Truth About Caribbean Medical Schools

There are certain realities about Caribbean medical schools.

Medical school is extremely hard to get into in the United States and many aspiring doctors are rejected, leaving their dreams shattered. However, Caribbean medical schools are an option for many who still seek to proceed with a medical career. In fact, according to the New York Times, 25 percent of the residents at U.S. hospitals are trained abroad. Many of these foreign-trained residents went to a Caribbean school.

1 Stereotypes

In general, there is a negative stereotype associated with foreign-trained medical students. And the stereotype is especially the case for those who attend schools in the Caribbean. The reason for this is that many believe that only second-rate students that fail to get into an American-based medical school go to the Caribbean. However, many of the students that attend Caribbean medical schools do just as well as their U.S.-based peers. For instance, Ross University has a 92 percent first-time pass rate for the USMLE Step 1, which is the first part of a three-part licensing exam.

2 Accreditation

Not all Caribbean medical schools are accredited in the U.S. In that case, it becomes difficult for graduates from unaccredited schools to practice in America. The ‘Big 4’ Caribbean medical schools, Ross University in Dominica, American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten, St. George’s University in Grenada and Saba University in Antigua, have American accreditation. Graduates from these schools can practice in the U.S. However, only St. George’s and Ross universities have received the additional recognition for New York, California, Florida and New Jersey. These state’s have a separate accreditation program.

3 Financial Aid

Unlike U.S.-based schools where students can qualify for government grants, loans and scholarships, students at Caribbean medical schools face limited financial opportunities. Many U.S. government grants apply only to students attending accredited schools in the U.S. And, many private American scholarship sources also limit their giving to those attending American schools. As such, students schooling in the Caribbean have to find private aid. However, U.S. citizens at Ross, SGU and AUC can access federal government grants and scholarships. They can also take advantage of scholarships at the medical school they attend. This money will help pay for tuition and other education-related costs. It can also help offset the high costs of living in the Caribbean.

4 Program Length

In general, students at Caribbean medical schools only spend two years in the region. During the third and fourth years, students go to the U.S. for clinical training at an American hospital. The medical school places students at hospitals with which there is a relationship.

Sydelle John is a lawyer who started writing professionally in 2007. She has written for the Guardian's Comment is Free and Pambazuka News, which focuses on pan-African issues. John has a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Vassar College.