomenon thought to negatively affect the performance of people from ethnic minorities in educational contexts) and the constant comparative method.
Results Participants believed the student-teacher relationship was vital for clinical learning. Teachers had strong perceptions about “good” clinical students (interactive, keen, respectful), and some described being aggressive towards students whom they perceived as quiet, unmotivated, and unwilling. Students had equally strong perceptions about “good” clinical teachers (encouraging, interested, interactive, non-aggressive). Students and teachers had concordant and well developed perceptions of the “typical” Asian clinical medical student who was considered over-reliant on books, poor at communicating with patients, too quiet during clinical teaching sessions, and unmotivated owing to being pushed into studying medicine by ambitious parents. Stereotypes of the “typical” white student were less well developed: autonomous, confident, and outgoing team player. Direct discrimination was not reported.
Conclusions Asian clinical medical students may be more likely than white students to be perceived stereotypically and negatively, which may reduce their learning by jeopardising their relationships with teachers. The existence of a negative stereotype about their group also raises the possibility that underperformance of medical students from ethnic minorities may be partly due to stereotype threat. It is recommended that clinical teachers be given opportunities and training to encourage them to get to know their students as individuals and thus foster positive educational relationships with them.
PMCID: PMC2517162  PMID: 18710846
7.  The educational background and qualifications of UK medical students from ethnic minorities 
UK medical students and doctors from ethnic minorities underperform in undergraduate and postgraduate examinations. Although it is assumed that white (W) and non-white (NW) students enter medical school with similar qualifications, neither the qualifications of NW students, nor their educational background have been looked at in detail. This study uses two large-scale databases to examine the educational attainment of W and NW students.
Attainment at GCSE and A level, and selection for medical school in relation to ethnicity, were analysed in two separate databases. The 10th cohort of the Youth Cohort Study provided data on 13,698 students taking GCSEs in 1999 in England and Wales, and their subsequent progression to A level. UCAS provided data for 1,484,650 applicants applying for admission to UK universities and colleges in 2003, 2004 and 2005, of whom 52,557 applied to medical school, and 23,443 were accepted.
NW students achieve lower grades at GCSE overall, although achievement at the highest grades was similar to that of W students. NW students have higher educational aspirations, being more likely to go on to take A levels, especially in science and particularly chemistry, despite relatively lower achievement at GCSE. As a result, NW students perform less well at A level than W students, and hence NW students applying to university also have lower A-level grades than W students, both generally, and for medical school applicants. NW medical school entrants have lower A level grades than W entrants, with an effect size of about -0.10.
The effect size for the difference between white and non-white medical school entrants is about B0.10, which would mean that for a typical medical school examination there might be about 5 NW failures for each 4 W failures. However, this effect can only explain a portion of the overall effect size found in undergraduate and postgraduate examinations of about -0.32.
PMCID: PMC2359745  PMID: 18416818
8.  Even one star at A level could be "too little, too late" for medical student selection 
More and more medical school applicants in England and Wales are gaining the maximum grade at A level of AAA, and the UK Government has now agreed to pilot the introduction of a new A* grade. This study assessed the likely utility of additional grades of A* or of A**.
Statistical analysis of university selection data collected by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), consisting of data from 1,484,650 applicants to UCAS for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, of whom 23,628 were medical school applicants, and of these 14,510 were medical school entrants from the UK, aged under 21, and with three or four A level results. The main outcome measure was the number of points scored by applicants in their best three A level subjects.
Censored normal distributions showed a good fit to the data using maximum likelihood modelling. If it were the case that A* grades had already been introduced, then at present about 11% of medical school applicants and 18% of entrants would achieve the maximum score of 3 A*s. Projections for the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 suggest that about 26%, 35% and 46% of medical school entrants would have 3 A* grades.
Although A* grades at A level will help in medical student selection, within a decade, a third of medical students will gain maximum grades. While revising the A level system there is a strong argument, as proposed in the Tomlinson Report, for introducing an A** grade.
PMCID: PMC2335100  PMID: 18394196
9.  'It gives you an understanding you can't get from any book.' The relationship between medical students' and doctors' personal illness experiences and their performance: a qualitative and quantitative study 
Anecdotes abound about doctors' personal illness experiences and the effect they have on their empathy and care of patients. We formally investigated the relationship between doctors' and medical students' personal illness experiences, their examination results, preparedness for clinical practice, learning and professional attitudes and behaviour towards patients.
Newly-qualified UK doctors in 2005 (n = 2062/4784), and two cohorts of students at one London medical school (n = 640/749) participated in the quantitative arm of the study. 37 Consultants, 1 Specialist Registrar, 2 Clinical Skills Tutors and 25 newly-qualified doctors participated in the qualitative arm. Newly-qualified doctors and medical students reported their personal illness experiences in a questionnaire. Doctors' experiences were correlated with self-reported preparedness for their new clinical jobs. Students' experiences were correlated with their examination results, and self-reported anxiety and depression. Interviews with clinical teachers, newly-qualified doctors and senior doctors qualitatively investigated how personal illness experiences affect learning, professional attitudes, and behaviour.
85.5% of newly-qualified doctors and 54.4% of medical students reported personal illness experiences. Newly-qualified doctors who had been ill felt less prepared for starting work (p < 0.001), but those who had only experienced illness in a relative or friend felt more prepared (p = 0.02). Clinical medical students who had been ill were more anxious (p = 0.01) and had lower examination scores (p = 0.006). Doctors felt their personal illness experiences helped them empathise and communicate with patients. Medical students with more life experience were perceived as more mature, empathetic, and better learners; but illness at medical school was recognised to impede learning.
The majority of the medical students and newly qualified doctors we studied reported personal illness experiences, and these experiences were associated with lower undergraduate examination results, higher anxiety, and lower preparedness. However reflection on such experiences may have improved professional attitudes such as empathy and compassion for patients. Future research is warranted in this area.
PMCID: PMC2211477  PMID: 18053231
10.  What predicts performance during clinical psychology training? 
While the question of who is likely to be selected for clinical psychology training has been studied, evidence on performance during training is scant. This study explored data from seven consecutive intakes of the UK's largest clinical psychology training course, aiming to identify what factors predict better or poorer outcomes.
Longitudinal cross-sectional study using prospective and retrospective data.
Characteristics at application were analysed in relation to a range of in-course assessments for 274 trainee clinical psychologists who had completed or were in the final stage of their training.
Trainees were diverse in age, pre-training experience, and academic performance at A-level (advanced level certificate required for university admission), but not in gender or ethnicity. Failure rates across the three performance domains (academic, clinical, research) were very low, suggesting that selection was successful in screening out less suitable candidates. Key predictors of good performance on the course were better A-levels and better degree class. Non-white students performed less well on two outcomes. Type and extent of pre-training clinical experience on outcomes had varied effects on outcome. Research supervisor ratings emerged as global indicators and predicted nearly all outcomes, but may have been biased as they were retrospective. Referee ratings predicted only one of the seven outcomes examined, and interview ratings predicted none of the outcomes.
Predicting who will do well or poorly in clinical psychology training is complex. Interview and referee ratings may well be successful in screening out unsuitable candidates, but appear to be a poor guide to performance on the course.
Practitioner points
While referee and selection interview ratings did not predict performance during training, they may be useful in screening out unsuitable candidates at the application stageHigh school final academic performance was the best predictor of good performance during clinical psychology trainingThe findings are derived from seven cohorts of one training course, the UK's largest; they cannot be assumed to generalize to all training courses
PMCID: PMC4153958  PMID: 24206117
clinical psychology; training; performance; outcome

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