B.C. Government Confirms Funding for SFU Medical School

March 12, 2024

The British Columbia government has continued to provide funding in Budget 2024 for a medical school at SFU—the second in the province and the first in Western Canada in a generation. The investment is earmarked to cover all capital and operational expenses necessary to prepare the proposed school for its inaugural intake in 2026. This announcement follows the submission of a business case by SFU in May 2023, marking a significant milestone in the school's proposed development.

Welcoming the government's decision, President Joy Johnson said in a statement to SFU faculty and staff on February 29, “The provincial funding through Budget 2024 allows us to forge ahead in the drive to create a medical school at SFU’s Surrey campus without drawing on the finances of the university. We look forward to sharing more details about the funding as they are made available by government.”

The SFU Medical School’s vision is to deliver socially accountable medical education where it is needed most, training physicians to deliver collaborative, community-centred health care tailored to the needs of people living in British Columbia. SFU Provost and VP Academic, Dilson Etcheverry Rassier, says, "This funding would enable us to well-equip the proposed school to fulfill its mission effectively, providing future physicians with the tools they need to make a real difference in communities across British Columbia."

Partnership with health authorities key to mission

The proposed school will focus its initial efforts on serving communities in the Fraser Salish region, leveraging collaborations with Fraser Health and the First Nations Health Authority to address local health care needs.

Acting dean Dr. David Price says, “This partnership will be instrumental in realizing the school’s mandate to train medical students in primary care within the very communities we serve. We recognize that exposure to role models in family medicine is crucial for driving interest in this field, and we believe it is essential for medical students to have continuous exposure to such models throughout their education. We are thrilled about the prospect of collaborating with the family physicians of the Fraser Salish region and are committed to providing them with ample opportunities to help shape the curriculum.”

“This is great news for the future of health care in our region and throughout the province, says Dr. Ralph Belle, Vice President, Medicine, Fraser Health. “We’re excited to continue important work on the medical school’s development alongside SFU and the First Nations Health Authority, two organizations that share our commitment to meeting the health and wellness needs of our communities.”

Richard Jock, CEO of the First Nations Health Authority says, “The commitment of SFU to Truth and Reconciliation is vital, and we are excited to be a part of this partnership to help transform the way health care is delivered for First Nations people living in B.C. The FNHA is committed to working closely with SFU to ensure the new medical school embeds First Nations perspectives on health and wellness and is built from a foundation of culturally safe and community-driven health care.”

The school’s executive leadership team will play a key role in engaging and collaborating with physicians. Dr. Evan Adams, Acting Associate Dean of Indigenous Health, is tasked with helping the medical school embed and equalize Indigenous knowledge systems within its foundations of learning. Dr. Maria Hubinette, Acting Associate Dean of Academic and Faculty Development, will provide senior oversight on accreditation as well as lead the development, implementation and coordination of undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing professional education programs. “Evan, Maria and I look forward to collaborating with physicians whose insights into community needs will ensure our curriculum effectively addresses real-world challenges and our education is relevant and impactful for the people we serve."

Next steps at SFU

With provincial funding now confirmed, SFU's Senate and Board of Governors are positioned to progress through their respective decision-making processes, in accordance with the provisions outlined in the University Act. Ultimately, their decisions, in conjunction with the approval of the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, will determine the establishment of a faculty of medicine.

Operating within the framework of British Columbia's bicameral university governance system, SFU's Senate holds authority over academic affairs, while the Board of Governors oversees financial matters. In accordance with stipulations of the University Act, approvals from both Senate and the Board must be granted in order for the medical school to be established. Angie Lamarsh, Chair of SFU's Board of Governors, underscored the significance of this endeavour. “Establishing the medical school is pivotal for the well-being of British Columbians. As the Board embarks on our decision-making process, we look forward to collaborating with members of Senate to ensure the proposed strategic and operational plans are both viable and effective.”

Pending timely inclusion in Senate and Board meeting agendas, decisions regarding the medical school's establishment could be up for discussion in meetings scheduled for May 2024.

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