As Medical College Purposes Skyrocket, Extra Candidates Might Flip To The Caribbean

Some call it the “Fauci Effect”. Others attribute this to a lack of gap year opportunities or a less complex virtual application process. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: applications to medical schools have skyrocketed.

Medical schools have become more competitive and hopefully applicants are turning to … [+] alternative routes to medicine.

Getty Images

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), applications increased 18% in the 2020 cycle. They grew by an average of less than 3% per year over the past ten years.

The dramatic increase in apps this year is an acceleration of a long-term trend. The number of applicants increased by almost 60% between 2002 and 2020. The number of places available in US medical schools has not kept pace. Between 2002 and 2020, the number of students enrolling in medical schools only increased by 35%.

During the last application cycle, Boston University School of Medicine received over 12,000 applications for 110 places. Stanford University School of Medicine received 11,000 applications for 90 seats.

Ever higher admissions rates are causing many US students to consider medical schools abroad, particularly in the Caribbean.

Why can’t US medical schools create more places?

A 1980 report by the nationally accredited National Advisory Committee on Medical Education predicted that the United States would soon be in surplus of doctors. No new medical faculties were founded in the following two decades.

But since then the US population has grown and aged. This has dramatically increased the need for medical care. According to the latest figures from the AAMC, the country is projected to have up to 124,000 doctors by 2034.

Building a new medical school takes years of work and millions of dollars. And it’s difficult for existing schools to grow. As Geoffrey Young, AAMC’s Senior Director of Student Affairs and Programs, said in an interview with MedPage Today earlier this year, many schools lack the resources to support larger classes and have to go through a tedious accreditation process to increase class size .

“Medical schools have failed to meet the needs of an aging US population for decades. Now they are being forced to catch up,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, co-founder of UC-Riverside School of Medicine and current President of St. George’s University (SGU) in Grenada, in an interview with Moon Prep.

As a result, there will not be enough places to study medicine in the foreseeable future. As Jayme Bograd, director of application services, recruitment and student affairs for the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, told MedPage Today in January, “There will be skilled people this year who simply have no place to study medicine.”

Caribbean Medical Schools – A Worthy Alternative

Qualified students who are on the wrong end of an admissions decision may find that a Caribbean medical school is a worthwhile option.

International medical schools may be more willing to look past a low MCAT score or a semester of below average grades than US schools. There are many people who would make excellent doctors who do not have the opportunity to work in hospitals or who have experience and skills that compensate for a below-average grade point average. International schools pride themselves on finding and hosting them.

“A student’s ability to take tests shouldn’t define their potential as a doctor,” said Olds. “Medical schools in the Caribbean provide a necessary path for thousands of highly competitive US applicants each year.”

It is important to note that not all medical schools in the Caribbean are created equal. While some have long-standing track records, others have different fluctuation rates, accreditation status, and study opportunities.

Consequently, applicants must research the Caribbean medical schools they are considering and carefully consider their options. Medical school hopefuls should inquire about the school’s accreditation, state student loan qualification, affiliated hospitals, student support, and residency match rates before making a decision. St. George’s University, for example, placed over 1,000 students in residencies this year.

Is it common to do medical training abroad?

More and more students are studying medicine abroad – and then returning to the United States to practice. Since 2010, the number of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) practicing in the United States has increased by nearly 18%.

According to the latest data from the Federation of State Medical Boards, the percentage of licensed U.S. IMGs who have graduated from Caribbean medical schools has increased more than 150% since 2010. About a quarter of all licensed physicians in the United States are international medical graduates. Many of them are US citizens.

“More than three quarters of the SGU students are US citizens,” said Olds. “Our students are also more likely to work in underserved areas and areas where the shortage of doctors is most acute.”

More students are applying to medical schools than ever before. After careful research and deliberation, many of them decide that it is a wise move to undertake their medical training abroad.