Thoughts on Carribean Medical Schools

Considering Carribean medical schools? Here's where you can find out everything you need to know before attending one of the foreign medical schools.

I am going to be honest and say there are a lot of opinions about attending one of the offshore medical schools so think very carefully about why you are going and what you want to get out of your medical education.

Are You Aware of This?

Going to the Caribbean can be hit or miss and is not a sure thing. I have several friends from undergrad and graduate school for numerous reasons decided to attend a foreign medical school and as far as I can tell they are all doing well. 

But let's not think this is the norm.

I spoke with a number of individuals who are professors, admissions committee members at allopathic medical schools and doctors and there are some items you definitely want to be aware of. The main issue is that about 1/3 of students who leave the U.S. for medical school in the caribbean do not make it past the first semester. 

This is in stark contrast to the fact that U.S. medical schools have a graduation rate that is well above ninety percent.

What's going on?

If you're honest with yourself going to a foreign medical school was not your first choice. 

Guess what I interviewed and was accepted at a carribean medical school but I'm not sure if I am going to take up the offer. Here's what my caribbean medical school alumni interviewer stated when discussing my medical school options, "If you get into a U.S. medical school by all means take that over the Caribbean because life will be easier for you. Although, nothing wrong with the Caribbean you will have to work harder especially in planning your rotations and securing a residency." 

In many cases students end up at Carribean medical schools because they could not get into an American medical school. This means you have to consider are you truly prepared for the study of medicine? If you don't have the basic foundation in science regardless of where you attend medical school you're going to have academic issues.

So just because you're accepted doesn't mean your less than stellar academic record will suddenly change once in medical school. In reality, <strong>things only get tougher and they move at a faster pace</strong>.

But I know plenty of individuals who choose international medical schools purely due to logistical reasons such as being older or not wanting to have to wait until the next American application cycle to apply.

You did realize most foreign medical schools operate on a rolling admissions cycle and they have multiple medical school start dates each year. 

Financing has to be considered as well.

Most likely you're going to take out loans for medical school and you can even get financial aid while attending some of the Carribean medical schools. But here's what you need to know. These schools can accept you, take your money, and then kick you out for unsatisfactory academic performance. 

Be very deliberate when deciding on a Caribbean medical school.

Your clinical years are an important part of your medical training and the foreign medical schools have to contract your training with hospitals in America and the problem is that sometimes there is not enough spots available for all the students.

Therefore, you could be scrambling to find a hospital for your clinical rotations. On this same line you'll be viewed as an International Medical Graduate when competing for residency positions in the United States.

Residency Slots

My biggest concern about going overseas to practice medicine is what will be your job prospects if you want to return to the United States?

I say this because right now there is a significant expansion in the number of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools but not much has changed with the number of graduate medical education (GME) residencies. Therefore, if things do not change there are going to be a lot of doctors who have graduated from medical school but who can't continue their education to practice medicine as a licensed and board-certified physician.

Currently, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is alarmed at the number of qualified U.S. medical school seniors who did not match into a residency. This trend is only going to worsen if things do not change and do you realize who is going to be adversely affected the most?

It will be foreign graduates of Carribean medical schools.

You'll be at the bottom of the totem pole because all the residency directors will take the U.S. MD's followed by the DO graduates and only then consider foreign caribbean medical students.

Lastly, all foreign medical students are going to be lumped together. So you may be competing for a residency against a doctor who has been practicing in his foreign country for several years but now wants to move to the United States so they will have a leg up on you with all of their practical knowledge and experience.

This is going to be a raging debate that will not see the light of day any time soon so take everything you hear with a grain of salt and conduct your own research.

I would say you definitely need to checkout the match rate for any foreign medical school you're considering and the Board Scores of their graduates too. Numbers are key and hold a lot of power.

I honestly think that the numbers can only boost your chances to an extent when it comes to landing a residency because sometimes Residency Directors will always prefer the American trained doctor even if their numbers are slightly lower than a foreign trained doctor. 

Again just my opinion and thoughts for you to consider as you plan a future in medicine. 

You Have to Decide

Obviously, the Carribean medical schools do produce great doctors. My intent is not to scare you out of this route, I just want you know what you're getting into and make an educated decision.

I think if you are intent on being a physician with the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree this is a great avenue to pursue if you cannot get into an allopathic U.S. medical school or you are hesitant about attending a medical school that awards the Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree.

If you're good at being independent, are comfortable living in a different country, and are sure you have what it takes to succeed academically then by all means pursue the Caribbean medical school route and become the doctor you imagine yourself to be. 

There are always going to be naysayers regardless of what path you choose, but the worst thing you can do is not try. Just be aware of the pros and cons and use the advice of those in the Caribbean and your advisors before making a final decision...which is yours and only yours to make.

Let's open this up for discussion and see what others have to say too about Carribean medical schools...

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