L’Odyssée (1850). Artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

“While CaRMS is officially and visibly bilingual, there are barriers to matching between English- and French- speaking medical schools that extend beyond language. Notably, there are different research traditions and other cultural distinctions with respect to student evaluation and support. Additional electives for unmatched students, for example, are not offered in French-speaking medical schools. While many English-speaking schools have extensive research and other opportunities that allow medical students to distinguish themselves for matching purposes, French-speaking schools have traditionally relied more extensively on letter grading to separate students (however, French-speaking schools have also now adopted pass/fail grading). Matching across linguistic divides between Quebec and the rest of Canada has therefore occurred somewhat sporadically.

When I re-applied through CaRMS the year after I did not match, a helpful note was eventually added to the front page of the Dean’s letter, which mentioned my linguistic adversity. Though my language issues were noted to various degrees in my evaluations, having a senior administrator acknowledge language as a factor in my overall record was likely crucial in my securing interviews in the second round. My own explanations, given in the first round, may have been simply dismissed as excuses – I had naively believed that the practical challenges of bilingualism, which also lie at the core of our national identity, would have merited some additional consideration.”

More on A CaRMS Odyssey via CMAJ.

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