The Flexner Report, which reviewed all US and Canadian medical schools in 1910, reviewed the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine favorably. Although entrance to the program required only the equivalent of a high school degree, other medical school’s entrance requirement were more relaxed. For instance, the Western University Medical Department in London Ontario (where Fred would later earn some money as a lecturer for a few classes) had entrance requirements listed as “nominal”.
Toronto’s laboratory facilities were world class,
The laboratories are in point of construction and equipment among the best on the continent. Increasing attention has recently been devoted to the cultivation of research. There are both general and departmental libraries, an excellent museum, and all necessary teaching accessories.
In contrast, Western University’s facilities are reviewed this way,
These consist of a single room called the laboratory of pathology, bacteriology, and histology, whose equipment consists of microscopes and some unlabeled specimens–no microtome, cut sections, incubator, or sterilizer being visible, –a wretched chemical laboratory, and an ordinary dissecting-room. There is no outfit for physiology, pharmacology, or clinical microscopy, and no museum deserving the name. There are a few hundred books, locked in cases to which the janitor carries the key.
In September 1912, Fred began his studies at the University of Toronto leading to a degree in medicine. This program was a five year course that would provide him with a bachelor’s in medicine degree. As the Flexner Report stated, the University of Toronto’s medical school was one of the best on the continent. The University had opened a new medical building, which housed the school, in 1903, and the Toronto General Hospital moved to a new building adjacent to the medical building in 1913, right after Fred started at medical school.
His classes included anatomy and physiology, surgery, therapeutics—which included one lecture on diabetes—and plenty of clinical work in the fourth year. Banting was mostly interested in surgery.
In August 1914, war broke out in Europe. Canada, as part of the British Empire, was involved immediately. That summer was between Fred’s second and third year of medical school. Fred immediately tried to join the army. He was patriotic, and wanted to go to war in Europe. He was rejected because of poor eyesight, so he got a pair of glasses and tried to join again in October 1914 when he was rejected once again. He finally was able to join the Canadian Army Medical Service in the spring of 1915. He started as a private, but was soon promoted to sergeant.
Sergeant Banting was ordered to Camp Niagra for training in the summer of 1915, where he was attached to the 2nd Field Ambulance Training Depot He then was sent back to Toronto for his fourth year of medical school. During his fourth year, he lived in an Army hospital in Toronto, where he cared for soldiers wounded in Europe at night, and attended classes during the day.
Toronto’s medical school was a five year program, but because of the war the fifth year was condensed into a few months. This speedup of the program allowed the Class of 1917 to finish in the fall of 1916, with the loss of detailed coursework. Fred was granted the degree of a Bachelor’s in Medicine in late 1916. In order to practice medicine, he had to pass an examination administered by the Ontario medical board. Although he was missing most of the final year of courses, he had no problem passing the examination. The University of Toronto, compared to other medical schools of the day, was a very rigorous program.