The Duke University School of Medicine has grown into a premier place to learn the art of medicine.
Established in 1930 thanks to a bequest from the university’s founder, James Buchanan Duke, the North Carolina school has been considered one of the best medical schools in the nation since its earliest days.
Today, it’s home to thousands of medical professionals, from students to researchers to faculty members, including two Nobel laureates.
The school consists of has 24 scientific and clinical departments. Most of the students in the medical school, over 500, are pursuing doctorates in medicine, followed by those studying for doctorates in physical therapy (261 students).
Other popular paths include the physician assistant degree and the master’s degree in health science focusing on clinical research. Duke also offers biomedical doctorates, certificates, training programs, and other healthcare degrees.
Research, which sometimes takes place between the medical school and other Duke schools and departments, plays a prominent role there and has earned the university notice and respect.
It’s something the wider world has taken notice of, too. The National Institutes of Health gave Duke $467.4 million in 2021 for medical research, and that same year, the medical school opened its first research campus in Research Triangle Park.
Below, we’ll dig deeper into Duke’s medical school, taking an up-close look at what it takes to get admitted, how it compares to other schools, and much more.
Duke Medical School Acceptance Rate
The acceptance rate Duke School of Medicine is approximately 3%.
Thousands of aspiring doctors submit applications to Duke each year, but only a sliver of that amount actually makes it to campus to begin their studies. The School of Medicine accepted just 3.2% of applicants in 2019.
More recently, in 2021, the medical school received nearly 4,900 applications for its M.D. program and interviewed just 547 people from that group. A total of 108 ended up attending the program.
This was made up of 64% females, 34% males, and 2% who identified as “other.” Of the group that enrolled that year, the middle 50% had MCAT scores of 515 to 521 out of 528 total possible points.
While Duke has a low acceptance rate, it is not the toughest medical school to get into in the country. The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in California is the toughest overall, with an acceptance rate of just 1%.
This is followed by the New York University Long Island School of Medicine at 1.2% and Florida State University at 2.1%.
Schools that have similar acceptance rates to Duke include the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Minnesota and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Rhode Island.
Duke Medical School Tuition
Medical school lasts for four years, and at Duke the amount M.D. students pay in tuition and fees depends on their year of study, although they all fell around $67,000 to $68,000 for two total semesters.
That does not include the cost of living expenses, such as housing and food, which Duke estimates could cost between $20,000 and $29,000.
Duke actually is much more affordable than other medical schools in the United States. As of December 2020, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine charged the most in tuition and fees, $91,557 for out-of-state students.
South Carolina residents, however, paid significantly less, just $47,295. Nationwide, the class of 2020 accrued a median medical school debt of $200,000.
Duke, which charges the same for in-state and out-of-state students, had a similar total cost as the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine, and Carle Illinois College of Medicine.
Students’ ability to pay for their tuition does not factor into Duke’s decision about whether to admit someone.
The university also offers need-based financial aid, including grants, which do not need to be repaid, and low-interest loans. Students can seek this assistance during their third year, during which they do research, and also receive a cost-of-living allowance.
Duke Medical School Requirements
Prospective students must fill out the common application through the American Medical College Applications Service.
They will then need to complete Duke’s supplemental application, which screeners will review to decide whether the applicant will move on to the interview stage.
The university held virtual interviews recently because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. It used what’s known as the Multiple Mini Interview format, which consists of eight to 10 roughly nine-minute interviews.
Duke wants candidates to submit at least four letters of recommendation, with two coming from science faculty members who had the applicant in a class or lab. The letters should provide Duke with an idea of the applicant’s scientific abilities.
Alternately, the prospective student’s undergraduate school can send in a committee letter in place of the four individual letters.
The university does not require that applicants have taken specific courses as undergraduates, but it does recommend that they take certain science courses to best prepare themselves for medical school. These classes include subjects such as biochemistry, physics, and sociology.
Prospective students must submit an MCAT score as part of their application, but the university has relaxed the rules a bit because of COVID-19, accepting scores from as far back as 2017. If candidates took the MCAT more than once, Duke will be able to see all of the scores and will take the highest one.
Duke Medical School Notable Alumni
Duke’s medical school has produced some prestigious alumni through the years, including several who have gone on to fame beyond the medical field.
This includes former Air Force flight surgeon, presidential candidate, and Congressman Ron Paul, who was elected to the House of Representatives from Texas. His son, current Sen. Rand Paul, who represents Kentucky in Congress, also earned an M.D. from Duke.
Alumnus and cardiologist Robert Califf served as deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco in the Food and Drug Administration and later as commissioner of the FDA under President Barack Obama. Califf later was nominated by President Joseph Biden to return to the commissioner position.
Another well-known alumnus of the M.D. program is the late Paul Auerbach, who worked for many years as a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University.
Auerbach was also known as a founder of “wilderness medicine,” writing several books about the subject, and was an expert in disaster medicine. He was involved in the establishment of the Wilderness Medical Society and served on the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations as well.
Recent grad YiDing Yu, who earned an M.D. in 2012, founded an “early response platform” called Twiage geared toward first responders, which earned her numerous awards. She now serves as chief medical officer and general manager for health care automation company Olive.
Duke Medical School Ranking
As the number of applications it receives each year indicates, Duke’s medical school is in high demand. Part of the reason for that is because of the top rankings it receives, including earning second place in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 list of the nation’s best surgery programs, bested only by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The publication also awarded high marks in other areas, including third place for the best overall medical school for research, moving up from 13th place the year prior and landing behind only Harvard and New York universities.
Duke’s medical school also landed in fourth for anesthesiology, fifth for internal medicine, and sixth for radiology on U.S. News’ lists.
Duke’s outstanding medical program has attracted big bucks, too. The $467.4 million in 2021 from the NIH for medical research was 10th highest among the country’s universities, teaching hospitals, and research establishments.
Additionally, four of Duke’s basic sciences landed in the top 10 of funding recipients.
The university as a whole also earned great scores from Niche, which gave it an overall grade of A+. Duke also got an A+ for its academics, student life, and diversity, among others. Niche also named it the best Christian college in America.
Should You Attend Duke Medical School?
Duke has established itself as not only one of the best medical schools in the country, but also shown that it excels in teaching numerous fields within the healthcare industry.
At the university, medical students join a community that places importance on training as well as research. They get hands-on experience caring for patients a year earlier than medical students elsewhere, starting in their second year.
That way, they can spend all of their third year working on a scholarly research project.
Students also have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including the university’s new, and first, research campus, which opened in 2021 in Research Triangle Park, where companies such as Google and Apple have a presence.
Researchers are studying vaccine development and infectious diseases at the 273,000 square-foot research campus. Learning also takes place among Duke’s various centers and organizations, which includes the Global Health Institute (DGHI), and students have chances to get involved with various community health initiatives to give back to the region’s residents.
Thanks to different partnerships and collaborations between Duke and universities in locations such as Singapore and China, students can broaden their worldview by studying overseas.
Upon graduation, students join a group of more than 12,100 alumni living and working around the world and can participate in the Duke Medical Alumni Association, which supports both current and former students.