Over the past few years, it has proved to be quite challenging to gain admission into a United States medical school. Going by statistics, just 19,517 out of the total 45,266 applicants to a single med school were admitted in 2012. That translates to a whopping 57% of rejected applications. With the numbers so high, many young men and women who aspire to become medical professionals have been locked out.
As a result, most of these rejected applicants turn to Caribbean medical schools for a second chance to pursue the medical profession. However, many are left wondering what the consequences of attending a foreign medical school would be. For this reason, this article will focus on outlining the pros and cons of Caribbean medical schools.
Defining Caribbean Medical Schools
Caribbean medical institutions can also be termed as offshore schools, and they are medical schools geographically located in the Caribbean. Most exist principally to train medical students from the U.S. who intend to eventually match into residency and practice in the U.S.
Most Caribbean medical school programs are considered to be “dual-campus” programs, which basically means that the basic components of medical sciences are studied in the Caribbean, while the subsequent clerkships and clinical rotations are done at hospital facilities in the U.S.
Weighing the Pros:
1. Higher Chances of getting accepted
The average MCAT and GPA cutline for medical schools in the United States are 31 and 36, respectively. On the other hand, the average MCAT and GPA for admission in Caribbean medical schools are way lower. This is typically why most students with subpar MCAT and GPAs view Caribbean schools and an option since their grades have no shot at D.O. or M.D. schools in the U.S.
2. Clinical Rotations In The United States
Some Caribbean medical schools will offer clinical rotations in the United States for 4th and 3rd-year students. If you are considering practicing medicine in the United States, you should definitely pick a Caribbean school that offers these rotations.
Graduating with a degree from a Caribbean school that does not grant these rotations would be totally worthless because you can’t practice in the U.S. When you do your clinical rotations in the United States, you have better chases when applying for residency in the country.
3. Early Clinical Experience
Most Caribbean medical institutions offer their students an opportunity to start developing clinical skills and expertise early in the learning curriculum. On the other hand, medical schools in the United States will put this off till later in the preclinical curriculum or entirely leave it to the clinicals. By early exposure to the clinical settings and experience, students become more prepared to put the medical knowledge acquired during Preclinical Sciences into application when in clinical rotations.
4. Rolling Admission
Distinct from med schools in the United States, attending a Caribbean med school allows you to make applications anytime during the course of the academic year, and you can matriculate shortly after.
This is such a huge pro as you are granted an opportunity to commence medical school immediately, even for those waiting to hear from the U.S. schools they applied to.
5. Excellent Climate
Geographical wise, the Caribbean is such a cool place to be. You’ll experience the warm tropical climatic conditions all year-round. You won’t have to worry about all the shivering and the snow we face during winter. But I want to believe that there is no way this would be your only reason for attending a Caribbean school of medicine.
6. International Medical Training
In the global society we live in today, students who manage to acquire global medical studies enjoy a great advantage when practicing as physicians and when applying for residency. The fact that some Caribbean medical schools are closely affiliated with a number of teaching hospitals means the students have an opportunity to take part in clinical rotations in the U.S.
Some Caribbean schools go the extra mile to offer their students clinical rotations across the globe.
Weighing the Cons:
1. No Guarantee About You Becoming A Doctor
The National Resident Matching Program reports that 50% of graduates from Caribbean medical institutions match into residencies in the U.S. The apparent best Caribbean medical school has a 70% match rate, while in comparison, 79% of U.S. osteopathic graduates match and 90% of U.S. Allopathic graduates as well.
When looking at the numbers in the grim light of the high cost of Caribbean schools, you will soon realize you are paying so much money for something that is way far from sure.
2. Limited Access To Residency
You severely handicap yourself when you join a Caribbean med school, especially if you aspire to join the highly competitive specialties like neck and head surgery, urology, plastic surgery, dermatology, radiation oncology, orthopedic surgery, among others.
One Caribbean medical school graduate admits to having experienced the heat of competition. Although biased, he talks about his challenging journey and futile attempts to match into orthopedic surgery. This is despite the fact that he has great board scores and an amazing CV.
It is important noting that some of the Caribbean schools hide their match list, and if that’s the case with your target school, then there lies a huge red flag.
3. High competition
We can draw a bottom line and say that most of these foreign schools are less concerned with their students’ success and are more oriented towards the money printing business. Some will not even feel the pinch when enrolled students drop out, so long as they made money from the students.
After joining a Caribbean med school, you will have to compete vigorously and stay at the top of your class for your degree to be significantly worthy. Put in simpler terms, you must score high on USMLE Step 1 for you to make up for the fact that you graduated from a Caribbean school.
But even after putting in all these efforts, you will still be limited in the residency options.
4. Inconsistent Quality
With over 60 Caribbean medical schools, the quality is subject to variation. Unlike U.S. medical schools offering M.D. degrees, which are accredited by the LCME, accreditation standards for Caribbean schools are less stringent, less robust, and less standardized.
Some Caribbean schools do deliver great results and drive high performance in their students. This small percentage of committed schools record students’ results of over 95% score USMLE Step 1 and a high matching percentage into the United States residency programs.
However, other schools record a UCMLE Step 1of as low as 19% and horrible residency matching rates.
5. Unquestionable Stigma
Although it might be somewhat more acceptable being a Caribbean med school graduate today since just a few students gain admission to U.S. medical schools, most residency programs, particularly the ones in competitive specialties, refuse to accept or favor Caribbean graduates. This form of rejection often stigmatizes these med graduates.
However, if your goal is working as a primary healthcare provider, you will not face this challenge, but if you intend to match into extremely competitive fields, it might be more challenging to secure a residency position.
6. High Tuition Cost and Debt Burden
You will come across Caribbean medical schools that promise an already secured federal financial aid to students. This means the students accrue a significant amount of student loans, about $200,000. When this knowledge is combined with the fact that the graduates will be less likely to secure residency in the competitive specialties, you soon realize that attending a Caribbean school of medicine with a student loan might be such a risky option financially.
You should also keep in mind that studying in a Caribbean medical school is more expensive. Most of these schools are private, with tuition fees higher than the average U.S. medical school.
This means you might take years after graduation trying to repay your student loan. USMGE, the institution that has been funding residency spots, has not increased the number of spots by a significant number for years. You bet you would not want to be staring at unemployment and an unpaid student loan at the start of your career.
Is Joining a Caribbean Medical School Good for You?
For students, who for whatever reason, either screw up in college, don’t mind stiff competition, are highly motivated and do not wish to wait, or those willing to do everything it takes to become a doctor, irrespective of the specialty, Caribbean medical schools should be the last resort.
However, we recommend that you work towards qualifying for admission to osteopathic or allopathic medicals schoolsacross the country. It might take you hard works and a longer time to get started, but it is definitely worth it. You will be surprised that you could strengthen your application in one year.
To learn how to do this, take time to view our medical school admissions consulting services and internship options. If you happen to be considering applying for a Pre-PA Internship or Pre-Med Internship that offers you an opportunity to gain experience in the medical field, we offer pre-med internships services to international students in a variety of disciplines. Don’t hesitate to call us today for a consultation. We will help you make an informed decision for your future career.