Caribbean medical schools are an excellent way to train to become a medical doctor where you still have the opportunity to practice medicine in the United States.
Foreign medical schools are gaining in popularity as the competitiveness for getting into U.S. medical schools increases.
For example, in the 1970s there were only three Caribbean medical schools and nowadays there are well over 50 international medical schools.
With so many new medical schools in existence you need to be sure that you attend an institution that is accredited so you can return to the U.S. to complete your Graduate Medical Education (GME) commonly referred to as your residency training.
Only attend foreign medical schools that are recognized by the Ministry of Health or other appropriate government agency in the country where the school is located. Once a medical school has been confirmed by their country's Ministry of Health the school is referred to FAIMER.
FAIMER is the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research. Please note FAIMER is not an accrediting agency.
Medical schools that are referred to FAIMER are then placed into the International Medical Education Directory (IMED).
IMED is a free web-based resource for accurate up-to-date information about international medical schools that are recognized by the appropriate government agency in the countries in which they are located.
Here's a listing of carribean medical schools that are found in the IMED:
If you're going to an international caribbean medical school you will want to attend of of the schools featured above.
In the United States, the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) of the U.S. Department of Education determines if the process of accreditation performed by an accrediting entity is comparable to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accrediting process for American medical schools.
If a Caribbean medical school's accreditation is equivalent to LCME, then the school can apply for U.S. federal loans for their students.
This is a voluntary process and not mandated so currently only 3 Caribbean medical schools are eligible for these loans.
Four states accredit medical schools individually:
Basically these states have tougher accreditation standards so if your Caribbean medical school is accredited here, then most likely it will be for the rest of the U.S.
Caribbean medical schools have a curriculum which is comparable to U.S. medical schools where the first two years are spent learning the basic sciences.
In-order to move onto your clinical rotations you will need to pass a standardized test known as USMLE Step 1. Don't worry you have to take this exam in the United States as well.
Be sure to take this test seriously because the scores you get can have consequences when you are matching for residency positions. Therefore, when you are choosing between foreign medical schools be sure to ask how students typically do on their USMLE Step.
The real medicine begins in your final two years of medical school.
These last years are your clinical rotations where you experience the core specialties of medicine such as:
Depending on where you attend medical school your institution may offer clinical rotations in the United States.
There are more standardized exams to take as well.
Once you complete your third year of medical school be prepared to sit for USMLE 2 a two part exam of:
Finally, you complete your final year of medical school and move onto a residency.
Rest assured, graduates of Caribbean medical schools are able to obtain residency positions in the United States.
If you want to return to the United States to practice medicine then you want to pay particular attention to this section.
You will be considered an international medical school graduate if you attend medical school outside of the U.S. or Canada and to ensure your education is at a level comparable to American medical students you will need to have ECFMG Certification.
The purpose of Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) Certification is to allow you the opportunity to enter U.S. residency and fellowship programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
You must be very deliberate and strategic before considering applying to Carribean medical schools.
Do you know the language in which your classes will be taught?
In many cases the native language of the country where the medical school is located will be the language used. In some instances this means you need to be fluent in Spanish.
What medical specialty do you want to enter?
Sometimes you may be at a disadvantage when applying for residency positions. The best way to overcome the competitiveness will be to have strong scores on the USMLE.
Where will your clinical rotations take place?
Often, the Caribbean medical school will only be authorized to have their medical students complete their clinical rotations at specific sites within the United States.
Overall, attending a foreign medical school can be a great option. You simply need to do a lot of research to ensure when all is said and done you will be allowed to practice medicine in America.
Don't be shy and it is extremely appropriate to ask as many questions as needed until you are satisfied because we're talking about your investment in becoming a doctor.
As some would argue, it is not where you go to medical school that matters the most... rather where you complete your residency which carries the most weight.