Caribbean medical schools often give students one more chance to become a doctor in the United States … [+]
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Every year thousands of students dream of getting into medical school. The chance to pursue this coveted career requires students to plan the application process extensively. Unfortunately there are not enough places for every applicant.
To put it in perspective, Stanford University was the most competitive undergraduate program in 2019 and only accepted it 4% of applicants. Stanford has a higher acceptance rate than the ten most competitive medical schools that accepted average 2.5% of all applicants.
From the 53,371 applicants in 2019, only 21,869 enrolled in an allopathic medical school. This means that around 60% of the students were rejected. Many of these students are highly skilled and competitive, but there aren’t enough places for everyone.
As these rejected students weigh their options, they may wonder about medical schools outside of the United States, particularly in the Caribbean. In general, the 80 Caribbean medical schools don’t always have the best reputations, but they do offer US students the opportunity to study medicine.
Typically, these four Caribbean medical schools, known as “The Big Four,” have a reputation for being the best option for students who will ultimately return to the United States:
US Medical Schools versus The Big Four
For some students, Caribbean medical schools offer a “second chance” to enroll in medical school. Before students commit to a four-year education, they must first conduct their research to understand the results of their decision.
In medical school, the rate of wear and tear is calculated by looking at how many students drop out of a program. For a total of six years after enrollment, the average wear and tear across allopathic U.S. medical schools was 4.1%This means that approximately 96% of enrolling medical students have graduated.
The first thing you should look at when considering an international medical school is the rate of wear and tear. A quota of 50% or more is an important red flag as the majority of their students leave school without a degree. A school that doesn’t share its wear and tear is likely to be hiding something. Many Caribbean medical schools are not for profit, so financially it is in their best interest to accept more students without much concern as students graduate successfully.
The Big Four tends to have a lower rate of wear and tear than other Caribbean schools, but it is often still higher than US medical schools. For example, Ross University reported that in July 2017 20% of the students Those who started in 2013 were no longer students at the university, 46% had graduated and 34% were still enrolled at the school.
Allocation to a residency program is one of the biggest hurdles medical students must overcome and it will determine what type of medical specialty they will pursue. From the fourth year onwards, medical students send applications to hospitals trained in this specialty and interview for the position. The match system is extremely complex as both hospitals and applicants rank each other in the order of their desirability. Some programs are more selective about who they will interview 68% of the programs They say they rarely or never interview international medical graduates who are US citizens.
In 2019, the match day – when the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) published the decisions – it was the greatest of all time. More than 38,373 applicants applied for 35,185 positions. For the students who do not match, they must try again to match after completing the first process. If they cannot secure a place, they will have to wait and apply again next year.
For US Allopathic Medical School graduates, 93.9% coordinated in a program. This number has been relatively constant over the past few years. The NRMP does not break down the data by country, but for all international medical school graduates. 59% Matched in positions of the first year (PGY-1). According to SGU – the second largest source of doctors in the US –93% of their 2017 eligible U.S. graduates was assigned a PGY-1 position. AUC had a similar game for its graduates 91% in 2019. From 2013 to 2018, 94% from Saba University Graduates achieved residency.
While Big Four students fit into US residency programs, it is important to consider what type of programs they fit into. These can be difficult for graduates of Caribbean medical school to obtain matched to some of the most competitive specialties. According to the NRMPIn 2019, U.S. allopathic seniors filled more than 90% of positions in the following areas of expertise:
- Integrated plastic surgery (91.9%)
- Neurological surgery (91.8%)
- Orthopedic surgery (91.8%)
- Ear, nose and throat medicine (93.9%)
- Thoracic surgery (91.9%)
For students looking to pursue a different subject such as internal medicine or family medicine, a Caribbean medical school might be a good option. In 2020, the majority of graduates will have from SGU, AUC, Saba University and Ross University tailored to an internal or family medical residency program.
According to the NRMP, U.S. allopathic seniors filled fewer than 45% of positions in the following areas of expertise:
- Family medicine (39.0%)
- Internal medicine (41.5%)
- Pathology (33.4%)
- Pediatrics – Primary School (40.0%)
- Surgery – preliminary (23.9%)
It can be done!
While these statistics can be daunting, it is possible for international medical graduates to embark on a coveted residency program. Here are just a few examples of students who graduated from Caribbean medical school and partnered in competitive residency:
- Dr. Gaelle Antoine (Graduated from SGU, MD ’19): Current internist at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in New York (2019-2020) and anesthetist at Brown University (from summer 2020)
- Dr. Kate Alemann (Graduated from SGU, MD ’19): Emergency Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine
- DR. Tanner storozuk (Graduated from SGU, MD ’19): Pathology at the University of Chicago
In the USA, 143 allopathic medical colleges are accredited by the Medical Education Liaison Committee and 38 osteopathic medical colleges are accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission for accreditation of the Osteopathic College. When you graduate from one of these medical schools, you can practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication in all 50 states
It’s a little different for Caribbean schools. The Caribbean schools are unofficially divided into three levels (top, middle, and bottom). Ranking has nothing to do with the quality of education you receive or the likelihood that you will match at a good institution. Instead, it is based on permits and accreditations.
For students considering studying in the Caribbean, institution accreditation is vital if they are to practice medicine in the United States. The only Caribbean medical school you should consider should be top notch and have a world-recognized accreditation Federation for Medical Education / Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (WFME / FAIMER).
Some states, such as California, Florida, New Jersey, and New York, have stricter guidelines, and even if the college has a WFME / FAIMER-recognized accreditation, practicing in that state may not be enough. For example, California maintains a list of foreign medical schools approved by the Medical Board of California. The Big Four and several other Caribbean medical schools are licensed to practice in California, but the list is limited.
Will going to medical school in the Caribbean affect my chances of becoming a US doctor?
Before enrolling in any international medical school, you need to carefully consider your options. Think about what type of doctor you want to be and where you want to practice medicine. The road to seeing a doctor is long, expensive, and arduous, and choosing a medical school that will get you there should be carefully researched and planned.