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The SFU Medical School’s accreditation journey

June 13, 2023

Simon Fraser University’s Medical School (SFUMS) has submitted its draft business case to the provincial government and has applicant status with the Committee on Accreditation of Medical Schools (CACMS).

While the SFUMS anticipates its funding announcement from the provincial government next spring, it is ready to take the next step toward becoming a reality: accreditation.

Between now and September 2024, the SFUMS will create, document and self-assess its approach to standards set out by the national Committee on Accreditation of Medical Schools (CACMS). These cover all aspects of the school, including its mission and strategic plans; leadership and faculty roles; policies; resources and infrastructure; learning environments, curriculum, supervision and evaluation; admissions; and student supports.

If successful, the medical school would be granted candidate status ahead of receiving preliminary accreditation in the fall of 2025 – setting the stage for class admissions the following year.

“This is a major milestone for the SFU Medical School and a big undertaking,” explains Dr. Sarah Strasser, interim vice-dean and executive lead for accreditation. “As CACMS’ committee plans and manages the review process for all medical schools, including existing schools requiring updates, this takes a lot of coordination and time. The SFU Medical School has already applied, received applicant status and will begin the extremely detailed self-assessment and report soon.”

Once the program has begun, CACMS’ accreditation review process will continue for two more years until the school is eligible for provisional accreditation in fall 2028. Full certification will occur in December 2029, as the charter class is in its final year.

Proving its worth

SFU plans to take an innovative and inclusive approach to defining the medical school’s obligations and measuring their impact, guided by the program’s five pillars and community-embedded practical learning.

Accreditation also allows schools to take an extra step to include how it will measure and show the program’s social accountability to its local communities.

Evidence of social accountability – such as embedding Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and GBA+ (Gender-based Analysis Plus) and cultural safety policies within procedures, processes and program culture – will be interwoven throughout the accreditation documentation.

Meeting healthcare needs

On top of that, SFUMS will also take the opportunity to define how it intends to address academic and research excellence and the concept of “triple capacity.” Triple capacity refers to identifying current and future health needs, adapting to meet these needs and responding to change, and assessing the impact of these actions within local communities.

During a student’s first two years, the SFUMS proposes themed content streams that include medical science foundations alongside how to serve B.C.’s diverse communities and understand physicians’ roles as change agents within the province’s healthcare system.

Clinical learning in various community settings will supplement students’ classroom learning. This hands-on experience will allow them to obtain the knowledge and skills required to be helpful to healthcare teams in clinical settings by their third year. At that time, SFU envisions students placed in a family practice for a year under a physician acting as the principal clinical teacher and role model.

“This allows students to follow a set of patients, who regularly interact with the health system, for a year to 18 months,” describes Strasser.

Then, the final year provides the opportunity to gain experience in specialty areas, including family medicine, before preparing for residency program applications.

Partnering for success

To effectively deliver on this community-based learning model, partnerships will play critical roles and bring added complexity to the accreditation process.

“The sheer number of partnerships will make SFU’s medical program distinct,” says Strasser, “all of which will be formalized with obligations that they also meet accreditation standards set by CACMS.”

SFUMS expects to incorporate a “pentagram partners plus” model for reviews and recommendations. It is similar to a 360-degree job evaluation where internal and external partners provide feedback. These partners – including administrators, academia, related industry and non-profit sectors, clinicians, policymakers, the general population and Indigenous partners – will provide oversight on the school’s adherence to its vision, mission and values, education and social accountability measures.