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New SFU medical school could provide primary care to 30,000 patients

Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus is the future home of B.C.'s second medical school. (CTV News) Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus is the future home of B.C.'s second medical school. (CTV News)
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Details of behind-the-scenes efforts to establish British Columbia's second medical school are increasingly becoming public, including the possibility of family doctor access for thousands of Surrey residents at the Simon Fraser University campus.

The information emerged through an exclusive one-on-one interview between CTV News and acting dean Dr. David Price at the Surrey Central complex. Price revealed that 48 spaces will be available for first-year medical students to begin their training in September 2026.

"We are very much on track, we've pulled out all the stops," he said, explaining that the university senate and board must formally approve the school, which is expected to happen by June. Price and his team expect to submit a detailed application to the Committee for the Accreditation of Medical Schools by August. 

Students will be trained in longitudinal, primary care, as family doctors who are considered generalist physicians; the schooling and residency takes approximately eight years.

The analogy of building the plane while flying it applies in this case: for the first few years, students will take classes at the existing SFU Surrey campus while plans are finalized and construction begins on the permanent medical school – which could have students treating patients hands-on much sooner than the traditional training model.

"What I would really like to accomplish is to put a family medicine teaching clinic, which is inter-professional, team-based, right in the medical school," said Price. "(That would mean) 25,000 to 30,000 patients cared for by an inter-professional team, full-time faculty ... supervising the student physicians."

Mayor enthusiastic about plans

Surrey's mayor is enthusiastic about the prospect of the teaching clinic and revealed there have been numerous meetings about the school's makeup and its impact on the local community.

"We're absolutely thrilled about that," said Brenda Locke. "Surrey has some of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios in the province and to have such a clinic here in Surrey is important."

The SFU campus is just south of Surrey City Hall and Locke said there's shared land between the two institutions where the school and clinic could be built.

"We're hopeful that it all stays in this area," she said. "The City of Surrey is going to do everything we can to support SFU, to support the school, as we always have."

Price believes the clinic, which is modelled on a similar facility in Ontario, can be open with student doctors and supervisors working to serve Surrey patients in as little as five years. 

Health minister non-committal

CTV News asked the health minister if he supported the novel concept of a teaching clinic and he was non-committal.

"There's an outstanding team at SFU that's leading this project," said Adrian Dix. "We'll be briefing, like within the next two weeks and hearing detailed progress to date and we'll be bringing that forward." 

The school was an election promise made by then-premier John Horgan in 2020, with an anticipated opening date of September 2023. Current Premier David Eby had to walk that back and commit to a more realistic timeline of 2026.

Both Price and Dix emphasized that expanding family medicine and establishing grassroots education and treatment options in Fraser Health are a big priority of the new school, saying they will be engaging with local doctors in the fall to discuss their role.

"We’ll be looking to local family physicians, physicians in specialties to train our students," said Price, who has practiced family medicine himself for more than three decades.

"We’re going to recruit students within our communities, train them in our communities, and really get them excited about being primary care physicians in our communities."

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