When Tavinder Singh graduated from MCAT, the native Californian dreamed of going to medical school. And then his scores came back – too low to get in anywhere in the US. So he packed his bags for the island of Dominica and enrolled at Ross University School of Medicine.
Ross is one of the dozen for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean that primarily market to people in Singh’s position. These schools have often been criticized for their high prices, large class sizes and high dropout rates, writes Usha Lee McFarling of Stat News. Even their very location can be negative for students. “You’ve heard all the jokes about studying anatomy on the beach with Mai Tais in hand,” notes McFarling.
But a massive shortage of doctors is changing those attitudes, writes McFarling in a recent article on “why the United States is not cranking up Caribbean medical schools” Your graduates usually have a hard time getting residency permits, a qualification required to practice medicine in the United States. They are therefore eager to take positions everywhere, including “poor, rural, and underserved communities,” says McFarling.
As soon as someone wears this white coat, the names of the schools no longer come up very often. Patients are more interested in how they’re being treated, says McFarling, highlighting the example of Moazzum Bajwa, a Ross grad and sophomore at Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley, California.
During a one-hour appointment, the retired carpenter José Luis Garcia (69) not only receives the exam he expected. Bajwa also draws him a detailed diagram to explain how blood sugar levels work. They discuss – thanks to Bajwa’s fluent Spanish – what is causing stress in Garcia’s life, including his wife’s recent brain surgery. At the end, Bajwa offers a hug.
“This is a very good doctor,” says Garcia McFarling. “I don’t usually feel important.”