5 Issues To Contemplate Earlier than Choosing A Caribbean Medical College

There is currently a shortage of doctors in the United States. According to the Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the US “will face a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 doctors by 2033”. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the need for doctors in the United States, especially as the population grows and ages.

Despite this increasing demand, many skilled candidates struggle to get into medical school. Only 40.9% of applicants enrolled in a medical school in 2019, with competition becoming more difficult every year. For students with a lower MCAT or science GPA and less medically-focused experience than their peers, they may only receive rejection letters from U.S. medical schools.

For this type of student, Caribbean medical schools are often an attractive option as many of them have higher acceptance rates than their counterparts in the United States.

However, before attending a Caribbean or overseas medical school, it is important to choose wisely, as acceptance does not always lead to success. While it may seem like an easy path to medicine, there can be unexpected hurdles along the way.

What to Look For in a Caribbean Medical School

Medical schools in the Caribbean have different levels of accreditation, curriculum strengths, and student options. However, four Caribbean medical schools – known as “The Big Four” – have a solid reputation as an alternative way for US students to study medicine. These universities are:

  1. St. George’s University (SGU)
  2. American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)
  3. Saba University School of Medicine
  4. Ross University School of Medicine

Before you take the plunge and venture into a foreign medical school, there are five things to consider.

1. Accreditation

Accreditation is important as it shows that the medical school meets national standards for a program leading to a medical degree. For medical schools in the United States and Canada, the programs are accredited by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME).

LCME accreditation establishes that medical students are eligible to take the United States Entrance Exam (USMLE) and enter residences approved by the Accreditation Council for Medical Graduate Education (ACGME).

As of 2024, only foreign medical school graduates accredited by agencies with WFME accredited status will be able to complete medical education in the United States. As part of the WFME recognition program, the World Association for Medical Education (WFME) evaluates accreditation agencies on the basis of internationally recognized accreditation criteria and grants recognition status to agencies that meet these criteria. There are three accreditation agencies with WFME recognition status for Caribbean medical schools: the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP), the Accreditation Commission for Medical Schools (ACCM) and the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders.

2. Federal Student Loan Qualification

Medical school is expensive. Around 73% of medical students have a debt settlement. In 2020, the average cost for US public medical schools is $ 250,222 and US private medical schools are US $ 330,180. Access to federal loans can be key to managing this debt as you can postpone payments until after graduation and access lower interest rates. Additionally, doctors can often qualify for public loans if they meet the required criteria. While students can get private loans to pay for medical school, these tend to have higher interest rates and less flexible payment plans, which is why many students turn to federal loans first.

In Caribbean medical schools, the cost of tuition can often be high. A student who graduated from the American University of the Caribbean graduated with $ 415,000 in debt. Programs like St. George’s University can be just as expensive, costing $ 62,000 a year just for education fees.

To pay for school, many students rely on federal student loans. However, only six Caribbean medical schools are eligible to participate in the federal loan program:

  1. St. George’s University Medical School (The Big Four)
  2. American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (The Big Four)
  3. Ross University Medical School (The Big Four)
  4. American University of Antigua
  5. Medical University of America
  6. St. Matthew’s University Medical School

However, you should check with each international medical school on your list to ensure that the medical program is eligible and eligible for the loan program. You must be accredited by the National Committee for Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFME).

3. Affiliated hospitals

A student’s clinical education while studying medicine can play an essential role during the residency matching process. According to a survey by the American Medical Association (AMA), “personal knowledge and / or recommendation of the application” ranked first among directors of the residency program.

It is important for international medical schools to look at the affiliated hospitals in the United States. Some Caribbean medical schools like Ross University have got around this hurdle by paying cash for whereabouts. In 2012, Ross paid more than $ 35 million to Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, Calif. For third-year medical student internships.

During an interview with Moon Prep, Dr. G. Richard Olds, the president of SGU, that his school has a similar agreement with about 80 hospitals in the US and Canada. He says this is important because “if you want doctors to work in a certain place, you should train them there.”

4. Residence

The residency match rate is closely related to the affiliated hospitals. According to the National Resident Matching Program, 61% of international medical school graduates achieved PGY-1 (postgraduate year 1) positions in 2020. This is the highest matching rate in almost 30 years.

However, these numbers do not accurately reflect every medical school in the Caribbean. Some schools have a lower match rate while others have rates comparable to the United States. Consistently, 94% of U.S. medical school graduates agree to a residency program. For Ross University, that number is even slightly above the US rate, with 95.2% of its students participating in a program for the first time.

5. Level of support and opportunities available to students

Medical school is a time to gain research experience and clinical exposure as you move into more advanced classes. You want to make sure you find a medical school that will support you in your journey while also giving you the opportunity to grow as a medical professional.

According to Moon Prep’s interview with Dr. Gaelle Antoine, a graduate of SGU and current anesthetist at Brown University, St. George’s University offers endless research opportunities for students, provided they have the right education and qualifications. She even took advantage of a six-week study abroad program in Europe to see how health care works abroad.

Find the right university for you

The medical school you choose may affect your ability to become a practicing physician in the United States. Before making your choice, consider these five points to ensure you are getting the best education and preparing for a successful medical career.