New medical school to increase access to family doctors across the Province
by Gabrielle Nogueras and Matt Kieltyka
Simon Fraser University is forging ahead with planning for the first medical school to be built in Western Canada in the last half century. The medical school aims to educate more doctors to serve underserved populations and to improve care throughout B.C.
Ten days after being sworn in as Premier of British Columbia, David Eby was at SFU’s Surrey campus this past November to announce start-up funding for the medical school and to share some of the first details about the school, which is aiming to accept it first students by September 2026.
“While we have made enormous progress to strengthen public health care over the last five years, we know that many British Columbians are struggling to find a family doctor and waiting too long for care on a waiting list or in an emergency room,” said Premier David Eby. “That’s why are taking action to train, recruit and retain family doctors now — and taking these steps with Simon Fraser University to train the health workforce we’ll need in the future. This investment in the first entirely new medical school in Western Canada in 55 years will mean more family doctors graduating each year to provide care for people.”
The new program will be based in Surrey, with place- based learning opportunities across the province. First Nations, Inuit and Métis knowledge systems and perspectives will be embedded throughout the school, with strong connections to remote, rural, and Indigenous communities.
“SFU is excited about the progress we’re making with the Province, health authorities, and Indigenous partners towards a new medical school,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. “With this announcement, we’ve hit another important milestone on that journey. The new medical school will serve everyone in B.C. — particularly underserved populations — training the next generation of doctors in communities throughout the province.”
The provincial government announced in 2020 that it would create B.C.’s second medical school at SFU’s Surrey campus.
In the fall of 2021, the Office of the Provost and Vice- President Academic hosted an information session and discussion for interested students, faculty, and staff, beginning the internal community engagement process for the proposed school.
Participants suggested values and principles to guide the early planning of the school, including collaboration and teamwork, transparency, holistic approaches, partnerships, equity, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and longevity, and bold actions.
In early 2022 a similar engagement session was held for Indigenous SFU students, faculty and staff who were prompted with three questions:
- What opportunities exist for the SFU medical program to do things differently, in ways that will meet the health care needs of Indigenous peoples across the province?
- From your perspective, what opportunities do you see for SFU to educate a new generation of doctors?
- What concerns do you have or challenges do you see for the SFU medical school? What is your best advice moving forward to address these concerns/challenges?
Each question resulted in valuable feedback, detailed in the What We Heard report, which will inform planning and guide next steps.
Since then, the university has been hard at work laying the foundations for the program. Planning work is well underway for accreditation, curriculum planning, and space planning. A project board has been established to oversee the planning work for a final business case. Membership for the project board includes members from the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills and the Ministry of Health with SFU. Indigenous health leaders and the First Nations Health Authority continue to guide SFU on First Nations, Inuit and Métis knowledge systems and perspectives.