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10 medical schools that deserve a second look

The decision to enter medical school is a big one, but the tough choices don't stop there -- you still have to pick a school. You may have already decided on a specialty or you may want to take some time to choose one. Either way, you can check out different medical schools in the U.S. to see what they're famous for. We've researched 10 medical schools based on unique features or unusual programs and listed them here alphabetically. To discover these schools' strengths, we turned to U.S. News & World Report 2014 rankings and estimates for faculty-student ratios. We also looked at the funding from National Institutes of Health for various medical schools, plus the schools' own websites.

  • Baylor College of Medicine: This Houston school has the distinction of being the only private institution among medical colleges in the Greater Southwest. U.S. News & World Report ranked it among the top 20 research universities for the 2014 school year. On top of that, the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR) lists Baylor in the top three nationally for 2012 NIH funding in pediatrics and number one in the U.S. for genetics funding.
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is home to the U.S. News and World Report's number one institution in the country for geriatric medicine. The faculty student ratio at Mount Sinai falls well in the student's favor, with more than two faculty members per student in 2013. Over 100 physicians from the school and its associated hospital were named in New York Magazine's "Best Doctors" issue in 2012.
  • Johns Hopkins University: This venerable standout among U.S. medical universities places high in U.S. News rankings, coming in first for internal medicine, second for geriatrics, third for research and fourth for women's health. As for 2012 NIH funding, it ranks in the top 10 for multiple disciplines, including anesthesiology, neurosciences and biochemistry. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has a long tradition of educating physicians and health scientists and celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2013. U.S. News reveals a faculty-student ratio of 5.7 to 1.
  • University of Alabama -- Birmingham: Established in 1945, the UAB's School of Medicine is among the top 10 primary care programs in the U.S. News rankings. UAB offers a degree track known as the Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP), which gives high school seniors an opportunity to get a jump start on their med school ambitions. Graduating seniors admitted to EMSAP complete an undergraduate program as well as a four-year stint in medical school, but they are guaranteed admission to the UAB School of Medicine upon completion of their undergraduate requirements.
  • University of California -- Los Angeles: The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA ranks among the U.S. News & World Report's top 10 in treatment for geriatric medicine, AIDS care and research, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and women's health. The David Geffen Medical Scholarship Fund, announced in December 2012, dedicates $100 million to helping up to 33 MD students at UCLA graduate without the burden of debt that can restrict the career choices of medical doctors and scientists fresh out of school.
  • University of California -- San Francisco: UCSF made the 2014 U.S. News top four in both research and primary care, and it placed well in specialties also: No. 1 in AIDS care; No. 2 in women's health, internal medicine and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse; No. 4 in family medicine, No. 6 in geriatric medicine and No. 7 in pediatrics. The faculty-student ratio is a healthy 3.1 to 1. The university received nearly $500 million in NIH funding in 2012, according to BRIMR, putting it among the top U.S. medical schools for NIH awards.
  • University of Massachusetts -- Worcester: The only public medical school in Massachusetts, it has educated the Commonwealth's medical, biomedical and nursing graduate students since 1962. UMass Medical School offers a faculty-student ratio of about 2.8 to 1, according to U.S. News. The school is ranked among the country's top 10 medical universities in primary care education by U.S. News, and as of 2013 had cracked the top 50 in research education as well.
  • University of New Mexico: In 2013, UNM helped organize the Dream Makers program for middle and high school students, exposing them to the health professions. The medical school at this Albuquerque college has received a good chunk of National Institutes of Health funding, according to BRIMR, appearing among the top 10 programs for endowments in the areas of family medicine and pathology programs. U.S. News ranks it seventh nationally in family care education and second in rural medicine.
  • University of North Carolina -- Chapel Hill: This campus at the western tip of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle boasts the best primary care education facilities in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. The UNC School of Medicine is no slouch when it comes to specialties, either, coming in at No. 2 in family medicine, No. 5 in rural medicine and No. 9 in AIDS care and treatment. The first university-sponsored School of Medicine was founded in 1879, and the faculty includes a Nobel laureate in laboratory medicine.
  • University of Pittsburgh: The School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh was born as Western Pennsylvania Medical College in 1886. Today it earns respect in multiple medical specialties: U.S. News puts its geriatrics and drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs in the top 10 for 2014, and its pediatrics department took the No. 6 spot. A standout at Pitt is its women's health program, where it's tied with Johns Hopkins at fourth in the nation. In addition to core science subjects, students can explore topics such as disabilities medicine, global health or service learning for underserved populations.

Learn more about these programs from the university websites themselves, and don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call an administrator if you have specific questions. Schools may change their program offerings so it's important to get the latest information. Choosing a medical school can be a painstaking task, and arming yourself with the right data can help you make your decision with confidence.

Additional sources

"Best Medical Schools," U.S. News and World Report, 2013, http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools

"Ranking Tables of NIH Funding to US Medical Schools in 2012," Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, November 20, 2012, http://www.brimr.org/NIH_Awards/2012/NIH_Awards_2012.htm

"Early Medical School Acceptance Program," University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2013, http://www.uab.edu/emsap/

"New gift, along with previous philanthropic support to David Geffen School of Medicine, makes entertainment executive largest-ever donor to UCLA," University of California Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, Roxane Moster, December 12, 2012, http://dgsom.healthsciences.ucla.edu/dgsom/spotlight/item?item_id=153819