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 such as a brain anatomy lab, 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.

Check out the VSP Medicine experience here!

Eligibility: Medicine 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 14, 2023).

By Order of the Provincial Health Officer in British Columbia, all students accessing care locations and community care settings must follow the COVID-19 preventative measures order. Per the Provincial Health Order, students will need to provide proof of fully vaccinated status (which means 7 days have passed after your second dose of vaccine) prior to the package start date. Once you receive your letter of acceptance, UBC Faculty of Medicine will reach out to you.

Introduction to Clinical Medicine in the Hospital Setting

In this popular offering, VSP Medicine students will visit a large hospital and see the active life of physicians in several specialties as they diagnose and treat patients. Explore a unique hands-on experience and visit the Emergency Room, Laboratories and other areas. Learn how to resuscitate patients in cases of emergency, and use quality simulators to do intubation, defibrillation, managing airways and intravenous lines. Learn how to take history and conduct a physical exam – and work with physician-educators to acquire skills that focus on cardiac, respiratory and neurological systems. Discuss hospital cases in a wide spectrum of diseases, present patient cases of acutely ill and injured patients such as those with a myocardial infarct or in car accidents, as well as chronically ill patients such as those with rheumatoid arthritis. In small group learning style discuss common emergency complaints such as fever, abdominal pain and rash to learn foundation of medicine.

Introduction to Scientific Research in the Hospital Setting

“Review the scientific basis for research in biology, pharmacology and disciplines of medicine and explore methods to learn advanced clinical (hospital and clinic based) study designs. Learn from senior doctors, investigators and scientists how to discover better treatments for severely ill patients and acute emergencies, discuss ethical conduct of studies in children and neonates, how to recruit patients and what can be done to improve patient care through scientific studies. The course provides students with solid foundation to appraise primary literature in clinical disciplines including medicine.

This course offers you exposure to senior and experienced doctors who do such research in a large hospital. Learn to read English medical literature and have an opportunity to discuss research opportunities in cases of emergency, chronic diseases and cancer. With other students and a doctor-mentor in a small group you will develop a research proposal that can be implemented in the future.”

No pre-requisites

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.  Knowledge acquisition from both the scientific and clinical perspectives will be supported through complementary lectures and small group exercises.  You will have the chance to design and present your very own case study, incorporating the newly learned pharmacological concepts with your creativity and analytical skills.  Through this educational model, you will explore the basic science and clinical applications of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, endocrine and autonomic pharmacology, and their integration across multiple related disciplines.

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.

Psychiatric Disorders and their Pharmacological Treatments

This course will cover the major psychiatric disorders that may include schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. You will learn from and engage with Faculty experts in each topic through interactive lectures and discussions. Over the duration of the course, you will learn the symptoms and neurobiology of these disorders, and how pharmacological therapies work to treat target symptoms. You will study the pharmacology of these drugs at the molecular level which will provide you with the foundation for understanding their clinical application. Finally, you will learn about treatment strategies using the most up-to-date evidence-based treatment guidelines.

The Science Behind the Mind

This course will offer you an introduction to the mind and basic neuroanatomy emphasizing which brain structures play a role in the generation of normal and abnormal mental states. You will learn about the neurological basis of mental illness, the Mental Status Examination, the relationship of mental state phenomenology to brain function and dysfunction, and the modular nature of the brain structures and functions, all from Faculty experts. Invited guest instructors in various specialties offer perspectives and expertise that may include topics such as neuroimaging, genetics and psychiatry, and neuropsychology. Classes are a combination of interactive lectures and labs, with a possible fieldtrip.

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.

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 exercises to develop practice skills.

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.

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.

No pre-requisites

Exercise is Medicine

This course will provide an exploration of exercise and physical activity in the treatment of chronic health conditions. Through an exploration of chronic conditions such as arthritis, cancer, cognitive impairment, and cardiovascular disease, students will gain an appreciation of the effects of exercise on brain activation, bone and muscle health, and cardiovascular function. Topics will also include the epidemiology of physical inactivity across the world, measurement of physical activity in chronic disease, the role of health professionals in physical activity management, and mobile technology to promote physical activity in chronic disease. Students will use a variety of interactive methods to understand the content, including case studies, small group tutorials, and problem-based learning.

Recovery from Injury and Disease

This course will introduce students to the science of rehabilitation and recovery from injury and disease. 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, concussion, stroke, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will be used to illustrate the journey through rehabilitation, the road to recovery, and adjustment to disability. 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 visits to leading faculty laboratories. Students will use a variety of interactive methods to understand the content, including small group tutorials and problem-based learning.

Pre-requisite: an undergraduate-level biology or physiology course.

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. You may also take guided tours of clinical research lab facilities and the David Hardwick Pathology Learning Centre which houses tissue specimens representing a range of pathological conditions. 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”.

No pre-requisites

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 learn how the human body develops through the embryonic period to give rise to these systems and how they 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.

Introduction to Clinical Neuroanatomy

This course will offer foundations of the neuroanatomy along with clinical applications. Students will be able to examine real specimens of the central nervous system which aids them to have a better understanding of the structure and function of the different parts of the central nervous system including; spinal cord, brainstem, and cerebrum. During this course student 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.

No pre-requisites

Biological Aspects of Aging

This course will provide an exploration of the biological underpinnings of aging and their individual and societal implications. It will give an introduction to 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 Center for Hip Health and Mobility, 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: 1) classroom lectures; 2) interactive group-learning activities; 3) hands-on laboratory sessions; and 4) 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.

*This course package is canceled for July 2023. Students who have applied for this package are encouraged to consider switching to other MED course packages.

Typical and Impaired Communication Across the Lifespan

This course will provide an overview of human communication skills. It will outline typical patterns of language development and changes across the lifespan, and will also describe developmental and acquired communication impairments. Students will be exposed to key concepts in the fields of audiology and speech-language pathology in order to gain a broad understanding of communication science, and the roles speech-language pathologists and audiologists play in serving the community. Topics will include developmental language delay, communication impairment in autism, hearing loss, aphasia, and motor speech impairments, amongst others. Through videos, guest speakers with communication impairments, and engagement with practicing clinicians, students will gain familiarity with common communication impairments.

How Technology is Changing the way we Communicate

This course will explore the idea that modern technology is having a profound effect – both positive and negative – on the ways we communicate, and on our very ability to communicate. Students will learn about the impact of modern technology on childhood language development, on hearing health, and on populations with speech and language impairments. They will also investigate the ways in which technology is being harnessed to enhance treatment and expand communication between health care practitioners and their patients. Topics will include hearing assessment for infants, the effects of screen time on language development, cochlear implants, high tech assistive communication devices, the use of biofeedback devices in speech therapy, high fidelity patient simulation, and telehealth, amongst others. Students will have the opportunity to interact with cutting edge communication technology.

No pre-requisites

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 using CBL. Teams of students will be tasked with a clinical scenario to research and present to their fellow students at the end of each course. Hands on learning will be provided in sessions.

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 specialty. It will incorporate exposure to leading edge research and clinical facilities with visits to different world class laboratories, a tour of a fertility clinic laboratory and some hands learning in a surgical training laboratory at the Centre of Excellence for Simulation Education and Innovation (CESEI).

Students will expand their knowledge and further understanding of subspecialty 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.

No pre-requisites

Understanding Injuries through Biomechanics

Explore the life cycle of an injury: identifying factors that increase risk of injury; investigating how excessive forces lead to injuries; diagnosing injuries with medical imaging; and treating injuries with surgical interventions. VSP students will have field trips to the Vancouver General Hospital campus and engage in hands-on activities using cutting-edge techniques to study and treat injuries. From impact simulations on life-size injury models to state-of-the-art surgical tools, you will see innovation in injury biomechanics. Practical activities will be supplemented by lectures from leading researchers and clinicians, which will provide the technical depth to understand and interpret your results.

Medical Innovation using Collaborative Design

Building on knowledge gained in Course 1, we challenge teams of VSP students to think like surgeons and design new ways to repair fractured bones.  You will learn about the benefits of biomedical engineering design process to improve health outcomes in patients. You will have the opportunity to brainstorm and test innovative solutions. The course finishes off with a demonstration of your team’s design in a celebration of the collaborative environment that makes these innovations possible.

No pre-requisites

*This course package is canceled for July 2023. Students who have applied for this package are encouraged to consider switching to other MED course packages.

Real-world Health Data Science to Improve Patient Care

This course is for students to develop a basic understanding of clinical problems in medical specialty areas such as cardiology, respirology, geriatrics, neurology, rheumatology, infectious diseases, and global health where data science approaches are assisting in improving the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease. We will review the relevant anatomy and physiology of the system and how it is affected by the particular disease state. Simulated clinical scenarios will be presented and the students will learn how data science approaches are applied to each scenario to improve medical care. We will provide real-world examples that UBC faculty are currently working on so the students will be exposed to cutting edge research and application in health data science.

Health Data Science Methods and Approaches

This course complements Course A in that for each clinical problem presented, we will introduce specific data science and machine learning concepts and methods to address how the methods can be used to build next-generation tools for the clinical problems. Specifically, for text and imaging data, we will introduce natural language processing and feature extraction techniques. For numeric data, we will discuss dimensionality reduction, unsupervised and supervised learning methods. This course emphasizes hands-on training for the methods covered. Laboratories will use health examples and open data, and the students will be trained on using visualization tools for storytelling. Last but not least, this course engages the students to consider ethical and fairness issues related to the data used to build machine learning models.

No pre-requisites

Meet Luis and learn about his VSP experience here

For VSP Medicine-specific questions, please email the Faculty of Medicine, International Coordinator at