First Military Medical University, now known as Southern Medical University (SMU), was established in October 1951 and formally recognized as one of the top medical schools in 1978. In accordance with the directive issued by the State Department and the Central Military Committee of the PLA in August 2004, the university was turned over to the local administration of Guangdong Province and renamed Southern Medial University in the interim. SMU is currently one of the eight esteemed institutions approved by the Ministry of Education to administer the 8-year pilot medical education program.

In Guangzhou, SMU is situated at the base of the magnificent Baiyun Mountain. Its two campuses, the main campus and the Shunde campus, total roughly 1.68 million square meters in size, with an additional 0.845 million square meters under construction.

The institution was a part of the Guangdong provincial 211 Project in 2008, which focused on important and important colleges and universities. SMU is ranked first among provincially-run institutions for its success rate in scientific research programs and second for the amount of funding it receives.

SMU is now ranked about 100th in terms of overall strength among mainland Chinese institutions, third among medical schools, and sixth overall among universities in the province of Guangdong. Currently, it is a candidate university that will be built by the Guangdong Provincial Government, the National Health and Family Planning Committee, and the Ministry of Education.