One of Canada's top medical schools says it is changing its admissions process, hoping to reduce “systemic barriers” facing low-income and diverse candidates seeking to become doctors.

The School of Medicine at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says the key change to its new process, which comes into effect this fall for 2025 admissions, is a lottery system that it calls the first of its kind in Canada.

Queen's says it has had to apply higher cutoff points for parts of the application package -- like scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Casper situational judgment test and grade point average -- in order to manage high numbers of applicants.

It says those higher benchmarks can disadvantage certain candidates, partly due to potentially “inherent biases” within the tests.

Queen's says the new process will have an “early-phase” lottery system, whereby randomly selected candidates who meet the standard MCAT, Casper and GPA thresholds will move on to the interview stage.

Dr. Jane Philpott, the dean of Queen's Health Sciences, says this will help “level the playing field.”

“We have thousands of qualified medical school applicants each year who would make excellent doctors. Our new admissions process will give them equal opportunity to be selected for the interview stage,” she said in a press release.

The new system will “encourage applications from a wider range of students and encourage people to apply at all life stages and from all backgrounds  by bringing down barriers in the application and screening process,” the university said in the release.

Dr. Eugenia Piliotis, an associate dean of Queen's undergraduate medical education program, said “increased diversity and life experience in our medical school will lead to more diversity in the health workforce.”

“To support health equity, all communities need to see themselves reflected in their care providers.”

The university said it is also creating a new Black student recruitment pathway in a second phase of its revised admissions process.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024.