MD Program Admissions

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Course Transfer-ability and Eligibility for Admission

November 10th, 2015 by Dr Ian Walker

Based on some correspondence I have recently received, it seems there is a need for greater clarity around of “MD/PhD granting institution rule” for determining which courses count in determining eligibility to apply.  As I have said before, there needs to be a little trust on the part of applicants that we are not actively trying to keep people out of medical school.  We desperately want the diversity in our student body that comes from having students who have attended a wide range of undergraduate institutions.  That said, we do need some kind of standard, and need the ability to occasionally say “No, that course is simply not academically rigorous enough to count.”  Therein lies the dilemma.

When we think about a standard that we can use, we need a few things.  It needs to be a standard that can be applied world wide, given that we get applicants from all over.  It also can’t be too exclusive, since there still needs to be a path to medicine for people who cannot afford or are unable to leave home to study in a large institution in another city.  That is an equity issue, from our perspective.  What clearly won’t do is to simply accept all courses from accredited universities, since accreditation standards vary widely in different jurisdictions, and suspect institutions are generally accredited by equally suspect accreditation bodies.

That has led us to our current policy, which is that in order for courses to “count” they must be either taken at an MD/PhD granting institution, or transferable for credit (generic credit is ok) to such an institution.  As we say in the Applicant Manual, we remain committed to the notion that students should be able to undertake their pre-medical education at a wide variety of institutions.  To be perfectly clear, we have neither the time nor desire to work through the transferability of every course for the hundreds of applicants we get every year from non MD/PhD granting universities.  What we need (and what we have) is a policy that allows the Admissions Committee the freedom to question (and in some cases reject) the academic rigour of specific courses or specific institutions, while also providing the applicants with clear guidance about what the standards are so they can make appropriate course selection when planning their pre-medical education.

It is impossible for us to create a comprehensive list of schools that we can “white list” and there are certainly some schools where most courses are acceptable, but some are not.  To be perfectly clear, however, we are not concerned, and will not be looking at specific course transferability for work done at larger Canadian primarily undergraduate institutions such as ULethbridge, MRU, Simon Fraser, UVic, Waterloo, Acadia, SFX, etc…  Unless someone can show us a reason not to, we are going to assume that course work done at these institutions is transferable to an MD PhD granting school somewhere.  If someone is telling you that your courses from these institutions is not acceptable to us, they are wrong, and you can tell them I said so.



Tags: 21 Comments

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21 responses so far ↓

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    Do you accept courses from Wilfrid Laurier University?


  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    I can’t find a recent thread that is relevant to my question, but I am just wondering if you can clarify how GPA is calculated if you have a one or more Graduate Degrees.
    I have 4 years of full time undergrad, and a full time thesis-based masters degree.
    Does that mean that you will take my 3 best UG years, and then count the MSc as 1 more year, or does the MSc count as an UG year, meaning you would take 2 UG years and the one year for MSc (having dropped worst UG year)?
    If I have my MSc and PhD at the time of application, does each graduate degree count for one additional years?


    • i am a little confused by the question, but hopefully this helps.
      The basic unit of measurement is full time undergraduate years. If you have a grad degree, that total GPA for that degree counts as one full time undergraduate degree. if you have multiple grad degrees, each one counts for a year. We then look at all your “years” and if you have a completed undergraduate degree, we eliminate the worst one. For most people that means we eliminate a year of their UG degree, but theoretically, if your Masters GPA was lower than any of your undergrad years, it is your masters GPA that would get dropped.

  • Hello Dr. Walker,
    If a course does not have a transfer agreement to an MD/PhD institution, do I simply excluded it from the list on the transcript section of the application?

  • Hello Dr. Walker
    If I’ve read the manual correctly, this criteria doesn’t apply to AP-IB courses. But what about CEGEP courses?

  • Hello Doctor Walker
    I am going to start studying the Nursing Program at Mount Royal University (MRU) in September.
    But only a few courses of the Nursing Program at MRU are transferable to U of C or U of A, according to the Transfer Alberta website.
    Am I wasting my time by studying the Nursing Program at MRU in order to apply to the MD Program at U of C? Does the Transfer Alberta guide give the last word regarding the transferability of courses?
    I would very much appreciate your answer to these questions.

    • Thanks Jack. Good question, but I do not get into specific applicant issues on this blog, since I feel like I cannot commit without having all the relevant information. You should contact our office to discuss, and maybe even set up a meeting with one of our staff. Start with the email. Know that our email seems to be down right now, though (hackers and malware apparently) so maybe wait a couple of days.

  • This is great news! Finally a medical school that has some quality control measures when considering the difficult of a course from schools in Canada.

    This finally sets a precedent. I hope in future, the University of Calgary and other schools will continue to recognize other courses and programs that are not as rigourous (even from MD/PhD granting institutions) as others.

    • You keep coming back to this same issue using different names and posting to different threads (I can see your IP address after all!). I get that you think that we should calculate GPA differently based on the institution or course of study. We have chosen not to do so. I am not sure what more value there is to continuing to flog this particular horse. We will have to agree to disagree, and we should both move on

      • I guess its because I am not sold on the idea that everyone’s GPA is directly comparable. There isn’t a lot evidence that supports the idea. It’s also a limitation that is rarely addressed openly or honestly to the public.

        I understand that you choose not to consider the difficulty of one’s course of study today. Who knows? Maybe in future that will change.

  • Hello Dr. Walker,
    The manual indicates that proof of a course having been completed within the Sept – April window is required for Distance education schools such as Athabasca University. What constitutes proof of the completion date?
    Thanks for your time!

  • Hi Dr Walker,

    Will courses from Athabasca University be accepted?


  • Hello Dr. Walker,

    When can we expect the reference statistics for the 2014-2015 cycle to be up?


    • Honestly, it will be a while. It is a low priority item for us, and we are undergoing accreditation review this year. Our site visit is in March, and much of my defer-able work is being put off until after that date.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,
    In the MMI information session podcast from 2014, where you are discussing the overall vs. rubric scores assigned at each station, the text in the slide is unclear. (This occurs starting at 20:10.) Could you please post the different criteria in the rubric, so that those who couldn’t attend your session can get an example of the sort of thing included in the rubric?

    • Never mind, I misunderstood the video watching it the first time, and now I see that you read them aloud in the video. Thank you!