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The Best Medical Schools in the South: What You Need to Know

September 7, 2022
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Best Medical Schools in the SouthList of All Medical Schools in the SouthWhy Go to Medical School in the South?

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 6/16/22

If you want an excellent medical education without Ivy League costs and slim acceptance rates, consider attending one of the best medical schools in the South.

Settling on your perfect medical school is far from an easy decision. Among medical school considerations like tuition costs and acceptance rates, there are also geographic concerns to keep in mind. The cost of living and the culture in certain cities might have you looking below the Mason-Dixon line, toward the best medical schools in the South. 

This post will examine why a medical education in the South might be a good idea. It will also provide a complete list of M.D. granting schools in the South and a narrowed list of the very best medical schools in the South.

Whether you’re looking for an exceptional research-focused or primary care-focused education, you’re sure to find your best medical school in the South in this blog post.

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Best Medical Schools in the South

Here’s a list of some of the very best research-focused and primary care-focused medical schools in the South:

Duke University School of Medicine

Duke University School of Medicine is located in Durham, North Carolina. According to US News, the school offers the 3rd best research-focused medical education in the entire country, making it the very best medical school for research in the South. In fact, “over 2,300 active clinical research studies were conducted at Duke in a single year.

The M.D. program at Duke University School of Medicine is nationally recognized for its “unique patient-centered curriculum,” making it an invaluable educational experience for any prospective doctor. Moreover, the brilliant faculty at Duke School of Medicine is partially comprised of two Nobel Laureates.

Duke University School of Medicine is comparable to an M.D. program offered by any Ivy League institution. Considering Duke’s relative excellence, it isn’t an easy medical school to get accepted to. As shown in the figure below, only 108 of the 4,873 applicants to the school have ended up as enrolled students.

Table outlining how many applications one of hte best medical schools in the South, Duke University School of Medicine, received and how many of those students were interviewd and matriculated into the MD program

Source: Duke University School of Medicine

These 105 fortunate students had to rely on more than just charisma during their interviews. Duke University School of Medicine has a high standard when it comes to applicants’ MCAT scores and grade point averages. As shown in the following figure, Duke demands around a 520 MCAT score and a 3.9 GPA from its prospective students.

Two graphs outlining the MCAT scores and GPAs of applicants who were interviewd by, reiceved an offer from, and matriculated into the Duke University School of Medicine

Source: Duke University School of Medicine

Duke is a difficult school to get into, but as the best medical school in the South, it is also the most valuable medical education you can get below the Mason-Dixon line.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is located close to the northern limits of the South in Baltimore, Maryland. As the 7th best medical school for research, it is a close and worthy second to Duke in terms of the best medical schools in the South.

The research-focused education at Johns Hopkins is so nationally revered because “graduate students, residents and fellows learn from and study with Nobel laureates, Lasker Award winners and National Academy of Science members.”

In addition to the research-based education at Johns Hopkins, the school is also ranked as the national best in medical specialties like anesthesiology, radiology, and surgery

Moreover, Johns Hopkins Medical School is ranked as the national second in both internal medicine and psychiatry. If you hope to one day become a specialized medical practitioner, Johns Hopkins is the medical school for you.

With a 7% acceptance rate, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is not an easy medical school to get into. In terms of academics, Johns Hopkins only takes students who score in the very top percentile of MCAT exams and their pre-med grade point averages. 

You must also demonstrate your leadership skills, an initiative to serve others, and other favorable personal qualities for a chance to matriculate at Johns Hopkins Medical.

Washington University School of Medicine

The Washington University School of Medicine is located in St. Louis, Missouri. The medical school ranks as the 11th best research-focused medical education in the country.

The school also offers students the opportunity to work with faculty mentors where they may complete a personal research project. Other research training opportunities such as the school’s MD/PhD medical scientist training program are also offered at the Washington University School of Medicine.

The Washington University School of Medicine is another difficult school to get accepted to. For instance, the school’s website notes that a mere 123 first-year students out of 5,668 applicants managed to enroll in the medical school.

WUSM also boasts its “holistic review process” for entering applications. In essence, the school’s admission office considers an applicant’s examination scores and relevant experience in equal measure. The school is especially keen on experience that demonstrates the applicant’s integrity and personal motivation in pursuing medicine.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine is the second school on this list located in the southern state. More precisely, UNC School of Medicine has its main campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. US News ranks UNC as the 3rd best primary care-based medical school and the 24th best in research.

UNC offers a great balance between a primary care-focused and research-focused medical education. The school offers a rural primary care fellowship program for both current students and alumni. However, UNC is a flexible medical school. As a student, you may also participate in the school’s research program or shorter-term research opportunities.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine is very open about its application process. In fact, the school’s website provides the following list of criteria they seek in their ideal applicant: 

In actuality, every one of these criteria is desired by admissions officers from any medical school.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is located in Nashville, Tennessee. As the 13th best research-based education and 36th best primary care-based medical education in the country, Vanderbilt provides students with a well-balanced learning experience.

Vanderbilt School of Medicine has a unique take on medical education, epitomized by its Curriculum 2.0. This innovative curriculum is designed to avoid rote memorization, instead prioritizing “conceptual knowledge, communication skills, and cultural competencies.” This curriculum also includes a three to six-month immersive research project.

Prerequisites for Vanderbilt’s M.D. program are unique in that there are no required pre-med courses. Instead, the medical school prefers to offer prospective students “recommended” pre-med courses. While this gives you some flexibility in your undergraduate years, you will still require the necessary science and medicine knowledge to score well on the MCAT exam, which is still needed for admission into the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

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List of All Medical Schools in the South

The following is an alphabetical list (by state) of all M.D. granting medical schools in the South and their corresponding campus locations:

Why Go to Medical School in the South?

There are many reasons to opt for a medical education from a southern institution. Here are some of the most convincing reasons to head for medical schools in the South.

The Lower Cost of Living

One of the most attractive reasons to go to medical school in the South is the lower cost of living compared to northern college towns. In fact, northern states like Massachusetts and Connecticut that house Ivy League institutions are some of the most expensive in the entire nation.

While an Ivy League education is impressive to any potential employer, you can achieve an equally formidable education from some of the best medical schools in the South. This makes Southern schools a preferable choice compared to Ivy League institutions as the cost of living in states like the Carolinas or Texas are much more moderate than their northern counterparts. 

For instance, a student at Duke University who lives in North Carolina will enjoy the financial benefit of living in the country’s 24th most affordable state. This trumps the financial situation of a Harvard student living in Massachusetts, the nation’s 3rd most expensive state.

Getting an education from one of the best medical schools in the South is a great way to alleviate the considerable costs associated with an M.D. program. You may even be able to save some money for your post-med school internship!

The Appeal of Southern Regional Cultures

While medical school is serious business, it also provides you the opportunity to broaden your horizons. Going out-of-state for medical school is a great way to experience another American region with its own unique cultural flavor. This is especially true of the southern states.

There is no such thing as a homogeneous southern culture. Instead, each southern city is alive with its own cultural ecosystem. Choosing your perfect medical school in the South also means you must choose which city you want to live in and what local culture you are most eager to experience.

A medical student at Vanderbilt can enjoy the musical richness of Nashville during their studies. A student at any of several fine medical schools in North Carolina has a front-row ticket to some of the fiercest competition in NCAA sports. Alternatively, a student at any Louisiana medical school can gorge themselves on the culinary excellence their adopted state has to offer.

In a sense, your medical school experience can double as a prolonged vacation in a new cultural hub. It only takes a little careful thought to decide which med school and corresponding local culture appeal to you the most.

The Football

There is one thing that is prevalent all across the South. Whether you decide to attend medical school in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, or anywhere else in the South, you will have access to the best college football games in the country.

If you are a current football fan, a medical school in the South is right for you. If you aren’t a current football fan, you probably will become one after a couple of months as a med student down South. Even if you detest the sport, there is so much to be gained from the close-knit school community resulting from the football culture. You will never be at a loss for weekend plans.

FAQs: The Best Medical Schools in the South

Here are some answer to additional questions any future pediatrician should be asking.

1. Are There Any Ivy League Schools in the South?

There are no Ivy League schools in the South. Ivy League schools are secluded in northeastern states like New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. However, many of the top universities in the South rival even their northern, Ivy League counterparts. 

Considering the relative excellence of southern schools, you may essentially obtain an Ivy League-level education without the absurd living cost of big-city northern states.

2. How Else Can I Decide On the Best Medical School for Me?

Here is a list of smaller yet relevant things to consider when choosing a medical school:

Specific information regarding all the listed criteria should be available on medical school websites.

3. What is it Like Living in the South?

The most immediately noticeable change between northern and southern living is the weather. In the South, you will be safe from the frigid winters that surround most Ivy League institutions. At best, the weather at a southern medical school will be warm and balmy. However, at its worst, the weather in the South can be sweltering and humid. Pack appropriately!

The southern states are often more bucolic, too. If you’re a nature-lover, life in the South is probably best for you. The prevalence of open natural settings in the South also means there are many more outdoor recreational activities for you to partake in.

However, you should also consider the fact that you will want to travel back home once in a while. Be prepared to handle the costs and effort associated with occasional back-and-forth travel.

4. How Do I Decide On Which Southern State I Want to Live in?

Of course, the most important considerations when choosing a state to move to are the selection of available medical schools, the costs of living, and your personal interest. While moving to a new state for medical school is serious business, it can also act as a sort of prolonged excursion to another part of the country.

The best policy is to do your research and consult your personal interests. If you’re a music-lover, consider a Nashville-based school like Vanderbilt. If you live to eat, a medical school around New Orleans will be a blast. Pursue whichever state most interests you.

5. Should Residency Prospects Inform My Choice of Medical School?

While a history of institutional excellence is a great thing to consider when choosing a medical school, it won’t necessarily make your residency matching experience go any smoother. Your personal academic performance and demonstrated initiative are much more important in securing you a resident position than the reputation of your school.

6. What is the Difference Between Research-Focused and Primary Care-Focused Medical Schools?

Medical schools that rank high in research-based education are better if you aspire to work in academic medicine. In other words, if you enjoy clinical studies and writing papers, you should attend a medical school that excels in research-focused medical teaching.

Medical schools that rank high in primary care-based education are best suited to prospective medical practitioners who actually want to work with and treat patients.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to opt for a medical education from a southern school. The best medical schools in the South provide an Ivy League-level education without the burdensome living costs of an Ivy League city. Moreover, attending a school in the South is a great way to broaden your horizons during your years as a medical student.

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