A glut of Greek doctors

Medical school has always attracted the best students who have to work hard to get through the tough entrance exams. However, they then find that school is often closed because of student demonstrations and their ranks have swelled with fellow students who have transferred from other disciplines or due to favorable entry conditions granted to certain applicants (such as children of large families, athletes, ambassadors’ children, Cypriots and Greek Muslims from Thrace) In the year 2004, 232 new students were enrolled on the basis of entrance exams but the number rose to a total of 384 registered in the first year. In 2005, the total number of students in medical school was 4,000. After six years of studies, a medical graduate has to wait up to eight years to be accepted in a course of specialization. Not surprisingly at this stage, one in three have already regretted their choice. Many leave and go abroad, some remain unemployed or work part time in small diagnosis centers. Greece has the oldest specialized doctors in Europe, many of them with primary school-age children. Nevertheless doctors still enjoy high status in Greek society. How else could one explain the fact that numbers have more than doubled since 1980. Every year the Athens Medical Association receives 600 new members. Today there is a doctor for every 150 inhabitants in Athens and Thessaloniki when the figure for London is one doctor for every 475 inhabitants. The ratio though is much lower for the provinces: In Viotia there is a doctor for every 1,500 inhabitants and only one pathologist for 14,000 inhabitants. The majority of doctors only cover seven of the 40 specializations, namely pathology, bio-pathology, obstetrics-gynecology, pediatrics, cardiology, surgery and ophthalmology. The other specializations are not popular. Knowledge is no longer rewarded. Today only young people who have families that can support them for 10 years can enroll in medical school.

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