What to Know About Caribbean Medical Faculties

Prospective students who dream of becoming a doctor but are concerned about getting accepted into a United States medical school where it is extremely difficult to go to a Caribbean medical school that has a more forgiving approach to selection processes.

St. George’s University, home to a medical school and main campus on Grenada Island in the West Indies, believes US medical school applicants may not, says Bob Ryan, dean of admissions.

Those applicants could include students who had a difficult start in college but did much better later, and students who graduated through college and suffered from their GPAs, he says.

“We often see that our very strong students after the first and second years are the ones where we took that chance and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you the opportunity to show us that you are doing well in medicine can ‘”said Ryan Says, adding that his school uses a holistic admissions process.

“I think a lot of US schools likely have cutoffs, and unless you’re on a specific GPA and MCAT, they won’t even open your file,” he says. “But we take the opposite stance.”

[Read: How to Make Sure You Fulfill Medical School Requirements for Admission.]

Dr. Joshua Mansour, who received his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine – a Caribbean school that was previously based in Dominica but now in Barbados – and then completed a medical scholarship from Stanford University in California, says that he did this No regrets.

“At the end of the day, I finished my training at Stanford after everything that didn’t stop me from getting top-notch training. I was really very happy with the way that went,” he says.

Mansour, a California hematologist and oncologist, has some advice for aspiring physicians who are concerned about their US medical school admission prospects but hope they will get admission to a good Caribbean medical school: “Take the opportunity.”

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Those who enroll can “do anything you want by attending such a school”.

Mansour adds that he has many friends he met at his Caribbean medical school who now have high profile medical jobs.

However, some administrators, faculties, and alumni of Caribbean medical schools find that the quality of these facilities varies widely. Therefore, potential students should do research in their target schools.

“The best indicator of how good a school is would be where its youngest graduates fit into the residence and what they are doing now,” said Dr. Ashley Steinberg, a Houston-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon who received her medical degree from St. George’s. wrote in an email.

[Read: How Many Medical Schools Should You Apply To?]

Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University, suggests that a key factor is a school’s wear and tear. A school with over 50% wear and tear is a big red flag, he warns, as it indicates that many students in the school are leaving without a medical degree – which in turn means they cannot practice medicine.

“This is one area where you really need to know the statistics,” says Olds.

Potential medical students should consider attrition rates when assessing both license exam passage rates and residency placement rates, he advises. A school that drops students who it suspects aren’t doing well on license exams or safe dormitories appears to have solid pass rates and placement rates but may not provide good preparation for a medical career, he warns.

Finding out what type of tutoring and academic support a Caribbean medical school offers is also important, as students may need additional help preparing for the medical admissions exams if they have a lower MCAT score or GPA than a typical American medical student take part. Olds says.

U.S. students attending international medical schools but with plans to practice medicine in the U.S. should ensure that the school they attend will help them achieve that goal, says Dr. Heidi Chumley, Dean of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, which has its main campus in St. Maarten.

“You need to know that the school you are attending is a school that is very good at preparing people to return to the United States and practicing there, and has a long history of success,” she says.

One positive sign for a Caribbean medical school is that it is eligible for US Department of Education Title IV funding, which means its students can receive federal funding, Chumley says.

“The school’s accreditor has been found to be akin to a US medical school accreditor,” she says, adding that this is a sign of a school with top-notch academics.

[Read: 9 Residency Tips for Medical School Applicants.]

Experts also say that Caribbean medical schools where students can receive federal funding usually also offer merit scholarships.

Potential students at the Caribbean Medical School should investigate the accreditation status of their target school, recommend experts, and verify not only that the school is accredited but also that their accreditor is recognized as reputable by the World Association for Medical Education, says Chumley.

“There are many schools in the Caribbean that are not accredited,” she adds. “Stay away from them.”

On its website, the WFME states that it only grants accreditation status to accreditation agencies that “work to an internationally recognized high standard”.

MD programs in US Caribbean territories such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are accredited by the same organization that accredits US and Canadian MD programs – the Medical Education Liaison Committee, approved by the WFME.

Accreditation of the medical school by a WFME-accredited accreditation body is critical for future US doctors as the national nonprofit education commission has imposed a new medical accreditation requirement on foreign medical graduates due to go into effect in 2023. Starting this year, the accreditation agency of a medical school must be recognized by the WFME in order for its students and graduates to be certified by the commission.

Without certification from the ECFMG, students at Caribbean medical schools cannot perform clinical rotations in the United States, and Caribbean medical school graduates cannot secure US residencies and scholarships.

“If you go to an international school whose accreditation has not been recognized through this process, you cannot go back to the US and run a residency program,” warns Chumley. “This is an important change and something people need to know.”

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