The Faculty of Medicine’s Vancouver Summer Program (VSP) is a four-week academic program, offering international students a unique opportunity to experience Canadian health and life sciences at its best.

What you might expect/course format

The program consists of a package of two courses, each course comprising approximately 39 hours of class time. Students will learn from experienced faculty, clinicians, investigators and scientists. Classes are highly interactive and may include group discussions, guest lecturers, workshops, research projects, laboratory experiments, and field trips.

As the Faculty of Medicine takes a distributed approach to education, some students can expect to travel to different hospitals or clinical sites for classes or experiential learning, such as an ultrasound biopsy simulation workshop. Students may be responsible for the cost of public transit when attending classes off-UBC campus and participating in field trips.

Eligibility

  • Medicine VSP course packages are for international students studying medicine or related sciences (typically in their first 2-3 years of undergraduate studies).
  • Students must be at least 19 years of age on the starting date of the program (July 12, 2024).
  • Some course packages have prerequisites, please click on each course package below to view this information. If a student does not meet the pre-requisites but is interested in the course package, they can email med.international@ubc.ca to confirm their eligibility to participate.

COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements

By Order of the Provincial Health Officer in British Columbia, all students accessing care locations or community care settings must follow the COVID-19 preventative measures order. Per the Provincial Health Order, students whose course packages will be held in a care location or community care setting will need to provide proof of fully vaccinated status (which means 7 days have passed after your second dose of vaccine) prior to the program start date. If your course package will be held in a care location or community care setting, UBC Faculty of Medicine will reach out to you.

July 2024 Course Packages

Introduction to Scientific Research in the Hospital Setting

During this first 2-week course, students will learn the foundations of scientific clinical research, especially in biology, pharmacology and disciplines of medicine, and explore research methods to learn clinical (hospital and clinic) study designs. Senior doctors, investigators and scientists will teach in lectures and workshops how to discover better treatments for acute and chronic illnesses, provide examples of studies they conducted, and how patients can benefit from new scientific knowledge in acute emergencies, or long-term chronic illnesses.

Highly experienced medical educators will discuss the ethical conduct of research in adults, children and neonates, will provide tips for practical and successful conduct of research that is published in the medical literature, and how to disseminate research into clinical care of patients worldwide. This course offers students to work together as a group on an innovative, scientifically sound research idea, to write a novel research “protocol” that will be presented in the end of the course in front of the entire student body and a jugging panel of physicians.

Introduction to Clinical Medicine in the Hospital Setting

In this popular offering, VSP Medicine students will visit a large University and an affiliated hospital and learn from physicians in several specialties as they share their knowledge, tips and career advice they’ve gained in diagnosing and treating patients. Explore a unique hands-on experience with dedicated physician-facilitators in a workshop setting, and practice clinical-medicine skills such as history taking and physical examination. Spend time visiting various active areas of the hospital such as the Emergency Room, to see the inner works of medicine in North America. Studies include a resuscitation course and skills usually learned late in medical school or in residency.

Students conclude the two-week clinical medicine section with two days of an exciting hands-on activity in advanced medical-simulation environment in order to learn and practice skills such as manage airways, intubation, inserting an intravenous catheter, evaluating an electrocardiogram and reading x-rays. The VSP promises an enriching and transformative experience for those eager to explore the multifaceted realm of medical practice in a large hospital.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduating students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Pharmacology Through Case Studies

You will experience an integrated approach to learning pharmacology through the use of simulated clinical cases specifically designed to highlight the fundamental principles. Among the many topics discussed in this course, you will gain a detailed appreciation of the important drugs and drug classes of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and endocrine systems, as well as the fields of neuropharmacology and autonomic pharmacology. Knowledge acquisition from both the scientific and clinical perspectives will be supported through complementary lectures and a variety of case studies. You will also have the chance to design and present your very own case study, incorporating newly learned pharmacological concepts with your creativity. Through this educational model, we hope to integrate your knowledge of pharmacology across multiple related disciplines, and to provide you with a better understanding and appreciation of pharmacology applicable to everyday life.

Primary Literature Analysis in Science and Medicine

This course will empower you with an understanding of the scientific method and the key considerations in designing, conducting and communicating research, providing the foundation needed to adequately evaluate primary literature in any clinical or basic science discipline. Through lectures, small group exercises and discussions, you will develop the skills necessary to critically evaluate research questions, strategies of subject selection and randomization, and proper use of controls. You will learn to identify confounding factors such as inadequate study design, bias, and poor statistical analysis and describe how they may impact the quality of a study and its conclusions. Downstream consequences of poor research and/or interpretation in informing (or formulating) evidence-based medicine and public opinion will also be explored. Finally, you will have the opportunity to practically apply this knowledge through a supervised group presentation at the end of the course.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Not required

Introduction to Anatomy Using a Hands-on Approach

In this course students will cover foundational functional anatomy and how this relates to 2D and 3D perspectives in diagnostic imaging. Students will learn how systems of the human body are functionally and structurally related to each other. Thoracic anatomy will focus on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, abdominal anatomy on the digestive and renal system and pelvic anatomy on the reproductive systems. Students will have the opportunity to explore these systems on virtual 3D models, scanned from real specimens. This course will give a basic foundation in functional anatomy as well as a spatial understanding that will correlate with approaches used in imaging.

Introduction to Medical Imaging: Understanding Radiologic Normal Anatomy and Disease Using Cutting-Edge Technology

This class will provide you with an introductory understanding of the imaging modalities (radiographs, ultrasound, CT and MRI, as well as interventional radiology) used to solve common clinical problems in all body systems. Considerable time will be spent reviewing imaging normal imaging anatomy and demonstrating the critical role that modern imaging plays in common disease, including cardiac, thoracic, abdominal, neurologic, and musculoskeletal disorders. The course will conclude with a presentation entitled: “Top Ten Do Not Miss Cases in Radiology”.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduate (Master/PhD) Students: Not accepted

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Not required

Psychiatric Disorders and their Pharmacological Treatments

This course will cover the major psychiatric disorders that may include ADHD, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders. Over the duration of the course, we will review the symptoms and neurobiology of these disorders, and then explain how pharmacological therapies work to treat target symptoms. The pharmacology of these drugs will be studied at the molecular level providing the foundation for understanding their clinical application. Finally, treatment strategies will be discussed using the most up-to-date evidence-based treatment guidelines.

The Science Behind the Mind

This course will offer you an introduction to the clinical expression of mental disorders and the associations between the brain and symptoms of illness. The relationship of phenomenology, or the descriptive characterization of symptoms of illness will be illustrated through learning the components of a mental status examination, and participation in selected neuroanatomy laboratory exercises. Clinical case examples will be presented throughout using video. In-class workbook exercises will provide feedback on learning.

Prerequisites: This package will be at a level suitable for students who have completed Year 2 of undergraduate studies in Medicine or have equivalent or related coursework in Health Sciences or Psychology.

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Mood Disorders and Psychosis

This course will provide you with a broad overview of mood disorders (such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder) and psychosis (where reality testing is impaired, such as in schizophrenia). Mood disorders and psychosis are among the most disabling psychiatric conditions worldwide, due to significant symptoms and functional impairments that can lead to both personal distress and substantial economic burden on society. A major focus of this course will be identification and assessment, and accurate differential diagnosis. Additional topics will include epidemiology, neurobiology, psychosocial factors, and a variety of evidence-based interventions and therapies. Classes are lecture-based with group work and discussions.

Introduction to Psychotherapy

This course will provide you with an introduction to the theory and practice of psychotherapy, focusing on core principles and skills that can be applied across a range of clinical and practice contexts. The course will orient you to the evolution of psychotherapy as an evidence-based intervention for common mental health disorders. You will learn about the common elements of major models of psychotherapy within an integrative context. The course will emphasize integration across different psychotherapy orientations, as well as integration of psychotherapy principles across various helping practices. Thus, the course will introduce basic practical skills such as interviewing, assessment, and building and maintaining a therapeutic alliance––skills that can benefit all helping professionals working in various roles. Lectures will include video demonstrations of psychotherapy and role-playing and personal reflection exercises to enhance learning and develop skills. Students are strongly encouraged to ask questions and contribute their thoughts and reflections throughout the course.

Prerequisites: This package will be at a level suitable for students who have completed Year 1 of undergraduate studies in Medicine or have equivalent or related coursework in Health Sciences or Psychology.

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Social Determinants of Health

In this course you will broaden your understanding of how social factors, such as skin colour and income, affect population and public health. We will explore the meaning of health and its measurement, and examine what influences the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals, families, communities and nations. You will gain an understanding of the complex pathways through which social circumstances affect health and well-being, and hands-on experience thinking through real world problems. Lectures in class are followed by interactive group activities and trips outside of the classroom to explore health promotion services in Vancouver. This class will bring a new light to your understanding of the factors that affect health, and challenge you to think differently about what we can do as a society to decrease health inequities.

Introduction to Population and Public Health Practice

This course addresses the question of how we can respond to population and public health concerns. It introduces the student to key perspectives and frameworks that are used to inform activities that can improve the health of individuals, families, communities and nations. Potential approaches to preventing disease and improving health, such as a focus on the prevention of disease, screening for disease, the implementation of monitoring and surveillance systems, and the treatment of disease will be covered. Key frameworks such as types of prevention (i.e. primary, secondary, tertiary), and evaluating the cost and effectiveness of activities will also be considered.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Not required

Update (2023/12/15): The two courses of this package have been swapped with each other. There are no changes to the courses and their contents.

Recovery from Injury and Disease

This course will introduce students to the science of rehabilitation within the World Health Organization framework. Through this approach, students will understand how severe injuries and chronic diseases can impact the patient and family, both physically and emotionally. Conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will be used to illustrate the journey through rehabilitation, the road to recovery and adjustment to disability. Along this journey, students will be introduced to concepts about the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological systems, as well as coping mechanisms and quality of life.

In addition, cutting-edge research on novel rehabilitation treatments will be introduced, including robotic suits to permit walking after spinal cord injury and e-Health (e.g., tele-medicine, video games, wearable sensors) to improve function. Students will use a variety of interactive methods to understand the content, including small group tutorials, and problem-based learning.

Exercise is Medicine

This course will provide an exploration of exercise and physical activity in the treatment of chronic conditions. Through an exploration of chronic conditions such as cancer, cognitive impairment, and musculoskeletal disorders, students will gain an appreciation of the effects of exercise on brain function, bone and muscle health, and cardiovascular function. Topics will also include the epidemiology of physical inactivity, measurement of physical activity in chronic disease, strategies to get a nation and the community more active, role of health professionals in physical activity prevention and treatment, and technology to motivate and deliver physical activity in chronic disease populations.

Students will use a variety of interactive methods to understand the content, including case studies, hands-on physical activity measurement sessions, and problem-based learning. Students will also complete hands-on labs in a state-of-art fitness and exercise research facility designed to enable access for people with chronic disease and disability.

Prerequisites: This package will be at a level suitable for students who have completed an undergraduate-level Biology or Physiology course.

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Introduction to Medical Laboratory Science

You will explore normal and abnormal biochemistry and physiology of blood and organ systems including the liver, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys. You will solve medical case studies and diagnose diseases by interpreting patient history information, physical findings, and results of selected clinical laboratory tests. You will participate in case-based learning, team presentations, interactive lectures, and a hands-on blood cell morphology laboratory session in which you prepare and stain blood smears, then distinguish different cells under the microscope. To broaden your educational experiences, you may also take guided tours of lab facilities. Past students stated they “learned a lot–not only knowledge, but the way to get knowledge…and had lots of fun in this class”. They valued team-work and interacting with instructors who were “very knowledgeable, approachable and kind”.

Fundamental Techniques for Clinical and Medical Research Laboratories

The focus of this course will be to perform methods that are commonly used in hospital and biomedical research laboratories. You will learn through hands-on laboratory sessions and will focus on the following disciplines: molecular biology, cell culture and histochemistry. Experiments you will conduct include DNA finger printing and culturing a mammalian cell line. You will also conduct a series of experiments using different staining techniques and microscopically determine the composition of unknown tissues. Your learning will be supported through demonstrations, discussions of experimental design, data analysis activities and interactive lecture sessions. Past students stated that they “enjoyed extracting and analyzing their own DNA” and that the cell culture labs were “very unique and interesting – something we cannot do in our home country.” They were also “excited to analyze their slides and share with others during their histochemistry presentations”.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Principles of Body Structure and Function

This course will cover foundational functional anatomy including all major organ systems as well as the musculoskeletal system. Students will also learn how these systems are functionally and structurally related to each other. Thoracic anatomy will focus on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, abdominal anatomy on the digestive and renal system and pelvic anatomy on the reproductive systems. The musculoskeletal system will be covered from a conceptual point of view focusing on the major functions of the upper and lower limbs and the importance of the musculoskeletal system for human form and structure. This course will give a basic foundation in functional anatomy that will help students as they prepare for life and health sciences programs. Students will have the opportunity to explore these systems on virtual 3D models, scanned from real specimens.

Introduction to Clinical Neuroanatomy

This course will offer foundations of the neuroanatomy along with clinical applications. Students will examine the central nervous system through a combination of classroom activities and use of computer modelling technology to gain a better understanding of the structure and function of the different parts including; spinal cord, brainstem, and cerebrum. During this course, students will have the opportunity to see and learn about the spinal nerves and cranial nerves. In addition, they will learn about some major functional features of the central nervous system such as; balance and equilibrium, hearing, speech, eye movements, and cognition.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Not Required

Biological Aspects of Aging

This course will provide an exploration of the biological underpinnings of aging and their individual and societal implications. It will introduce the influence of normal aging on organs, cells, tissue, and chemical messengers and how these changes impact an individual’s function. The impact of common age-related chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis, cerebrovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia will be discussed as they pertain to the global burden on healthcare systems. Students will use a variety of interactive methods to understand the content, including small group lectures, group presentations, and case studies. The group presentation component will provide students with the opportunity to practice critical appraisal of research evidence on biological aging through both an oral presentation and peer-evaluation. Students will also visit several state-of-the-art research laboratories at the Centre for Aging SMART, where they will be provided with hands-on experience.

Clinical Aspects of Aging

This course provides an introduction to clinical aspects of aging, particularly factors associated with pathological as well as healthy aging in humans. This course is a step forward from the Biological Aspects of Aging course, as it pertains to aging mechanisms in health and disease within a clinical context. Specifically, the course will include classroom lectures, interactive group-learning activities, hands-on laboratory sessions, and group-based coursework. An interdisciplinary group of researchers and clinicians will participate in the course as invited lecturers, and will provide examples of research activities on the topic of human aging conducted at UBC and other academic institutions. With engaging speakers, visits to clinical research facilities, and effective mentorship techniques, this course will provide students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in the interdisciplinary learning in aging.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Update (2023/12/15): The course description for Introduction to Women’s Health – normal physiology and clinical challenges has been updated.

Introduction to Women’s Health – normal physiology and clinical challenges

Students will be introduced to the subject of human reproduction and women’s reproductive health over the life span. The course will cover both foundations of physiology and clinical aspects of care. Embedded Case-based learning (CBL) cases will provide insight into the biology and physiology of reproduction from embryonic development and conception, pediatric gynecology, to menopause and cancer. Teaching will be provided by scientists as well as clinicians.

This interactive course will highlight the many advances in this specialty. A tutorial on how to use technology to access the most relevant literature to solve a problem will be presented.
A wide exposure to common clinical challenges in the field will be achieved through didactic lectures augmented by student led presentations. Hands-on-learning workshops will be included.

Teams of students will be tasked with a clinical scenario to research and present to their fellow students at the end of each course.

The Specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology – From the Bench to the bedside

This module builds upon the foundations of the first course and provides a deeper and more comprehensive exploration of this speciality. Students will expand their knowledge and further understanding of subspeciality medicine in Women’s Health / Obstetrics and Gynecology with lectures from areas such as Reproductive Endocrinology, Gynecological Oncology, Pediatric Gynecology, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Urogynecology, Sexual Medicine, Infectious disease, Neonatology and so forth.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduating Students: Not Accepted

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

Translating Engineering into Clinical Insights: Musculoskeletal Injuries and Traumas

From congenital hip dysplasia to spinal cord injuries in mountain bikers: learn about common musculoskeletal conditions and traumas from both clinical and biomechanics perspectives, beginning with their underlying causes. Explore the mechanisms behind how excessive force and acceleration affect various parts of the human body through insights provided by clinicians, sports medicine researchers and biomedical engineers. Participate in interactive labs, where students will explore injury mechanisms through destructive testing of artificial bones and see high-speed impact testing rigs in action. Students will also work in teams to research and present a musculoskeletal injury/condition and the corresponding treatments.

Clinical Advancements through Collaborative Innovation

Expanding upon the foundation laid in the first course, delve deeper into pathways for elevating the standard of clinical care and injury prevention through collaborative innovations. This course introduces the Biodesign Innovation Process, a tool commonly used to guide collaborative effort between engineers and clinical health care providers. Learn to conduct an innovation cycle, consisting of designing, prototyping, and testing a solution. Gain insights from distinguished researchers who have pushed the boundaries of what’s achievable, from pioneering surgical techniques, machine learning for diagnostics to the evolution of advanced sport helmets. Participate in practical, clinical-focused labs conducted at the Centre for Aging SMART at Vancouver Coastal Health, where students will gain exposure to cutting-edge innovation tools extensively used by researchers, including rapid prototyping techniques.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination: Required

For more information

Learn about Lucas Ng’s and Miscah Katawera’s VSP experience here.

Please note that the Course Package content is subject to change.

For VSP Medicine-specific questions, please email the Faculty of Medicine, Project Coordinator at med.international@ubc.ca.

Student testimonials

“If you want to have a good experience, study and visit a beautiful place, you should definitely participate in the VSP!”  

– Luis Felipe Sanz, VSP Medicine Student, 2019

Meet Luis and learn about his VSP experience here.