From simple beginnings to health system leadership

In June 1929, a special act of Parliament established the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to oversee postgraduate medical education. At first, the Royal College offered just two specialty qualifications: Fellowship in general medicine and Fellowship in general surgery. Now, the Royal College recognizes almost 100 specialties, subspecialties, special programs and Areas of Focused Competence (AFC-diplomas).

One high standard for certification

From the 1940s to the 1970s, the Royal College conducted examinations at two levels in most specialties: Fellowship, the higher qualification, and Certification, a lesser designation. In 1972, the Royal College abolished this dual standard and began to offer a single certification, ensuring only the highest standards for specialty medical education.

Meanwhile, in 1968, the Royal College established the McLaughlin Examination and Research Centre at the University of Alberta and Laval University to research and develop modern techniques for evaluating specialist physicians. In 1987, the Royal College merged the centre’s two components into a bilingual McLaughlin Centre based in Ottawa.

Taking on a broader role

In recent years, the Royal College has expanded its activities and voice, becoming increasingly active in research, public policy and international affairs.

CanMEDS framework and lifelong learning

In 1996, the Royal College adopted CanMEDS, a medical education framework it developed in-house that emphasizes the essential competencies of a physician. CanMEDS was a major achievement: all 17 medical schools in Canada use it and it is also respected and used around the world. In 2000, the Royal College introduced the Maintenance of Certification Program, a lifelong learning program for specialist physicians that helps ensure the highest standards in all specialties.

Health policy and advocacy

Since the mid-1980s, the Royal College has become increasingly active in issues that are important to Canadians. Indigenous health, medical aid in dying, patient safety and health human resources are just a few public policy areas to which the Royal College has leant its voice.

International involvement

In 2009, Royal College Canada International was established to serve as the Royal College’s mechanism for facilitating international initiatives. Expanding activities in the international arena also include humanitarian work and the Royal College’s collaborative relationships with sister colleges in other countries.