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Simon Fraser University’s new medical school will be state-of-the-art with future-facing technology for simulated lab spaces, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Students will be placed in real-life, team-based learning environments in communities early on in their

Since it was established in 1965, Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, B.C., has been keeping up with the fast-moving pace of global change through constant reinvention and innovation.

The university has earned a national and global reputation for excellence in education, research and community impact. Building on that foundation while being poised to meet the education needs of the future is something SFU has excelled in, says Kris Magnusson, senior advisor at the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

“It’s part of our DNA,” he says. “Since the beginning, SFU was established to be a different kind of school. It has always focused on connecting with local communities, being part of them and responding to their needs. If you’re connected to and responsive to the community, it means you are both aware of and feel that responsibility for changing how you work.”

SFU is focused on creating programing that will make a difference in B.C. For example, its School of Sustainable Engineering for students studying cleantech and renewable energy is the first of its kind in western Canada; its Beedie School of Business’s executive MBA in Indigenous and business leadership is the only such program in North America. And in 2026, the university will welcome its first students to a new, purpose-built medical school, the first in western Canada in 55 years.

Being a dynamic community player remains a top priority for the medical school as B.C. faces a critical shortage of family physicians, with nearly one million residents without a family doctor. The new facility aims to address the need with a non-traditional approach.

“If we’re going to produce family physicians interested in staying in the community, we need to start by training them in our local communities and having them live in and serve our local communities,” explains Dr. Magnusson. “That’s what creates the gap in the first place. Meeting a new challenge means innovating and championing community-embedded experiences could help to close those gaps.”

“If we’re going to produce family physicians interested in staying in community, we need to start by training them in our local communities and having them live in and serve our local communities.”

Kris Magnusson, senior advisor, Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic

For medical students, that will mean tapping into a core principle behind learning at SFU, which is known for “emphasizing the blend between the conceptual and the pragmatic, but then giving students lots of opportunity to actively engage in their communities in either work or practicum settings,” he notes.

The need to prioritize experiential learning needs to happen very early on, Dr. Magnusson says.

Taking a new approach is key to its success, by bringing different people in and creating new kinds of pathways into the medical school, he says.

“Over the next couple of years, we’re going to be designing these flexible curriculum pathways within our undergraduate program,” he adds.

Along with bringing a broader range of students to the program, students will be supported through their education.

“We believe that, with anchoring medical education in family and community practice, students will see and appreciate the value of it and more will choose family medicine for their career paths,” says Dr. Magnusson. “We’ll encourage them to practice in underserved communities, including rural, remote and inner-city ones, as well as vulnerable populations, in particular First Nations, Métis and Inuit.”

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The site of SFU’s new medical school in Surrey, B.C. expected to open in 2026.supplied

“We asked ourselves what we need to do to [achieve] greater social accountability and promote deeper understanding and respect for Indigenous ways. How can we nurture a genuine appreciation for equity and diversity issues,” he says. “It’s through placing students in real-life, team-based learning environments, in communities early on in their programs. It will be engaging them in dialogue, giving them challenges and teaching them the tools to resolve them.”

The provincial government, along with the Fraser Health Authority, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and leading experts in medical education, continue to be strategic partners as SFU’s new medical school becomes a reality.

In a statement last year, B.C. Premier David Eby acknowledged that, while the province has 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.

“That’s why we’re 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.”

While the new school will be state-of-the-art with future-facing technology for simulated lab spaces, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, it will stay true to SFU’s core mission set out decades ago – to inspire creative, analytic thinking in students that can benefit the community and impact the province.

Out of the estimated million jobs being created in B.C. over the coming years, 80 per cent will require postsecondary education, making innovation and learning more important than ever, says Dr. Magnusson.

“That’s an instrumental reason to further your education, but to me, an even bigger one is giving people the skills and the attitude to use information to respond to a degree of change that has never happened as dramatically or as quickly as it is now.”

To learn more about SFU’s planned medical school, visit the SFU website.

Simon Fraser University: Fast facts

  • Year established: 1965
  • Number of faculties: 8
  • Number of undergrads: 31,900
  • Worldwide alumni: 180,000+ in 145 countries
  • Campuses: 3
  • Aim for acceptance of the first medical students: September 2026
  • Ranking for comprehensive universities by Maclean’s 2023: 1
  • Ranking for global impact on sustainable cities and communities: 1*
  • Ranking in the world for climate actions: 5*

*Source: The 2023 Times Higher Education’s Impact Ranking

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Simon Fraser University. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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