Leading medical schools for Asian students
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Leading medical schools for Asian students

THE world of medical education is undergoing rapid change – and Asia is benefiting. Internationalism is driving higher education and medical schools are embracing this change as both a challenge and an opportunity. As the world of medical science develops, this field of education is becoming more internationalised. No longer are students and teachers following the “traditional approach” of a localised curriculum developed in home countries but expanding and appreciating the methods of teaching and extent of education from countries far and wide.

Medical education has developed into a competitive field that stresses an international approach, mobility for teachers and students, and the ability to foster and exchange relationships with universities from other countries.

With an increasing need to train upcoming medical professionals from the East in world-class research and education, Asia and all its hopeful doctors are presented with an advantage – an opportunity to move beyond their countries to absorb the full potential of unrivalled and outstanding education. As more universities from across the world not only open their doors to international students, but make efforts to spot the talent within Asia, programmes and degrees are being crafted to attract the very best from across the world.

There has also been a surge in collaborations between British and US medical schools and those from the East. These partnerships have also encouraged institutes in Asia to heighten the quality of training and research, truly absorbing the best of international education. Partnering with schools in other countries also allow their students to soak in the expertise of the exchange faculty along with the culture of a different country.


Photo by Camilla Svensk. Karolinska Institutet.

Singapore and Malaysia are leading these collaborations with India and China following close behind. More than a third of Singapore’s 4,500 doctors train abroad; Malaysia has increased medical training from 700 doctors 10 years ago, a quarter of which would practice abroad, to over 3,000 doctors a year today and a prediction of increasing this by a thousand in the next five years. Both these countries, and several others in Asia, are either focussing on the importance of homegrown doctors or bringing home medical talent after they have completed degrees in other countries.

Indian education is also quickly getting an international makeover. The country’s medical education sector is one of the largest in the world – with over 300 medical colleges and an intake of 35,200 towards the undergraduate MBBS degree. The country is fast increasing foreign collaborations with the growing need for more doctors. India estimates a need for a further 800,000 doctors, even though there are currently almost 750,000 doctors on the rolls. In order to meet these requirements medical education is accelerating, with a need for 500 more medical schools. This also results in students from the country being encouraged to move to foreign universities to receive the best education there is in order to help fill this shortfall.

Renowned ophthalmologist from Kolkata, Dr PB Sarkar from Salt Lake Eye Foundation, explains the benefits of an international education for Asian students. He tells Asian Correspondent: “Firstly, these students get to access advanced medical facilities with diagnostic procedures. Secondly, they are also educated in basic treatment protocol – treatments in India and other Asian countries are often varied depending on the doctor whereas it is more uniform in the West. The exposure that they get to experienced and senior foreign faculty is definitely an important part of their learning. Moreover, a foreign medical education also guarantees discipline of the medical practice.”

A list of universities has been compiled below bringing together the best of international education in medicine. As the need for more doctors increases in Asia, coupled with international collaborations and specialised degrees aimed towards Asian medical students, these popular choices are definitely worth considering for every future doctor.


Photo by Camilla Svensk. Karolinska Institutet


In the competitive field of medicine, Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden boasts of being the country’s sole medical university along with being its largest centre for research in the field. With a mission to continuously help improve human health, KI is the driving force behind over 40% of medical research in Sweden. The university that proudly selects Nobel laureates in Physiology and Medicine through the Nobel Assembly, KI also hosts Sweden’s most diverse range of education in the medical field in its two campuses – in Solna and Huddinge. Building on natural collaboration between fields, KI works towards the medical and personal development of its students. KI has a vast range of degrees to choose from along with exchange programmes that benefit both Swedish and international students and help them study at partner universities across the world. Read the full profile…


Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is renowned for its impressive academic medical teaching coupled with its outstanding research. The School has consistently held onto the title of the best medical school in the US while it’s hospital, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, has since 1992 been the leader in best hospital conferred by US News & World Report. Today it has a faculty of almost 2,500 and almost 500 medical students. Eighty-five per cent of these students receive financial aid at this prestigious university. 18 Nobel laureates make this university a model to emulate for medical schools in the US and abroad.


One of the UK’s premier institutes and in the top 25 universities in the world, King’s College London is home to almost 25,000 students from 150 countries. Recognised as the Sunday Times University of the Year, King’s College London is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, learning and understanding in the service of society. King’s College London School of Medicine is internationally recognised for its comprehensive learning and training that offers a plethora of programmes and a distinguished faculty to deliver unsurpassed medical education. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres. Being situated at three central London hospital campuses, the school works in close association with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). Its 10 research divisions and 12 specialist centres, the latter of which are externally awarded and funded, offer unparalleled insight into the world of medicine. Read the full profile…


Pic: King's College London


Ranked first among American research medical schools by US News & World Report, Harvard Medical School (HMS) is one of the world’s most distinguished schools of higher learning. With a mission to create and nurture a diverse community, HMS has been home to some of the world’s leaders, including nine Nobel laureates, since 1782. With more than 11,000 faculty and 10 departments including Genetics and Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, HMS boasts of almost 300 courses on offer, 110 countries represented and a budget of over $500m (fiscal year 2009). Every year, second-year students at HMS produce a full length musical lampooning Harvard, their professors and themselves, the 2009 production of which sold out to packed audiences at Roxbury Community College.


Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) brings together Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing and Mailman School of Public Health and spans 20 acres in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. Home to world-class scientific research, health and medical education and patient care, CUMC receives almost half of the university’s overall $3 billion budget. With over 3,000 students and over 5,000 faculty, CUMC is also the institution behind 16 Nobel laureates. The school has been praised for its innovation in research and an education that fosters a commitment to life-long inquiry.


Embracing international education that appreciates a diverse human experience, harnessing creativity and intellect, and instilling professionalism is what drives St George’s University (SGU) to continue achieving excellence in the field of medical education. Grenada’s global university, SGU has established itself as a melting pot of cultures from all across the world, drawing from 140 countries. Organic internationalism is what sets apart SGU from other universities in the Caribbean – public or private. The university has successfully become an outstanding leader in medical education bringing the world to Grenada. And its meteoric rise can be affirmed by the overwhelming response that has led to several new departments and degrees being offered, including a recent degree in Nursing and Allied Health Sciences. Read the full profile…


Pic: St George's University


One of the world’s premier medical schools, Stanford Medicine comprises the Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucie Packard Children’s Hospital. The university prides itself on fostering multi-disciplinary research coupled with medical innovation and is home to cutting-edge translational and biomedical research. Ranked 5th by US News & World Report (2012), Stanford’s medical school is highly competitive and records the country’s second lowest acceptance rate at 2.6%. Established in 1908, Stanford has a little over 800 faculty and almost 500 students. The exclusive school has been referenced in several television shows including the character of Bob Kelso from the US comedy Scrubs and Dr Cristina Yang from the drama series, Grey’s Anatomy.


An institute well-known for its leadership and quality training, Melbourne Medical School at the University of Melbourne is the oldest medical school in Australia. The prominent School boasts of highly recognised alumni, including a number of Nobel laureates. The School is one of four at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and maintains strong links with industry and community contacts, thus providing a range of internships and mentoring programmes to benefit current students. The School has also introduced a new Doctor of Medicine (MD) programme and can now claim this to be the only professional entry-level postgraduate programme in Australia. This is a full-time four-year programme available to Australian and international students and is geared for those who have completed their undergraduate studies and are looking for further professional training.


Part of University Munich Hospital, the University of Munich’s Faculty of Medicine is situated in Großhadern in downtown Munich. The university hosts a leading medical faculty and its curriculum is famous for its innovation in medical education. Respected for its clinical and academic research, the institute continues to live up to expectations by receiving prestigious funding for Collaborative Research Centers, Research Training Groups and several of its projects. One of Germany’s oldest and largest universities, LMU has recently been awarded the title of “elite university” by the German Universities Excellence Initiative. In the last academic year, the university has recorded almost 7,000 international students.


With a vision to be the nation’s leading public school of medicine, UNC School of Medicine works towards this goal by achieving excellence and providing leadership in the interrelated areas of patient care, education and research. With a faculty of almost 1,500, UNC’s varied 30-odd departments include Biomedical Engineering and Family Medicine. With a dedicated Office of International Activities and a flourishing Visiting Student Programme, the school has an honest interest in promoting international students. Several scholarships are also available for international students including the Perkins-Burke International Fellowship for $1,000 towards travel and expenses and the UNC School of Medicine International Fellowship with an individual award of $1,000.


The School of Medicine at the University of Cambridge was recognised as the second best in the world, according to the 2010 QS World University Rankings. Being located within the famous Addenbrooke’s Hospital provides the school access to the leading biomedical research centre in Europe. To equip their students in becoming honest and competent medical practitioners with a high level of respect for their patients, combined with excellent communication skills, are some of the chief aims of the School. With 12 departments including Clinical Neurosciences and Medical Genetics, the clinical school is highly competitive and demands high standards. Students can enter the school after completing three years of pre-clinical studies at Cambridge University, subject to further interviewing.


University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine has been ranked 5th in the quality of research training by the US News & World Report and is one of only three medical schools to be ranked in the top 5 in both research and primary care technologies in 2010. With 28 academic departments, nine organised research units and seven interdisciplinary research centres, UCSF’s 2,000-strong faculty include three Nobel laureates and promise a highly consistent and quality education in the field of medicine. Mala Mandyam, student at UCSF, says: “Going to medical school here is absolutely amazing, for so many reasons. The faculty really embodies the city’s spirit – personal growth, pursuing knowledge, and living a full life. Being the only medical school in the city means we have ties to practically all major healthcare institutions here, so our patient experiences are as varied as the city’s population.”


Pic: AP.


The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) is the medical faculty and hospital part of Leiden University in Holland. With eight special units, including Ophthalmology and Neurosurgery, the hospital boasts of specialised departments and also acts as a referral centre for regions in southern Holland. It is recognised for its scientific publications and with its 7,000 strong staff, LUMC offers an array of programmes to train highly qualified doctors. Patient care and research centers housed together result in innovation and collaboration in the world of medical science.


Celebrating more than 150 years of distinguished medical education, the University of Tokyo’s Medical School has been ranked first in the Asia-Pacific region and sixth globally, according to the journal Nature’s recently published index (2010). With several highly concentrated programmes, the Faculty admits motivated individuals to excel in its international standards of research. Thirteen departments at the Graduate School of Medicine, including Microbiology and Biomedical Engineering, offer progressive learning in medicine. Equipped to the highest level, the Faculty’s labs and other research areas provide a focussed and practice-oriented insight into medical training.


Born in the mid-17th century at the Academy of Turku, the Faculty later moved to Helsinki. Part of one of Finland’s leading universities, the Faculty is internationally reputed for its high standards of multi-disciplinary research and extensive training. The university is also reputed for maintaining international contacts for the benefit of its student body. This is the only Finnish Faculty within an institute that offers education in both Finnish and Swedish. The Faculty also provides almost 50 specialist training programmes to enhance professional competence. The University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Medicine is home to five institutes and also has a financially independent research programme unit.


Eleven departments constitute Sweden’s Uppsala University Faculty of Medicine – one of the premier universities of Northern Europe and consistently holding onto rankings as a leading institute of higher learning in Europe. The Faculty’s Department of Public Health and Caring houses centers such as Geriatrics and Family Medicine whereas the Department of Surgical Sciences hosts the likes of Endocrine Surgery and Vascular Surgery. It also works in collaboration with the Uppsala Academic Hospital managed by the Uppsala County Council. Situated in the student town of Uppsala, an education at this institution promises an interesting cultural potpourri mixed with hundreds of years of heritage.


Japan’s second-oldest university is world-renowned for its faculty of medicine and is a technological hotspot for refined state-of-the-art medical research and training. With high ideals, the university has a keen policy to recruit those with a passion for medicine and aims to train these individuals to bring on path-breaking research and practice. Upholding a strong focus on self-study and independent research, Japan’s former Imperial University and its established medical faculty attracts the best of scientific minds, systematically training them to hold supervisory and managerial positions in the profession. Kyoto University was ranked 25th in the QS World University Rankings in 2010 and claimed 11th spot in the Global University Ranking. The Faculty had an international intake of almost 100 for 2010.


Pic: AP.


The QS World University Rankings for 2011 has recognised the University of Queensland (UQ) as one of the world’s leading institutes for medicine with a rank of 33. Renowned as Australia’s Global Medical School, UQ School of Medicine offers a range of opportunities for its students in Australia and internationally. With 450 new students attending the School every year, including 100 international students, the School is well known for its methods of research and quality of education. UQ School of Medicine fosters an environment of diversity panning both the clinical and research elements within the institute and employs a diverse group of senior professional staff in order to sustain this. With an annual budget of $100 million, it plays host to 10 Clinical Schools managed and overseen by a senior academic clinician. It also prides itself on maintaining sites across Brisbane, North America and Brunei with many rural and remote facilities strewn throughout Queensland.


Thirty-nine postgraduate and 15 PhD programmes at the College of Medicine at National Taiwan University (NTU) are geared to enhance the experience of learning in the field of medical technology. A particular emphasis for the school reflects in laboratory techniques in the field of Laboratory Medicine and Biotechnology. The School recorded a new milestone when it established the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Biotechnology in 2005, marking a new generation for research in biomedical sciences. NTU, formerly known as Taihoku (Taipei) Imperial University, is the highest ranked university in Taiwan and was founded in 1928 during the Japanese colonial era.


Australia’s UWA Medical School offers a string of scientific and clinical disciplines whose focus is to improve the health of communities not just in Australia, but across the world. Along with its regular undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, the School offers specialist medical training for international students on a postgraduate level – programmes that are available if the applicant is able to satisfy the entry requirements. This training works in collaboration with several hospitals along with the Medical Board of Western Australia. Over 22,000 and 3,500 staff make life at UWA a truly enjoyable and unique experience while breathing in the culture of Australia!


One of Britain’s most prestigious institutes of higher learning, Oxford University Medical School is a top destination for world-class, cutting edge research and education in the field of medicine. The school’s pre-clinical course spans half of the six-year degree and aims to provide knowledge and understanding of the world of medicine. The clinical course for the other half of the degree builds on the clinical component. The School also provides an accelerated course which is an intensive four-year medical programme geared for graduates with a background in applied or experimental sciences. Further, the School hosts the Elective programme with students from the UK and across the world which also provides placements in Oxford hospitals. The medical school at Oxford University encourages an atmosphere of diversity and works endlessly to enable the potential of its students, sustaining an integrated and educated community.


One of Europe’s largest medical institutions, Imperial College London Faculty of Medicine brings together leading medical schools in London and works closely with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts to provide world-class education and research. With more than 300 undergraduate students a year and six Schools/Institutes/Departments (SID’s), Imperial’s six-year medicine programme is a definite choice for all hopeful doctors. The faculty also provides a four-year graduate entry programme that was initiated in 2008 which works in collaboration with the Faculty of Natural Sciences. There are also more than 100 specialist short courses on offer for trained doctors or those working through school to gain an extra edge in the profession.


This school for undergraduates is a highly respected institution for medical studies. Working with experienced teachers and in close collaboration with local NHS Academies, the medical school has a welcoming culture towards students from all backgrounds who hope to become doctors. The first two years of the five-year programme are located at the School of Medical Sciences in the centre of the busy city of Bristol. The following three years enable students to be part of clinical placements at Academies. A four-year Fast-Track (Graduate) Programme is also offered that fits the five-year MB ChB programme following the same methods of teaching. However, the students on the Fast-Track Programme are excused from the Molecular and Cellular Basis of Medicine Unit and the Student Selected Component that forms part of Year Two studies.