It's official: New medical school for training doctors to open at SFU Surrey

Nov 28 2022, 9:23 pm

In a bid to help address BC’s immense shortage of doctors and nurses, the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University (SFU) will be home to the province’s second medical school.

The provincial government has officially announced the establishment of the medical school within Surrey City Centre, which would grow SFU’s already strong presence in the area.

This fulfills one of the promises made by the BC NDP during the Fall 2020 provincial election campaign.

During today’s press conference, Premier David Eby announced $4.9 million in startup funding for the new SFU medical school, and the appointment of Dr. Roger Strasser as the interim dean of the faculty to provide strategic leadership and planning for the launch of the faculty. Strasser was the founding dean and CEO of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the most recently accredited medical school in Canada.

“It’s important that it’s headquartered here in Surrey. Surrey is going to be our largest community, but it’s already the centre of so much dynamism of BC life — economic, cultural, and political,” said BC health minister Adrian Dix during the press conference.

“What’s happening here is profound and remarkable, and having this medical school here will be part of a vibrant community that is going to make a huge difference for future generations of our province.”

Earlier this year, the provincial government also provided $1.5 million to the university to support preliminary planning to support the creation of a business case.

When open, this will be the first new medical school in Western Canada in more than half a century. SFU and the provincial government are currently targeting September 2026 for the first student intake. This means the first new additional doctors trained by SFU will not graduate until the end of this decade at the earliest.

In addition to its own academic facilities, the SFU Surrey medical school is expected to use Surrey Memorial Hospital, located nearby, for much of its clinical program needs.

“A new medical school right here on SFU’s Surrey campus represents a significant step towards training the doctors of tomorrow,” said Eby.

“It’s a very exciting time for SFU and British Columbians.”

Currently, the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Faculty of Medicine is BC’s only medical school, with its facilities clustered around UBC Hospital, and its clinical programs spanning off-campus facilities such as Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital, and Surrey Memorial Hospital.

UBC’s medical school accepts 288 first-year medical students and 362 first-year resident doctors each year. In addition to opening a medical school at SFU, the provincial government is also expanding the capacity of UBC’s medical school with 40 additional first-year seats and 88 additional residency seats, which will be phased starting in 2023.

But due to a range of reasons, including housing affordability and competitive compensation, the provincial government is facing issues with retaining doctors within BC following their training and graduation. BC is facing major doctor shortages in both the hospital setting and within family practices.

The opening of the new SFU Surrey medical school is just one of the multi-faceted strategies for addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals. Last week, the provincial government announced it will relax some measures that will allow more internationally trained doctors to work in BC, creating a fast-tracked process for their licenses to be recognized.

In recent years, the provincial government has also supported the strategic opening of the BC Centre for Agritech Innovation and Quantum Algorithms Institute within SFU Surrey.

The university also has plans to build a major purpose-built SFU Surrey campus expansion immediately north of Central City — replacing the surface parking lot and TransLink bus exchange next to SkyTrain Surrey Central Station.

UBC has also been taking notice of Surrey’s growth and the importance of having a major presence within Surrey City Centre in the future, possibly a student headcount as large as 10,000.

Last year, UBC acquired a three-acre property near Surrey Memorial Hospital for a new mixed-use development containing an academic campus. More recently, it acquired some office space next to the hospital for its Master of Physical Therapy program.

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