Here Are the Best Medical Schools in North Carolina

There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right medical school. Some students seek stellar research opportunities, others are particular about working with faculty who share their specialization interests, while still others are hoping for a school that offers clinical interaction with patients as soon as possible. 

North Carolina is home to some of the top-ranked medical schools in the United States, offering a robust choice of institutions where students can develop their professional competencies in medical sciences, research, and patient care. From world-class teams of educators to meaningful community engagement programs to some of the most diverse medical student bodies anywhere in the country, universities in North Carolina are nationally competitive in their offering to prospective medical students. 

Which schools of medicine in the Tar Heel State come out on top? Based on the ranking as reported by U.S. News & World Report, we have put together a quick guide to the best medical schools in North Carolina.

5. Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine (Lillington, NC)

Campbell University
Gerry Dincher, John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center (Campbell University), CC BY-SA 2.0

Coming in at #5 in the North Carolina rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSUM) in Lillington, North Carolina is known for being the first and only osteopathic medical school in the state. The school’s holistic approach to the medical sciences is a strong draw for students who are serious about their education in traditional avenues of medicine, while also seeking to expand their knowledge base with additional training in osteopathic principles of whole-person health. 

A Christian institution that welcomes all faiths, CUSUM emphasizes altruism and compassion alongside exemplary professional and academic skills. Care for local communities is a core tenet of the school, and in fact, part of the school’s mission is to provide care for rural populations in North Carolina and beyond who can’t easily access healthcare services. This unique opportunity to give back to underserved communities attracts many students who are seeking not only a leading medical education, but also real-world experience tackling a variety of healthcare challenges. 

While CUSUM’s osteopathic focus and community engagement set the program apart, the school is also recognized for its strong record of academic outcomes. Medical students at CUSOM perform competitively on licensing examinations, and the school maintains a 100% rate for residency placements. The student body includes around 600 students from over 30 states, including 150 residents and fellows spanning eight clinical specialties and five clinical programs. Approximately 1,000 faculty members, both physicians and scientists, are on staff. 

4. East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine (Greenville, NC)

East Carolina University
Vam09, Jarvis Hall at ECU, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ranked #1 in North Carolina and #2 in the nation for most graduates to enter a family practice career, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville is an undisputed leader in family medicine for students in the United States. This exemplary track record of family physicians has been noted by leading medical groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Within the arena of family medicine and beyond, Brody provides a robust core education spanning the sciences, clinical skills, and community care across various settings. The school also provides students with the opportunity to master a range of medical technologies including online resources for evidence-based research, electronic medical records, and more. All of this training ensures students are versed in the digital and technological skills necessary to contend with a rapidly changing medical landscape. 

Many prospective students also appreciate that Brody boasts a strong contingent of non-traditional and minority learners amongst its diverse student body. Around 11.7% of Brody students identify as African American, nearly double the national average of just over 6%. Nearly one in three students (31.7%) are over the age of 30, compared to 17.5% across United States medical colleges. 

Moreover, Brody also ranks nationally for its low tuition. The school reports that only 3.4% of graduates leave Brody with more than $200,000 in educational debt: a significant departure from the nation at large, which sees around 32.5% of medical students tackling at least that amount in debt after they graduate.

3. Wake Forest University School of Medicine (Winston-Salem, NC)

Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Allengot, Wake Forest School of Medicine – Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education, CC BY-SA 4.0

With state-of-the-art facilities and a new campus coming soon to midtown Charlotte, Wake Forest University School of Medicine is a nucleus for medical innovation, education, and North Carolina research. In its 2022 edition of school rankings, U.S. News & World Report moved Wake Forest University School of Medicine up four positions, making it #48 on the list of top medical research schools in the United States. 

Because Wake Forest University School of Medicine is directly integrated into the Wake Forest Baptist Health system – which includes the school as well as an integrated clinical system with community hospitals, primary care clinics, and speciality clinics – students get the opportunity to directly participate in real-world clinical environments during their medical training program. This includes interacting with patients from the very first week of school. 

Recognized nationally and around the world as a leading institution for biomedical research, Wake Forest University School of Medicine breeds an academic culture of curiosity and innovation. Recently, Wake Forest School of Medicine researchers contributed to the creation of data networks that are helping to power new research into viruses and how they affect various subpopulations. 

The school’s strong reputation and practice in research mean that even when students are taking a clinical, patient-centered path, they will still benefit from working with faculty members who are well versed in how research-led insights translate into leading patient care practices. 

The Wake Forest School of Medicine also offers a specially designed “Wake Ready!” curriculum, developed to provide a more individualized preparation for students on their path to a medical career. This curriculum replaces the traditional two years of pre-clinical and two years of clinical work with a program of increased integration and flexibility, enabling students to master foundational sciences. After this, pupils move forward with clinical immersion and then a more individualized training phase, ensuring each student is aptly prepared for their unique career path to come.

2. University of North Carolina School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, NC)

UNC School of Medicine
Yeungb, UNC Health Care, CC BY 3.0

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine (UNC) is home to world-class faculty, outstanding facilities, and a team-oriented environment that make this school a top choice for medical students in North Carolina as well as from across the United States and around the world. 

While the first-year class size at UNC is the highest of North Carolina’s top five medical schools, at 190 students, the school prides itself on an “incomparable” faculty-to-student ratio, which U.S. News & World Report puts at 2.3:1

Indeed, UNC has earned a reputation for supportive faculty who offer individualized attention; at the same time, students benefit from the advantages of attending a larger institution. These advantages include interdisciplinary units and cross-department collaboration across the school of medicine’s 20 clinical and eight science-based departments. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, UNC is ranked #3 in Best Primary Care Medical Schools, but this doesn’t stop the program from maintaining some of the lowest average rates of debt for graduates, thanks to support from public and private philanthropic programs. Additionally, the school has also been ranked #1 for total number of minority students earning a PhD in biological and biomedical sciences, a testament to UNC’s commitment to diversity. 

A fun fact about UNC is that the medical school is home to some well-known alumni. Francis Collins, the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) current director, is a UNC graduate who was also responsible for key work with the Human Genome Project. UNC is also the alma mater of actor and comedian Ken Jeong, who received his medical degree before going on to become a familiar face in Hollywood productions like Community and Crazy Rich Asians.

1. Duke University School of Medicine (Durham, NC)

Duke University Medical School
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The School of Medicine at Duke University is a leading institution for education, medical science study and clinical care. A strong emphasis on research and collaboration across the school’s 24 clinical and basic science departments provides students with a unique learning environment to nurture and inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals. 

Duke is among the top 10 schools in the nation to receive federal funding for medical research, bringing in over $460 million from the National Institute of Health in 2020. With this vital work in biomedical research, U.S. News & World Report ranks Duke at #3 in the nation for Best Medical Research Schools. Duke also ranks highly in specialty rankings for various types of clinical study, coming in at #2 in the country for surgery and #4 for anesthesiology. 

Two Nobel Laureates sit among the school’s faculty: Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012; and Paul Modrich, PhD, awarded the Chemistry Prize in 2015. The distinguished team of educators at Duke also includes appointees to major national medical groups, including the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and many more.

Students with interest in international opportunities will appreciate that Duke partners with medical institutions in Singapore and China, offering the chance for cross-regional collaboration in research and education. What’s more, The Duke Global Health Institute offers tailored programs to support medical students with study abroad aims as well as locally based student projects designed to support vulnerable populations in underserved parts of the globe.