EDUCATION. Many students who graduated in medicine in Sweden last year state, in their responses to the Swedish Medical Association’s questionnaire, that they feel they were subjected to negative gender discrimination in the course of their education. Nineteen percent of all the respondents — 33 percent in Gothenburg — stated that, at some stage during their studies, they perceived that they were treated differently by teachers or supervisors on the basis of gender.
This finding comes from the Swedish Medical Association’s broad undergraduate education survey in 2020, aimed at helping to improve medical education and the students’ situation. Overall, the report shows that Swedish medical training and education continues to be of high quality, and that as many as 96 percent of new graduates in medicine believe their medical education has provided them with good prospects of employment as a doctor.
Everyone should feel welcome
However, the report also points to shortcomings in their study environment. As high a proportion as 19 percent of the respondents stated that, at some point during their education, they felt that they were being given negative gender-related special treatment. In Gothenburg, as many as 33 percent declared that they had experienced negative discrimination due to their gender, and an article in the daily Göteborgs-Posten also drew attention to this finding during the weekend.
“It’s immensely important for everyone to feel welcome on our medical study program. Now we need to produce clearer documentation, so that we can understand the mechanisms behind the figures reported and find solutions to improve the situation. So that we can identify the problems, we’d be grateful if students could report their experience, in course evaluations for example, where we specifically ask whether they’ve experienced any form of discrimination,” says Agneta Ekman, Acting Vice-Dean for Education at Sahlgrenska Academy.
Active efforts required
Linnéa Mundin, Chair of the Sahlgrenska Academy Student Union (SAKS), also thinks the report highlights a serious and important problem.
“I personally haven’t heard about individual incidents. But the result isn’t surprising — it’s consistent with the prevalence in society as a whole. Clearly, we must work actively to manage students’ perceptions of special treatment, regardless of the basis for discrimination,” she comments.
Work in progress
In order for the students to enjoy a safe, secure work environment irrespective of their gender and background, Sahlgrenska Academy, in collaboration with SAKS and the University of Gothenburg Student Unions (GUS), has set up a project, ‘An easy way in’ (En enkel väg in). This provides support and help for students who have experienced discrimination. The project has recently published a report in which experience gained in the course of the project has been compiled, and proposals on how the work should proceed are put forward.
Another example of where the issue of negative discrimination is highlighted is a new qualitative target for the new medical program in the University of Gothenburg. This fall, when the program starts, there will be a local qualitative target on gender equality connected with human rights and discrimination.
“Since we don’t have good enough documentation, we can’t know for sure which teaching situations may be associated most clearly with perceived special treatment. In some cases, the incidents that have emerged took place during clinical training placements. There, we need to work with the care services to safeguard our students’ work environment, both during their education and also subsequently, during their working life,” says Agneta Ekman.
The questionnaire was sent to the members of the Swedish Medical Association who completed their medical degrees during the first eight months of last year. These totaled just over half of all doctors who graduated during the period. The response rate was approximately 40 percent. Of the 268 newly qualified doctors who responded, 51 had taken their medical degree at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
The questions in the questionnaire were based largely on current qualitative targets, and focused on how good the former students’ prospects of working as a doctor conditions were, thanks to their education. Another aspect emphasized by the survey was the perception of negative discrimination on the part of the respondents’ teachers and supervisors.
- Report on the quality of the Medical Program, in Swedish (a bar chart showing responses concerning negative special treatment may be found on page 23, followed by an analysis on page 25): https://slf.se/app/uploads/2021/04/om-lakarutbildningens-kvalitet2020.pdf
- Proposal report from the ‘An easy way in’ (En enkel väg in) project at Sahlgrenska Academy, published in April 2021, in Swedish with a brief summary in English: https://studentportal.gu.se/digitalAssets/1788/1788230_f–rslagsrapport-fr–n-en-enkel-v–g-in.pdf
BY: ELIN LINDSTRÖM