A STUDENT from one of Scotland's most disadvantaged neighbourhoods has spoken out over the difficulties she faced getting into medical school.

Joanne Martin, from Possilpark in Glasgow - the country's second most deprived area - has alway dreamed of being a doctor and achieved the minimum entry requirements to secure a place.

After completing her studies at Springburn Academy the 18-year-old applied to study medicine at the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, but was rejected by all of them.

After much persistence, a three month trip to Ghana to teach health and hygiene and an additional Open University course to try to strengthen her application Ms Martin, whose mother works as a part-time cleaner, was finally offered a conditional place by Aberdeen.

However, she feels the admissions system is heavily weighted against pupils from her background who do not have family experience of higher education and who do not get the same levels of private tuition or support available to pupils in private schools or those in middle class suburbs.

Her concerns come as new figures show medicine and veterinary science has one of the lowest entry levels from pupils from the most deprived parts of Scotland.

Just over five per cent of students who were accepted onto courses in 2013/14 came from the most deprived 20 per cent of areas under the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The average for all subjects is 12 per cent.

Ms Martin said she accepted medicine was one of the most competitive courses to apply for, with Edinburgh University receiving 2,150 applications for just 190 places.

She said: "I knew growing up that I didn't want to live in this area all my life and my dream was to become a doctor and travel around rural African villages to help others suffering from preventable diseases and educate them on way to manage and improve health.

"I stuck in at school, worked very hard and studied a lot and I was over the moon when I obtained the grades I need for medical school."

Ms Martin said she was desperate to get some experience to help her application and emailed more than 60 doctors, but only one accepted her offering a day in a biochemistry lab.

"It was very difficult to compete with other candidates who have doctors in their extended families and who have built up weeks of work experience."

When she was rejected she said she felt "crushed" particularly because she felt the feedback from institutions did not help her understand why she was being rejected.

She added: "I knew I was a little different than most applicants, but I was concerned I was being looked down upon because of my background and all I wanted was to be treated and looked at the same as the rest of the candidates.

"Trying to explain that I don't come from a private school, or a well-performing state school and I did not have the option to sit six Highers in 5th year was impossible."

Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland president-elect, called for universities to do more to widen access to medical schools.

She said: "It's hugely disappointing to see, for another year running, medicine and dentistry with a shockingly low representation of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

"While there are legitimate arguments about the unique nature of medicine and its competitive entry standards universities must be much more creative and bolder about the ways they recruit potential students.

"Looking beyond grades alone can allow universities to improve fair access and maintain, if not increase, the pool of talent they have available."

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said it was aware of the problems and was trying to help.

She said: "Universities run a programme called Reach to try and level the playing field for people applying to medical school and other fiercely competitive courses like veterinary medicine, law and architecture. Every university in Scotland with a medical school takes part in Reach.

"Applying to study medicine is such a tough process with extra demands placed on applicants including clinical aptitude tests and interviews. The right information, good advice, support and opportunities for practice are critical. Even with the best of intentions many parents and schools just aren't in a position to offer this. Reach aims to address this by working with a large number of schools in less privileged areas to level the field, giving applicants, their parents and teachers support throughout the process including advice on personal statements, coaching sessions, interview preparation and support finding relevant work experience."