According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only about one-half of all applicants to U.S. medical schools
eventually receive an admissions offer. Given this statistic, many American applicants consider applying to Caribbean medical schools
in hopes of increasing their admissions chances. These applicants should understand, however, that any advantage they receive in admissions may
be more than offset by the disadvantages they will
later face in their careers.
Former AAMC President Jordan J. Cohen noted that an ongoing lack of information about
Caribbean schools leaves American employers with questions about their
graduates' quality. "Unfortunately, we just don't know as much as we'd like
about medical education in offshore schools or about the relative performance of
their graduates during their careers as practitioners," Cohen wrote in an open
letter on the subject. He called for more dialogue so that the American medical
community could better assess the Caribbean schools' educational value. Until
that happens, U.S. graduates of Caribbean schools will continue to encounter doubts
from potential employers about their qualifications.
We asked one of our consultants, Dr. Gregory Goldmacher, to explain the concerns that U.S. medical professionals
have about graduates of Caribbean medical schools.
"Applicants considering schools in the Caribbean should realize
that there are serious challenges to overcome for anyone who receives their
medical education from a foreign medical school," says Greg.
One of these challenges lies in securing admission to a residency program.
"Each year, about 16,000 residency positions become available nationwide," says Greg.
"Approximately 12,000 of those are filled by graduates of U.S. medical schools. That leaves 4,000 available positions for other
graduates – and there are usually over 30,000 foreign-trained doctors competing for them.
"Some of these candidates were highly skilled physicians in their countries of origin – cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, and the like. Given that kind of competition, getting into a residency program with a foreign medical education from a school in the Caribbean is not easy.
"However, there are a few well-established Caribbean schools that can serve as a launching point for a medical career in the U.S.
"Ross University, for example, has made
great efforts to establish connections with U.S. medical
schools. Students from Ross and its peers generally do
their third and fourth year clinical rotations in U.S.
hospitals. These rotations allow the students to become
known as individuals in the hospitals and departments
where they work. They have the opportunities to show
their skills and dedication and to develop personal
relationships with the physicians and administrative
staff who ultimately make the decisions about residency
program admissions. These opportunities and
relationships can be enough to compensate for the
inherent disadvantages that graduates from foreign
schools face in the residency admissions process."
We asked Greg how a prospective applicant could tell which Caribbean medical schools might be worth considering. He said that
applicants should ask themselves these questions:
"One - What are the USMLE scores of students who attend the school? Although residencies are technically not supposed to
use Step 1 scores to select their residents, all of them do. Find out if there are in-house preparation programs offered at the school
you are considering. Also find out what students' average scores have been in the past few years, and what percentage of students pass the
Step 1 on their first try.
"Two - At what U.S. hospitals do the students at the school you are considering do their clinical rotations?
"Three - Where have recent graduates matched for residency?"
Greg encourages applicants looking at Caribbean schools to keep an open mind about other options as well.
"If you're interested in a career in primary care, but your GPA and MCAT scores are such that you are concerned about being able to get into a regular U.S. medical school, you could consider a school of osteopathic medicine – that is to say, a
– in the U.S."
– Dr. Gregory Goldmacher has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
What Do You Think Your Chances of Winning Med School
Admission Are? After talking to one of our consultants, you might be
pleasantly surprised to find you're more competitive than you thought. Because our medical school admissions consultants have all worked on
admissions committees, they
understand how admissions decisions are actually made. They can tell you how
your application will look to a committee and advise you on how to present
yourself to your best advantage. To see how our consultants have helped previous
clients, see our
Back to Medical School Features