Many people find getting into a medical school more difficult than anticipated. This is not only due to the standards for GPA and MCAT scores, but very often it is due to the limited number of spaces available in U.S. medical schools. This deterrent alone has prevented many qualified candidates from attending.
It is becoming increasingly more common for U.S. students to attend medical school in other places. A recent study found that approximately 20% of the physicians practicing in the United States are international medical graduates. Not surprisingly, this trend is expected to continue.
Caribbean Medical Schools are a favorite choice for U.S. students. These schools can offer many advantages over schools in other locations. Of major concern to students is the cost of their education. Caribbean medical schools are usually less expensive. However, it is important that the costs of traveling abroad, travel student health insurance and other miscellaneous expenses be calculated when estimating the cost of attending a medical school abroad. Even with these extra expenses many students find that Caribbean Medical Schools are a bargain.
Another major advantage noted is that the Caribbean Medical Schools are usually easier to get into. The requirements for GPA and MCAT scores are lower than in most U.S. Medical schools. In addition, Caribbean Medical Schools have three application periods in a year.
But before going any farther it is necessary to list some of the disadvantages of attending Medical School in the Caribbean. A major problem is that not all Caribbean medical schools are accredited. Always confirm that the school of your choice is accredited so that your degree will be accepted in the U.S. or Canada (according to where you want to practice). In the U.S. four states have very stringent rules related to this. California, Florida, New Jersey and New York do not accredit most Caribbean Medical Schools.
Consider the language the courses will be taught in. You may need to know Spanish. In addition to the language the courses are taught in you should also find out what language your patient interactions will be in. Not surprisingly, many foreign schools teach in the native language of the country.
You may find that you are at a disadvantage when competing for strong residencies. However, you will usually find that a strong USMLE score will make up for a lot – it can be considered your equalizer. The CSA (Clinical Skills Assessment) will also be a requirement.
Finally, it is important to be aware that there will be limited clinical rotations. Although many Caribbean Medical Schools have made arrangements with U.S. hospitals for their students to participate in the U.S. hospital clinical rotations, your options may be limited in comparison to the options available to a student in a U.S. medical school. This could be considered a great disadvantage since clinical rotations provide an excellent opportunity for learning and growth. Many people consider the clinical rotation more important than any other aspect of their education.
Even with the pros and cons being addressed, it seems that attending a Caribbean Medical School is an inviting option. Because you know what the major advantages/disadvantages are you are better equipped to make a wise decision. Doing research on the school of your choice is always recommended.