The Best Medical Schools in Tennessee

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physicians and most medical professions is quite promising, with a steady, projected job-growth rate of 4%. Like the STEM fields, the medical and healthcare fields undergo many rapid changes, keeping pace with ever-evolving technology and research. 

Despite the nobility and prestige associated with the medical profession, many regions are experiencing a dire shortage of physicians and health professionals. Rural areas, especially, are affected by this shortage.

The state of Tennessee is home to many medically underserved. Thankfully, the state is also home to some of the best medical institutions and research centers in the country, including some of the best medical training programs. All of the schools on this list offer programs that rank among the top nationally, according to the US News & World Report. All have a reputation for training the finest physicians who are not only highly competent in their specialties, but are also motivated by the desire to help others. In particular, the schools share a strong commitment to train doctors who are willing to practice in rural and underserved areas.

We chose these schools based on a combination of factors: rankings, outcomes, experiential opportunities, and facilities. Contrary to what some may believe, some of the best medical schools are outside of the East and West coasts. This list proves Tennessee is home to some of the best medical programs in the nation and some of the most impactful and rewarding career options.

The colleges here are ranked by their placement in the US News Medical Schools list. If you are an aspiring physician looking to make a huge difference in the world, look no further than Tennessee.

5. Meharry Medical College (Nashville, TN)

Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Nashville is home to a handful of nationally renowned medical research and healthcare centers, making it an excellent setting for anyone aspiring towards a career in the healthcare profession. Meharry Medical College is one of the exemplary institutions in Nashville. The Medical College has a proud legacy and achievement record. It counts itself as one of the oldest, historically black institutions in the country, having been established in 1876, less than a decade after the Civil War! 

“Worship of God Through Service to Mankind” is Meharry’s motto, underscoring its commitment to social justice and the well-being of humanity, in alignment with its United Methodist roots. The school recently announced its partnership with Tennessee State University. This partnership aims to train greater numbers of African American doctors who are willing to serve vulnerable, minority communities.

The school remains on the cutting edge of medicine while adhering to the overriding mission to deliver high-quality care to those who need it the most. Meharry’s research program includes clinical research in sickle cell anemia, the Center for the Study of the Social Determinants of Health, and healthcare education.

Meharry’s excellence and commitment to its mission are proven by its rankings. According to the latest US News & World Report rankings, Meharry is among the top medical schools in the nation for the number of graduates practicing in the primary care profession (#12), most graduates practicing in medically underserved areas, and the number of graduates practicing in rural areas.

Its high-caliber curriculum and training have produced some outstanding alumni, such as Corey Hébert, the CEO of Community Health TV and Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent for Black News Channel, and Donna P. David, who was the first African American woman doctor to enter the US Navy.

4. University of Tennessee College of Medicine (Memphis, TN)

University of Tennessee College of Medicine
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that Tennessee is home to one of the top medical schools for primary care? According to the latest US News & World Report, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine ranks #80 among top programs for the primary care specialty, tied with Wake Forest University. 

More impressively, the school has earned even higher rankings for the very high number of graduates practicing in primary care fields, medically underserved areas, including rural areas. An aspiring health practitioner with interest in the well-being of humanity will bring their dreams to fruition here. But these rankings alone do not do any justice to this outstanding medical school.

UTHSC College of Medicine has a lot to offer, not least of which are rigorous training and world-class facilities. It is the largest medical school in the state, comprising 25 departments on the Memphis campus alone and 84 graduate training programs. The college boasts the world’s first Mobile Stroke Unit, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including advanced imaging for stroke diagnosis and noninvasive CT-angiography for imaging the arteries. 

What’s more, UTHSC has recently been awarded a $4.5 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to collaborate with primary care providers and researchers to develop and implement superb quality of care, producing better outcomes for cardiovascular patients.

Like any high-caliber medical school with a keen eye on public well-being and equitable access to high-quality care, the College of Medicine offers students myriad service-learning opportunities. The school keeps apace with health-related, community issues and concerns, ensuring that the students’ services respond to the most pressing needs. Perennially notable service-learning projects include Clinica Esperanza and the NMF Primary Care Leadership Program.

3. Lincoln Memorial University Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (Harrogate, TN)

Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine
Dwight Burdette, DeBusk College Lincoln Memorial University, CC BY 3.0

As you have seen, medical schools in Tennessee have a demonstrated commitment to training doctors who are competent and passionate about providing quality care to medically underserved populations. The Lincoln Memorial Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is no exception. 

In fact, LMDCOM was recently ranked by the US News & World Report as one of the top ten schools, nationally, for the number of graduates practicing in, both, rural and underserved areas. The school also consistently graduates many physicians practicing in primary care fields, sharing the #23 spot with the University of New England.

Any school can claim that compassionate, patient-centered care is at the core of its mission. But LMDCOM walks the talk, and impressive rankings alone do not highlight its excellence. Its innovative curriculum equips with the foundational knowledge and clinical experience needed to become first-rate physicians. First and second-year students are trained in the pre-clinical sciences, followed by two years of intensive, clinical rotations at hospitals and offices. Students gain experience and train at numerous hospital sites throughout Tennessee and the South, including Florida.

LMDCOM’s continued success in training the next generation of doctors is proven by its remarkably high postgraduate placement rates, among other things. In 2020, 72% of the graduating class entered their first year of residency training in a primary care track and a whopping 96% were placed into postgraduate training programs

Members of the 2020 graduating class were matched with prestigious residencies throughout the country. These are auspicious figures for a prospective LMDCOM student.

2. East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine (Johnson City, TN)

East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine
Boboskaditdatin, Stanton Gerber Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Medical schools in Tennessee have an unusually prominent place among institutions making the most impact. On a national scale, they outrank most other schools in terms of the number of graduates practicing in primary care fields, delivering the best care to underserved populations. 

The East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine certainly lives up to its motto, “Chances are we’ve touched your life.” Quillen ranks among the top 100 medical schools for primary care, sharing 64th place with the University of Missouri-Kansas City on the latest US News & World Report rankings. 

More impressively, Quillen ranked #3 among schools with the most graduates practicing in underserved and rural areas! If a robust social mission underpins your vision of the healthcare profession, then Quillen is the right choice for you!

Quillen boasts small class sizes and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, including a Simulation Lab that allows for various medical simulation training programs. However, Quillen is best known its focus on rural medicine; it offers a Rural Primary Care track and an Appalachian Preceptorship that produces highly trained physicians who deliver high quality care to rural communities. 

During the first two years, students on this track gain hands-on experience in patient care and work as part of an interprofessional team consisting of health care professionals and students from the other colleges within the ETSU Academic Health Sciences Center. 

The third and fourth years consist of clerkships and a clinical rotation in an underserved area. Under the guidance of instructors, fourth-year students in their clinical rotation begin to diagnose and manage patients.

What does it take to get into Quillen? The admissions committee received a total of 3,099 applications for Fall 2021. Out of that pool of applicants, only 109 were offered acceptance into the program, making Quillen a very selective school!

1. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
SenatorDF, Vanderbilt Childrens, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is another fine school in Tennessee. But there are several reasons why we made it top school on this list. According to the US News & World Report, it is one of the top 20 medical schools for research nationwide (it is tied with the University of Pittsburgh for the 13th spot) and one of the top schools for primary care, tied with Emory University. But the stellar rankings do not stop there! The Vanderbilt School of Medicine’s Anesthesiology and Internal Medicine specialties are among the most nationally renowned programs. Its pediatrics, radiology, and surgery programs are also high caliber.

At Vanderbilt, medical students are immersed in an individualized training program, consisting of a 13-month preclinical curriculum, followed by clerkships, clinical rotations, and mentored research projects. 

Students are taught and mentored by world-class faculty and, because of the school’s location in a unique “medical neighborhood,” have access to ample research and hands-on, clinical opportunities. Prospective students with interest in rural medicine and practice will be pleased to learn that a new student-run organization has been recently launched to address the growing needs of rural patients.

The school is affiliated with the Vanderbilt Medical Center, which has served as a highly acclaimed teaching hospital where many VUSM faculty work as clinicians. The medical center is also the site for six core clerkships, through which second-year students begin to develop their clinical competency. The medical school’s Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment also operates out of the Vanderbilt Medical Center.

With outstanding programs, excellent facilities, and fruitful opportunities, it is no wonder that getting into Vanderbilt can be extremely hard. In Fall 2020, the school received over 5,000 applications! Out of this vast pool of competitive applicants, only 96 matriculated.

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