Monday, 18 April 2011

MD? You're a Doctor of Medicine!

Doctor dream at a nightmare $230,000 from The Sunday Age quotes Brigid Wolf saying, "Nearly a quarter of a million dollars for a 21-year-old is a lot of money to think about going into debt for. Who wants to have a mortgage by the time they turn 25 without a house?"

Ms Wolf is one of 55 domestic full-fee paying medico wannabes enrolled in the new Doctor of Medicine (MD) at Melbourne Uni commencing this year. Rebranding its MBBS as a masters degree MD has allowed Melbourne Medical School to sidestep Labor's 2009 ban on accepting full-fee paying domestic undergrads, which was designed to improve access and equity in tertiary education. The controversy caused since the inception of MD has not been obscure.

Accredited by the AMC (Australian Medical Council) to the same level as other MBBS and BMed (see below for subtleties), Melbourne's MD has given birth to a new AMSA policy, adopted this March, which states MD's own birth could create "confusion and unequal treatment" of medico wannabes and medicos, amongst other undesirables.

"This is not acceptable", AMA pronounces in its latest e-dit (is this a misfortunate play on edict?). Its president Andrew Pesce argues that the financial burden could distort specialty choices. ''If you graduate with a debt of $250,000, are you likely to take up lower-paid specialties such as general practice or are you going to want to be an orthopaedic surgeon or a plastic surgeon?" I think this line of argument is a bit too novel for some reason. But he topped off with the line "preventing people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from studying medicine". Wolf's parents had to remortgage their home though I'm sure many wealthy parents out there have no qualms about paying for their medico wannabes. Which is perfectly reasonable.

In Melbourne's defence, its dean of medicine Jim Angus said government funding for HEC places was "insufficient to give us a quality medical education". The AMC also recognises the uni has accounted for "the additional academic expectations of programs at master degree level" in their accreditation report published this year.

Apparently Western Australia med may be considering full-fee places next year as well, as mentioned in the same Sunday Age article.

I must declare I'm not a student at Melbourne but I haven't ruled out med there, which must be quite worthwhile as I do wonder why Wolf didn't just pick another school. "When I got the offer of a full-fee place I was devastated. I thought I was going to have to knock back everything I really wanted to do." The article could well be anything but a nightmare of a read for Melbourne's PR.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Uni dilutes disadvantaged intake reported that Melbourne has raised the entry ATAR of its medicine-leading Biomedicine degree from 88 to 92 for poor and rural students because of high demands. Considering this year's normal CSP cut-off of 98.45, it expects next year's cohort would see 35% of disadvantaged students, compared to this year's 48%. I'm sympathetic to both sides.  It really depends on your vantage point, which may be heavily aligned with self interest.

(thank you nucleophilic addition-elimination (verified human, not michael crichton's) for pointing out the correct 2011 CSP cut-off in comments)


  1. Some of the FFPs in unimelb may actually have been easier to attain than CSPs or BMPs in other unis. It does seem to be the case by the offer scores posted on the forum.

    By the way though, the biomed cutoff for locals this year without special consideration/SEAS was 98.45. The "minimum ATAR" unimelb are willing to accept without SEAS/Access Melbourne is 95, and that was the clearly in cutoff for 2008 and 2009 entry, but since then it has increased due to demand (overfull biology labs in first year may have been a contributing factor in the increase).

  2. You're right. This year's cut-off for CSPs is 98.45. 95 was last year's. I've made the correction.

    The jump might also be a delayed effect of the Melbourne Model.

    I haven't looked at the scorces for FFPs at Melb yet. So thanks for noting that. Cheers.