Medical schools should begin recruiting students at an early age, according guidelines (.pdf) recently published by the Medical Schools Council, an organization which represents the interest and ambitions of medical schools n the UK.

The advice, which was part of a set of guidelines designed to support medical schools build and grow their outreach activity, states that introductory activities (i.e. meeting people who work in medicine, visiting medical schools, participating in practical medial and science workshops) is the beginning of the journey to medicine and “introductory activities take place in primary school between the ages of seven and 11.”

Successful admission to medical school first comes from having aspiration to become a doctor or study medicine. And the Council says that medical schools should play role and contribute to raising aspirations to study medicine. “Medical schools engage with primary schools but sometimes it is overlooked and not part of a wider outreach program with limited considered targeting of schools,” the Council wrote. “We would encourage all medical schools to ensure they have a coordinated primary school program as part of their outreach activity.”

The guidelines state that children should be introduced to medicine. “It is about helping young people explore their interest, challenging stereotypes an jargon busting.” Specifically, this would involve several elements:

  1. Providing an introduction to higher education and medicine,
  2. Introducing medical staff and students to the young people to challenge stereotypes,
  3. Supporting young people to develop and explore their interest, introducing them to the range of possibilities,
  4. Encouraging young people to understand the link between hard work and opportunities,
  5. Developing an awareness in the young people of qualifications and route(s) to becoming a doctor,
  6. Engaging with parents and carers to dispel myths, allay fears, and to motivate them to support their child’s progression to higher education effectively, and
  7. Collaborating with others to utilize resources more effectively and thus engage with a greater range of schools as part of broader programs. And nothing too serious of course.The Council suggests that many of the activities within this age group be lively and fun and, where possible, tied into there initiatives within their primary school.

One school, St. George’s, University of London, is already putting this advice to work through its Primary Practice After School Club which offers students aged 9-11 the opportunity to learn more about medicine and healthcare by taking part in practical activities and developing new skills such as basic first aid and sign language. “Engaging children’s interest in human structures and functions in a lively, practical way and linking to first aid was very useful,” stated one of the school’s coordinators. “The homework book consolidated learning. You could see the pride on their faces as they were presented with their certificate and stethoscopes.”

The guidelines were published in “A Journey to Medicine Outreach Guidance” in December 2014.