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European universities delivering excellence in medical research

medical schools
The world needs more physicians trained and exposed to research. Source: UniSR

Raising hopes of eradicating the hepatitis C virus. Establishing the genetic mechanisms that allow cells to respond to changes in oxygen levels. Unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer. Explaining how molecular mechanisms control the body’s circadian rhythm. Discovering  how cells recycle their content in a process known as autophagy.

These are the breakthroughs in medical research that won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in the past five years. They are crucial findings that fit the criteria set forth in the will of Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Bernhard Nobel: “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

From vaccines to cancer insights, these breakthroughs underscore the application and importance of medical research. The more aspiring physicians receive scientific exposure, the better they are in interrogating issues and refining their understanding. The most forward-thinking medical schools know this — here are three in Europe with programmes that best merge hands-on learning and research into their curricula:

San Raffaele University (UniSR)

medical schools

The International MD Programme at Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele follows a  highly integrated and innovative approach. Source: UniSR

Located in Milan — cultural mecca, financial hub and Italy’s most cosmopolitan city — San Raffaele University (UniSR) is where medical students grow as international doctors and scientists. The campus offers an academically and culturally stimulating environment that makes this possible. San Raffaele Hospital — part of Italy’s largest hospital group the San Donato Group — is located on the same premises as the university. Here, at one of the leading biomedical research institutes in Italy and Europe, clinical work benefits from strong research activity, catalysing the development and testing of new therapies. This allows students to live in an enriching and stimulating environment; interact with faculty members; and get a head start in following patients. For UniSR students, it’s a dynamic exposure to clinical and research activities from the get-go.

It’s the ideal environment to complete the International MD Program. Here, you will train to become a physician, armed with outstanding cultural and professional preparation. Admission is competitive while classes are small and diverse — ensuring students are surrounded by talent from all over the world. Lessons, instructional activities and examinations are conducted in English, with Italian language lessons offered to enable interaction with patients during clinical rotations.

The programme integrates the fundamental knowledge related to preclinical sciences, with the theoretical-practical, technological and methodological aspects of clinical medicine. It follows internationally-acclaimed models — recognised by the World Health Organisation, the British General Medical Council (UK) and by the US Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG®) — and uses innovative educational approaches.

You will have numerous opportunities for research activities and clinical training at the hospital as well as to integrate “transversal” disciplines and multiple courses. Moreover, you can choose to spend time abroad for your final semester by participating in international electives, training activities and clinical or research thesis internships too — a final step that emphasises individual vocation and bolsters research competence.

Campus is a hub of activity. Facilities are plenty — including dorms, sports hubs, library, bars, restaurants, canteens, shops — for students to socialise and have fun in between classes. There are several cultural clubs catering to a wide range of pursuits, ideal to let loose, cultivate passions and meet new people. To learn more about the pro-active, life-enriching programmes at UniSR, click here.

King’s College London

medical schools

King’s College London offers an innovative and integrated Medicine MBBS curriculum. Source: King’s College London

At King’s College London, authentic clinical and research experiences bring medicine to life. Inspiring teachers merge biomedical sciences, population sciences and clinical practice to foster students into caring, competent and safe doctors. King’s MBBS benefits from partnerships with three prestigious London teaching hospitals – Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’.

Students can take part in clinical placements at district general hospitals located across the south east of England and over 350 general practices. “I’ve had clinical placements everywhere, from hospitals in London to district generals in Kent, all of which have been brilliant,” shares graduate Annabelle. For their elective modules, they can go on clinical exchanges with leading medical schools around the world. 

The programme is divided into three stages. It starts with a foundation in biomedical sciences and population sciences, along with the skills to begin to integrate them with clinical practice. In the second stage, students will focus on the care of patients with common conditions in a range of clinical settings, following patients for prolonged periods of time to learn how to deliver whole-person care. The majority of the third stage will be clinical and includes quality improvement projects and the development of skills to transform patient and population health at home and abroad. Also integrated in the curriculum are inter-professional training and increasingly realistic simulation.

As King’s is a multi-faculty university, students can access a breadth of non-core subjects including humanities and social sciences. Accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC), King’s MBBS is a Primary Medical Qualification — this means the holder to apply to the GMC for registration to practise medicine in the UK.

University of Zurich

medical schools

Zurich is one of the world’s leading centres in medical research. Source: University of Zurich

The largest Faculty of Medicine in Switzerland is home to some 3,000 students. Each year, it awards around 270 degrees in human medicine, dentistry, and chiropractic medicine each year. 

Here, aspiring doctors receive a sound research-based education that actively promotes progress to academic careers. They get to learn in the university’s four internationally-renowned and dynamic hospitals — and have opportunities to engage in collaboration with other faculties, universities, ETH Zurich and the private sector.

Curricula are constantly updated to incorporate the steady advancements made in patient care and in research.  Emphasis is placed on the ethical cornerstones of medical practice, to patient safety, and to the reliability of the health care system. Students then take what they learn in lecture halls to apply in practical training opportunities, such as skills labs, peer-teaching sessions and problem-based learning.

“Thanks to the high quality education it provides, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Zurich enjoys a national and international reputation for excellence. This opens up many future career opportunities,” explain students Roman Schimmer and Ilaria Vittoria De Martini.

It’s a programme that equips graduates with the knowledge to carry out sophisticated experimental and clinical research projects as well as prepares them for lifelong learning in medical professions. There is also an MD-PhD programme for those who would like to fuse research work with clinical practice. Whereas the PhD Programme Biomedical Ethics and Law (PhD BmEL) is a joint programme with the Faculty of Law, and we offer a Master of Science in Medical Biology.

 *Some of the schools featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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