The state of South Carolina is known for its gorgeous beaches, southern charm, and unique history. But not many people know that South Carolina is also home to three outstanding medical schools. While these medical schools do not share the same prestige and reputation as the Ivy League, they are solid and well-respected institutions that offer excellent training to future doctors.
The medical profession is admired worldwide for the rigor of its training, the high stakes of its day-to-day duties, and the complexity of its care requirements. Medical schools are held to a very high standard because to confer a medical doctor degree comes with an enormous responsibility: doctors will hold people’s lives in their hands.
With this in mind, the most popular and well-regarded medical school ranking system, published by US News and World Report, considers the following factors when ranking medical schools: peer assessment, resident physician assessment, admissions selectivity, faculty resources, and research activity, among others.
In this article, we walk through the best medical schools in South Carolina in order of each school’s placement in the US News Medical School list. If a school is not ranked, the editorial team at College Gazette ranks the remaining schools.
3. USC School of Medicine Greenville (Greenville, SC)
USC School of Medicine Greenville, located in (you guessed it) Greenville, SC, is a public medical school that serves the local area. Approximately two-thirds of USC School of Medicine Greenville students hail from South Carolina, and the school awards upwards of $3.3 million dollars in scholarship funds. The school is unranked by US News.
For decades, USC School of Medicine Greenville has partnered with the largest care provider in the whole region, Prisma Health, to give medical students a combination of excellent in-class instruction and meaningful hands-on opportunities. USC School of Medicine Greenville’s curriculum begins with EMT training and certification (100% of students receive EMT certification). This allows students to get immediate hands-on clinical training in a way that would not otherwise be possible.
While USC School of Medicine Greenville initially began as an extension of USC School of Medicine at its flagship campus in Columbia, SC, the Greenville branch soon took its own path and became its own accredited institution separate from USC School of Medicine Columbia. In fact, only six other universities in the country have two separately accredited M.D. programs. Being its own accredited institution allows USC School of Medicine Greenville to play to its specific strengths and chart its own curriculum.
In addition to EMT training and certification, the USC School of Medicine Greenville experience is also unique for its Lifestyle Medicine Curriculum. It is the first school in the country to incorporate coursework in exercise, nutrition, lifestyle habits, and self-care into all four years of its curriculum, making it a very forward-thinking institution. Preventative medicine and healthy lifestyle modifications are of increasing importance and popularity among people in the US and worldwide, so USC School of Medicine Greenville is genuinely paving the way for a new approach to educating medical doctors.
USC School of Medicine Greenville also incorporates “soft skills” training into all four years of the M.D. program, so that medical doctors graduate not just as competent scientists and medical practitioners, but as humane professionals capable of communicating well, listening deeply, and acting with empathy and compassion.
Admission to USC School of Medicine Greenville is very competitive and requires a high GPA and MCAT score. Although USC School of Medicine Greenville practices a holistic admissions process, they also note that admitted students tend to have an average GPA between 3.7 and 3.75 and an average MCAT score of 509. Because this is a public school, South Carolina residents are given some preferential treatment during the admissions process and pay lower tuition than out-of-state students. Luckily, out-of-state students can establish residency in South Carolina in their first year and then pay in-state tuition.
2. Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, SC)
The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is a public medical school located in the charming city of Charleston, SC. MUSC is one of the oldest medical schools in continuous operation in the entire country and is the oldest medical school in the Deep South. It is unranked by US News.
MUSC’s motto is “She (the college) enriches by giving generously.” That spirit of generous giving animates all aspects of the MUSC experience. MUSC is not only the oldest, but also the largest academic medical center in South Carolina, and MUSC doctors care for patients all across the state.
MUSC’s curriculum is structured in a traditional two years pre-clinical, two years clinical fashion. Students start by taking basic organ systems science courses in their first two years and then pursue hands-on, real-world clinical training in their last two years. In addition to these pre-clinical and clinical blocks, students participate in units that span all four years and cover instruction in doctoring, physical examination and diagnosis, and biomedical ethics.
MUSC also operates a regional campus in Anderson, SC, home to its Primary Care Parallel Track at MUSC AnMed Health Clinical Campus program. As the name suggests, this track centers on primary care in a community hospital setting. The clinical training in this track occurs in the third and fourth years, as does the clinical training for the regular Charleston-based program.
One of MUSC’s unique initiatives is the Senior Mentorship Program, which pairs MUSC medical students with elderly (65 years and older) residents of the Charleston area to provide medical students with a valuable learning opportunity, reduce stigmas around aging and the elderly, and improve the way future doctors care for older patients, which is all the more important given our country’s growing population of elderly people. Students in this program practice meeting elderly patients in a non-clinical setting and assessing different health markers, all while enhancing their bedside manner.
Admission to MUSC is very competitive. For the Fall 2020 incoming class, the medical school received 3700 applications for a class of 180 students. Successful applicants had an average GPA of 3.77 and an average MCAT score of 509. A whopping 90% of students came from within South Carolina, and 10% from out of state. In terms of residency match results for the Class of 2021, MUSC matched 97.7% of 177 senior applicants in a residency position.
1. University of South Carolina School of Medicine (Columbia, SC)
University of South Carolina School of Medicine, located in SC’s state capital of Columbia, is the only medical school in South Carolina assigned a national ranking by US News: #90 in the country for Research and #76 in the country for Primary Care. Even more impressively, USC School of Medicine ranks #1 in the entire US for Medical Schools with Graduates Practicing in Underserved Areas. This is a huge accomplishment and speaks to the community-minded ethos of USC School of Medicine’s students and alumni.
The University of South Carolina is a Tier-1 research institution, and the School of Medicine builds upon this excellence in research through a focus on experiential learning, renowned centers and institutes such as the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Center for Dietary Supplements and Inflammation, and Research Center for Transforming Health.
USC School of Medicine faculty conducts specialized research in Mechanisms and Therapeutic Strategies for Neuropsychiatric and Neurologic Disorders, Mechanisms for Prevention, Detection, and Therapeutics of Cardiovascular Disease, Inflammatory Pathways in Health and Disease and Novel Interventional Strategies, and Pediatric Health and Mitigating Adult Disease Development. Medical students take part in faculty research projects in order to hone not only clinical skills but also scholarly knowledge creation and discovery.
USC School of Medicine substantially impacts the local community through clinical partnerships with local health care facilities. South Carolina is in dire need of more physicians, and more than half of USC School of Medicine’s graduates go on to serve in the state of South Carolina, even in underserved rural corners of the state. The M.D. curriculum is a good balance of old and new, characterized by traditional coursework, lots of hands-on clinical opportunities, and innovative new approaches such as being the first medical school to integrate hands-on clinical ultrasound technology into all four years of the program.
New students may soon get to enjoy a new sprawling, state-of-the-art $300 million medical school campus, complete with a new 130,000-square-foot medical school and a separate 162,000-square-foot research and laboratory building.
Admission to USC School of Medicine is, unsurprisingly, highly competitive. For the class entering in Fall 2020, the medical school received nearly 3,000 applications for a class of 99 students. Three-quarters of enrolled students came from within South Carolina, and one-quarter came from other states. Successful applicants had an average GPA of 3.69, an average science GPA of 3.63, and an average MCAT score of 507.