Attending medical school in the continental US is a fairly straightforward process. Training at a Caribbean school, however, brings its own unique challenges and pitfalls, given the nature of these programs. There is much to be wary of when thinking of applying to a Caribbean medical school. Although you may be accepted to study, the wrong school may not be able to get you a residency match. Your education might not be up to par. Many hospitals will look down on your school. Etc., etc. Given that these schools operate for profit, it is very important to research this topic for yourself and find the best Caribbean medical schools for yourself and your budget.
One of the most important pieces of information to look at when researching a school is its USLME Step 1 pass rate. The USLME Step 1, or “The Boards,” is a standardized test taken at the end of your second year of medical school. The test is designed to figure out whether the student understands the basic scientific knowledge taught during the first two years of school and is ready to apply this information to the actual practice of medicine. It seeks to objectively measure a medical students knowledge and understanding of basic medical topics. A high score on the USLME Step 1 is extremely important in residency matching. If you’ve got a low score, you might not land a residency. A great score doesn’t guarantee anything, especially in competitive specialties, but it certainly does help! A low USLME pass rate will indicate that the school provides a low quality of education or admits under-qualified students despite their lack of probable success. Either one of these situations would be very worrying.
Another important factor to look into is the medical school’s match list. They must be interpreted carefully, but the information provided is golden. The key fact you are looking for is the percentage of students who wind up obtaining categorical matches. While preliminary positions are temporary and do not guarantee board eligibility or any real match, categorical matches are the real deal.
The commonly accepted top Caribbean schools are SGU, AUC, Ross, and SABA. Although they don’t have the same level of respectability or assurance of quality as most US schools, they are much more kindly regarded than many other Caribbean schools. They have all been around for some time and are afforded some degree of trust. With most of these schools, it should be possible to attain a residency, depending on your USLME scores. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that many hospitals look down on Caribbean schools in general.
Of these four previously mentioned schools, SGU is undoubtedly the top contender. Saint George’s has about a dozen clinical centers, the highest USLME pass rates of any Caribbean school, and is generally pretty good at getting residencies for its students. The attrition rate at SGU is also exceptionally low, indicating that they would be less likely to admit under-qualified applicants for monetary gain.
Overall, there are many risks involved with attending a foreign medical school. The pros and cons must be weighed very carefully before a final decision is made.