Photo/IllutrationDemonstrators gather outside the main entrance of Tokyo Medical University in Shinjuku Ward on Aug. 3 following revelations it discriminated against female applicants. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Tokyo Medical University’s rigging of entrance exam scores in favor of male applicants was greeted with widespread condemnation by female doctors and medical students, but surprisingly, some said it made sense.

The university in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward said exam scores were manipulated because many graduates tend to leave the medical profession due to the long hours and to raise families.

A third-year medical student at a national university in Kyushu recalled an instructor at a cram school saying that when students’ scores are tied, male applicants and those fresh from high school stand a better chance of admittance because doctors need to be physically tough to endure the grueling hours.

Even so, the student aged 28 expressed disbelief that exam scores were doctored. She also passed Tokyo Medical University's entrance exam two years ago.

“I had believed that in an entrance exam, you are evaluated strictly for what you did in the exam,” she said. “Applicants toil very hard to raise their scores by even a single point. It's a dirty trick to manipulate the results without saying anything.”

She took issue with the university's contention that female doctors tend to quit, referring to the fact that many women juggle their careers and child-rearing.

The student also said she was stunned by a doctor friend’s decision to give up having a child because she believed that asking for leave would reflect badly on her aspiring career.

“A workplace where women find it hard to continue working must be one where men feel the same way,” the student said. “The work environment must be friendly to both men and women.”

A doctor of cardiovascular internal medicine working at a hospital in the Kanto region denounced the university’s approach as “something akin to fraud.”

But the doctor, who is in her 30s, acknowledged that “many in the medical world have resigned themselves to a reality in which doctors on the front lines of health care are expected to work a punishing schedule."

Another doctor who is in her 40s and stopped practicing to raise a child showed empathy for hospitals that shun female physicians.

“It is a fact that many female doctors quit to give birth and raise a child, so I understand that hospitals don’t want to hire too many female doctors,” she said.

The woman previously worked in the department of plastic surgery of a Tokyo hospital, but found the job physically exhausting as she was often summoned to provide emergency care at night.

Although she moved to a different department of a university hospital, she later decided to leave to bring up a child.

She said part of the reason for quitting was that she felt “guilty not being able to work full time” due to her child-rearing responsibilities.

The Japan Medical Women’s Association blasted Tokyo Medical University for discriminating against female students.

“(The university) should strive to create a workplace where women can continue to work, rather than being concerned that women may give up their job,” the association said.

A 2012 survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications found that 41.8 percent of doctors put in at least 60 hours a week, higher than any other professions.

A 2016 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that Japan, at about 21 percent, ranked at the bottom of a list of countries for which data is available in terms of the ratio of female doctors.

Japan has been consistently placed at the lowest rung of rankings since 2000.

The ratio of female doctors has slowly been inching up, however.

Now, about one-third of medical students are women, according to a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.