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STUDY IN CARIBBEAN
Over the years we have recorded a large number of students from African countries (e.g Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa) and even the United States of America, coming to us to work their way to the Caribbean to study. Over 98% of these students want to study medicine in the Caribbean. This led us to focus on medical students and medical schools respectively as far as study in the Caribbean is concerned. We then focused majorly on four of the best major Medical Universities which we partner with today. They are:
All Saints University School of Medicine
Windsor University School of Medicine
St. George’s University
Because the competition for admission to medical schools in the United States is extremely strong, many applicants consider attending medical school in the Caribbean. In fact, a great many bright and talented applicants are now opting to obtain their medical education in the Caribbean.
How can you decide what is the best choice for you? What must you consider in evaluating these schools? And will you be able to obtain a residency in the United States after you graduate? To help you decide if attending a Caribbean medical school is a good choice, we put this piece for you.
A Little Background
The physicians who graduate from Caribbean medical schools play an increasingly important role in the US health care system by supplying residency programs with qualified applicants and helping to meet a well documented physician shortage, particularly in primary care medicine. While accreditation, didactic studies (first and second years of medical school), and clinical rotations (third and fourth years of medical school) differ among institutions, requirements for graduate certification in the United States, as outlined by the Philadelphia based Educational Committee on Foreign medical graduatess, are the same for all students graduating from all international schools, including the Caribbean.
Caribbean Medical School Accreditation
Accreditation for Caribbean medical schools is on several levels, including local Ministry of Health accreditation by some individual Caribbean country’s government, regional accreditation by organizations such as The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). The World Health Organization (WHO) does not accredit medical schools but maintains a list of schools that are recognized by local governments. In the United States, The National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Acrreditation of the US Department of Education (NCFMEA) of the United States Department of Education determines whether the process conducted by an accrediting organization is comparable to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) process of accreditation. This is a voluntary process so not all schools undergo this evaluation. If a school’s accreditation is deemed comparable to the LCME process, then that country can apply for US federal loans for those students. Currently, only 3 schools in the Caribbean are eligible for these loans.
It is important to know which organizations have accredited any school you consider attending. Knowing if the state in which you intend to practice recognizes your school is also important. Caribbean medical schools proudly display these accreditations on their websites so if an accreditation is missing, be wary.
Quality of Medical Education in the Caribbean
The only way to evaluate the education Caribbean medical students received was to examine students’ scores on the United States Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1, which is taken after the second year of medical school. Investigators calculated the average USMLE Step 1 first time pass rate for each country in the Caribbean. In evaluating this data they also took into account that some islands have more than one medical school. The countries with the highest percentage of students passing the (USMLE) Step 1 on the first attempt were Grenada (84.4 %) and Dominica (69.7%). Countries with the lowest pass rates were Saint Lucia (19.4%) and Antigua/Barbuda (22.9%).
Students typically spend the first four to five semesters of medical school in the Caribbean completing basic science courses before taking USMLE Step I. Basic science curriculums in the Caribbean are similar to US curriculums. Some schools offer a fifth semester, either in the Caribbean or in the US, to help students prepare for the USMLE Step 1 and transition to their clinical semesters.
On the plus side, many students form strong relationships with classmates and also enjoy learning about the history and culture of the local West Indian population. Former students also have fond memories of celebrating yearly holidays such as Carnival, the colourful, festive, and historical event celebrated annually throughout the Caribbean. After successfully passing the USMLE Step 1, students proceed to their clinical rotations, which usually are outside of the Caribbean. When evaluating schools, it is important to ask what percentages of students who initially enrol in each class actually take and pass the USMLE Step 1 and successfully proceed to clinical rotations.
Core clinical rotations and third and fourth year curriculum in Caribbean schools resemble those of US medical schools. Caribbean schools that offer clinical training in the US have strict guidelines about the location and quality of students’ clinical training. All core rotations and subinternships must be completed in hospitals with which the Caribbean medical school has an active, written affiliation agreement and which have appropriate clinical faculty members. Rotations must be approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). In addition, it is preferable that hospitals have approved residency training programs (or their British equivalents) in the specialties through which students rotate. Students also take both parts of USMLE Step 2 (clinical knowledge and clinical skills) after the third year.
Hospitals in which electives are taken should also have approved postgraduate programs in those specialties. For example, it is best to do an anesthesia elective at a hospital that has an anesthesiology residency. Regardless of school affiliation, however, individual hospitals still reserve the right to screen individual students for elective clerkship acceptance. Some individual hospitals and departments do not accept international rotating students, which can limit the away electives in which students can participate. From a competitive perspective, it is always preferable to participate in clinical rotations located in hospitals that not only have ACGME accredited residency programs but are academic teaching hospitals rather than community hospitals.
If I Go To a Caribbean Medical School, Can I Get a Residency?
Graduates of Caribbean medical schools have tremendous success in obtaining residency positions, even in competitive specialties. It helps to attend a well-established Caribbean school, perform well on the USMLE Steps 1 and 2, and obtain strong letters of recommendations. Before applying for the residency match and early in medical school, students should strategically plan their clinical clerkships in the US, ideally arranging rotations in the settings where they prefer to match. In recent years, Caribbean students with strong academic and clinical performances have been able to obtain competitive residency positions at an increasing rate. However, the largest number of students pursue less competitive specialties, such as internal medicine or family practice. Some students are also able to “prematch” into residency positions outside of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).
When evaluating the success of a Caribbean medical school’s graduates, it is important to find out specifically where and in what specialties students match. Also determine what percentage of fourth year students match into categorical programs. This information may not be easy to obtain. While schools typically publish their match results, it is unclear if these lists are truly comprehensive.
After residency, Caribbean medical students, along with their domestic colleagues, will obtain board certification and must meet specific requirements for state licensure. The quality of one’s residency training usually carries more weight than the medical school attended, so obtaining the best possible residency and even fellowship can help Caribbean students overcome some of the bias foreign students face when competing for competitive attending positions.
Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduate (ECFMG) Certification and Graduate Medical Education Programs
To be eligible for ACGME accredited residency programs in the United States, and for licensure in many states, students who graduate from a Caribbean medical school must obtain an ECFMG certificate. Eligibility for this certificate includes graduating from a medical school listed in FAIMER’s online International Medical Education Directory (IMED) and passing the USMLE Steps 1 and 2 (both clinical knowledge and clinical skills).
Studying in the Caribbean Medical Universities could be the ideal place for you. Let’s work your way to one of our partnering Universities.
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Higherway Educational Consultant is an educational consultant that provides admission services for students wishing to study abroad.