Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, USA

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is a medical school located in Springfield, the capital of the U.S. state of Illinois. It is part of the Southern Illinois University system, which includes a campus in Edwardsville as well as the flagship in Carbondale. The medical school was founded in 1970 and achieved full accreditation in 1972. It was founded to relieve a chronic shortage of physicians in downstate Illinois.

The School of Medicine offers the following degree programs: medical, MD/MPH, MD/JD, doctoral, masters, and physician assistant studies.


The School of Medicine has more than 300 full-time faculty members as well as more than 900 part-time and volunteer faculty members. Medical students spend the first year at the main campus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale before moving to Springfield. Physician assistant students learn during their first year at the Carbondale campus.

SIU-Med employs problem-based learning, which involves using small groups of students, along with a faculty mentor. The students are presented with a clinical scenario and must approach it as if they were trying to diagnose and treat a real patient. Each clinical scenario is accessed on a secure website that provides information about the patient. When the students face basic science and clinical problems that they do not know, they incorporate these issues into a list and divide the list amongst themselves for self-directed learning. At their next faculty-supervised meeting, the students teach each other what they have learned, with input also provided on the topics by the faculty member. Each case also has set learning issues, so that all students in all the small groups within the class learn the objectives planned by the faculty in both basic and clinical science for that particular case. Each case is designed to be completed over three meetings lasting around 9 hours in total. This style of learning is also used with traditional lectures and laboratory sessions over the first two years of medical school. Simulated patients and nurse educators are also used to assist with learning clinical skills. Since it is more interactive, these methods promote better problem-solving skills useful in real life situations than traditional lecture-based learning. Nearly every medical school in the U.S. uses the problem-based learning model.

SIU was once the only medical school in Illinois with its main campus outside of Chicago or its suburbs until the Carle Illinois College of Medicine came along in 2018 (although the University of Illinois at Chicago does maintain satellites in Peoria and Rockford). SIU was early to incorporate problem-based learning (PBL) into their curricula (see below) and “standardized patients” for medical student testing purposes. Being able to interact with standardized patients now comprises the majority of one of the four major exams that all US allopathic medical students must pass (the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills). SIU students begin care of patients in a clinical setting within the first two weeks of classes. By the end of their first trimester, they are tested on their ability to obtain medical histories from, examine, and diagnose the diseases simulated by standardized patients. Such education measures and SIU’s large primary care faculty led US News and World Report to rank SIU in the top 10 medical schools in the country for primary care in the early 1990s. SIU students also receive in depth training in medicolegal issues thanks to the medical school’s close relationship with the Southern Illinois University School of Law and the retention of attorneys on its Springfield faculty in the Department of Medical Humanities.

Training programs in Springfield are supported primarily by the city’s two large tertiary care hospitals – Memorial Medical Center (507 beds) and HSHS St. John’s Hospital (431 beds). Combined, these hospitals have more than 45,000 admissions and more than 123,000 emergency room visits annually. Services include the only Level 1 trauma center in the area between Peoria and St. Louis and a regional burn center. SIU has additional affiliations with hospitals in Quincy, Decatur and Carbondale. Outreach clinics go to 100 sites in 46 communities. SIU partners with many hospitals and addition clinics in other communities in central and southern Illinois.

To complement the hospital-based setting, SIU HealthCare, the ambulatory clinics of SIU School of Medicine, employ nearly 300 full-time physicians who supervise more than 477,000 clinic visits per year in our primary and specialty care clinics as well as approximately 145,000 hospital visits. The patient base of the Springfield region includes more than 500,000 people in at least 10 counties.

The Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU has dedicated clinics for patients with breast, colorectal, gynecologic, head and neck, hematologic, skin, pediatric, prostate, and lung cancer.

Research at SIU School of Medicine, as of 2016, consists of numerous projects underway in 100-plus laboratories. Notable areas of research include hearing loss, including tinnitus, noise-induced and age-related hearing loss, Alzheimer’s Disease and aging. One of the other leading areas of research at SIU is in oncology, with the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU being the largest oncology facility in Illinois outside of Chicago.

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