Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by Allard John Keeley
Are Canada’s medical schools up to the task of providing Canada with its future supply of healthcare professionals? How good are they, and how do they rank against the best medical schools on the planet?
As the United States debates engages in a fierce debate over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it demonstrates how important a country’s healthcare system is to its voters and citizens in general. Quality of care is key, and one of the building blocks of any country’s health system is its medical schools. Canada’s healthcare system is a publicly funded, universal system which gives all people access to its clinics and hospitals but has challenges with wait times and the level of access in rural communities, for example. Nonetheless, it’s a good system that many countries would be glad to have.
But are Canada’s medical schools up to the task of providing Canada with its future supply of healthcare professionals? How good are they, and how do they rank against the best medical schools on the planet? We used our three world surveys – the QS Top Universities ranking; the Times Higher Education World ranking; and the US News & World Report Best schools ranking – to put together a composite ranking and find out which are Canada’s Top 6 Medical Schools.
As always, any university ranking depends on surveys of both professors and students and is therefore subjective to a certain degree. It’s an inexact science, so if your favourite school is not ranked, or is not ranked as highly as you think it should be, it’s ok to be upset. But you also have to realize that that’s the way it is with rankings. And rankings do give a good indication of reputation. And reputation is, at least in part, based on a school’s real results, whether in the quality of its research or in the success of its graduates in their medical careers.
So, here we have Canada’s Top 6 Medical Schools. Think of it as the future of our healthcare system because these schools will produce the top-flight professionals who will have your health, and sometimes even your life, in their hands in the coming years. Are our medical schools up to the task? Let’s find out!
6. University of Alberta – Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (Edmonton, AB)
In this case, U of A is clearly ahead of its two nearest competitors – University of Calgary and University of Ottawa – because of a much higher ranking in both the QS Top schools survey and the Times Higher Education World survey. It’s clear that by focusing on research through awards, grants, scholarships, as well as ensuring that researchers have the resources to do their jobs, U of Alberta has prioritized having a presence internationally in the generation, application, and dissemination of medical knowledge. It comes in with a worldwide composite ranking of 75th among medical schools around the world. That’s good enough to place it at 6th spot among Canadian medical schools.
5. University of Montreal – Faculty of Medicine (Montreal, QC)
Because the University of Montreal has always been primarily a francophone institution, the medical school has been the source of many of Quebec’s medical professionals. Founded 170 years ago, it has provided around a third of Quebec’s physicians and a significant number of the province’s healthcare professionals. That means close links to the provincial government in areas such as public health policy, but in research as well, seeing that Montreal is a biotech hub. The University has:
- 4 training hospitals or institutes in the Montreal area
- 5 training health and social service centres in Quebec
- 5 health & social service centres as well in Quebec
In other words, Quebec’s healthcare system depends to a large extent on the University of Montreal’s faculty of medicine. Thanks to significantly higher rankings in the Times Higher Education survey and the US News & World Report Best schools survey, U of Montreal ranks 62nd worldwide and comes in 5th in Canada.
4. University of British Columbia – Faculty of Medicine (Vancouver, BC)
by Arnold C / Wikimedia Commons
It may be surprising that UBC’s medical school is only 4th in our rankings, but it’s really a case of 3 schools with very similar rankings occupying 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots in our Canada rankings. And one school that’s clearly ahead of the pack and comes in at number 1. But more about them later. Only 8 international rankings separated the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place Canadian schools in the QS survey; 7 international rankings separated the schools in the Times Higher Education survey, and a mere 6 rankings was the difference between all 3 in the US News & World Report survey. And not only that, the order was different in each set of survey rankings. Unfortunately, UBC’s medical school was unable to come ahead in any of the 3 rankings, coming last in the QS and Times surveys and second-best of the 3 schools in the US News survey.
But that’s not to overlook what a quality faculty UBC has. This is a medical school that has 6 institutes and 17 research centres affiliated or associated with it. Everything from: The Biomedical Research Centre to the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, and the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. As in Engineering and Business, UBC’s Medical School is a forward-looking centre of innovation and research. Not only that, UBC’s Faculty of Medicine has 4 university campuses, 11 Clinical Academic Campuses, 17 Affiliated Regional Centres, and over 65 Community Educational Centres and Remote Rural Sites located around the province. This is what’s called the Distributive Learning Model which is being increasingly used by cutting edge medical schools. Is it any wonder that BC’s healthcare system ranks top in Canada? So, despite UBC’s relatively disappointing rankings across our 3 surveys which brings it in at 35th worldwide, the school is a key part of BC’s envied healthcare system. Ask yourself: where do you get the best healthcare in Canada? Most rankings say that’s BC. And the UBC Faculty of Medicine has a lot to do with that. Still, it comes in 4th in our Canadian ranking.
3. McMaster University – Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine (Hamilton, ON)
This is not your average Med School. McMaster uses a problem-solving approach to teaching medicine where medical students are exposed to patients early on in the curriculum. That means the studies are organized around sequential blocks of course material with case management being a priority. Just like in a physician’s office. As well, the academic year is 11 months long with only a month off. Just like in a real doctor’s office. And like UBC, they have 3 campuses located around the region: in Hamilton of course, as well as Niagara, Waterloo and also including the Mac-Care (McMaster Community & Rural Education) program. Like UBC (and the University of Montreal) they are now using a Distributive Learning model for their medical students bringing the educational experience out into the community. In terms of research, an interesting statistic is that around 70% of DeGroote Med Students do some form of research while gaining their medical degree. This shows the increasing importance of research to medicine, something that has always been true of medicine, but which is accelerating at a dizzying pace in our 21st century. To encourage their medical students to engage in research, McMaster offers several pathways:
- The MAC-RES (Research Excellence Scholarship) Award
- Research courses, clinics, and funding
- A Research Fair.
This is a school aiming towards a future where every good doctor will be on top of the latest developments in their field. And that kind of forward thinking has helped propel McMaster to a composite world ranking of 30th. That means McMaster takes 3rd spot in Canada by a whisker. Or would that be by a molecule?
2. McGill University – Faculty of Medicine (Montreal, QC)
Essentially, McGill and McMaster are tied in our world composite rankings: McGill comes in at 29th while McMaster comes in at 30th. While McMaster out-ranked McGill in the Times Higher Education survey and the US News survey, the QS survey ranked McGill 13 places ahead of McMaster which tipped the results slightly in favor of McGill which comes in at world composite ranking of 29th as stated above. What made the difference? McGill’s clinical training for its med students is reputedly one of the best in North America, for starters. As well, McGill’s Life Sciences Complex is an interdisciplinary biomedical research hub that uses the latest imaging technology. McGill also has a network of hospitals and institutes in the Montreal area including: The Douglas Mental Health University Institute, The Jewish General Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital Centre, the Montreal Chest Institute, the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Institute, and the Royal Victoria Hospital, among others. That all means that McGill comes in at a close 2nd place in our Canadian top medical schools.
1. University of Toronto – Faculty of Medicine (Toronto, ON)
It wasn’t even close. BC might have the best-ranked healthcare system in Canada, and one of the better healthcare systems in the world, but University of Toronto has the best medical school by far. The medical school was ranked within the top 15 worldwide of each of our 3 surveys and came in at an astonishing 5th place in the US News survey. That means its world composite ranking is 10th place. Yes, University of Toronto’s Med School is in the world’s top 10. It has 17 research centres like UBC, but also has 26 separate departments and institutes. Molecular genetics, medical biophysics, the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. You get the feeling that U of T will someday be one of the first schools to have an AI-enabled bot doing surgery on live patients. Furthermore, it has 9 fully affiliated hospitals in the GTA, each of them embodying one or more research institutes. The affiliated hospitals and associated health care sites are clustered into 4 separate academies, where problem-based learning, inter-professional education, clinical skills, as well as research, are conducted. It’s really like a city within a city. The best medical schools nowadays are, in fact, networks comprised of learning and research nodes and it’s clear that University of Toronto’s medical school is one of the best networks in the world. So yes, Toronto wins again. By a mile.
Riley Haas has been a leading expert since 2011 on immigration matters, with hundreds of publications online. Published author of three books about political philosophy, the Beatles and the Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. BA from Bishop’s University, MA from McMaster University. You follow Riley on Substack https://rileyhaas.substack.com.