Sun, Sand and Medical School

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's a cruel fact for would be medical students. Each year over 39,000 people apply for admission to a US medical school, but only about 47% are admitted. What do the remaining 53% do? Well, instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, a huge number are running away to an island...... and going to medical school. One vacationer's beautiful tropical island is another student's campus. Some are gaining as good a reputation as those in the United States.

In the late 1970's Caribbean islands realizing that tourism can be fickle began to look for other streams of income. They hit upon the idea of medical schools, primarily for US students who were being shut out of medical schools in the United States. In a short time St Georges University in Grenada, (which benefitted from some unsuspecting exposure when the US invaded Grenada in 1983) Ross University on the island of Dominica and the American University of the Caribbean, originally on the island of Montserrat, opened their doors. They were and are extremely successful. In the years that followed it seemed a medical school opened on nearly every Caribbean island. The choice became as much about the quality of the education as what the island itself offered.

No one can doubt the success of St Georges University in Grenada. It was so successful, they have branched out to include a school of veterinary medicine, a school of arts and sciences and a graduate studies program. But maybe you can't take the steamy heat in Grenada. Maybe diving is your pastime. If so, head to Bonaire, the island known for its incredible diving and enroll in St James School of Medicine. The remote island of Sint Eustasius, (St Statia), is also known for its underwater beauty as well as the University of Sint Eustasius Medical School. If you get bored there, head to its neighbor island Saba and attend the University School of Medicine. Is a rainforest more your interest? Half of Belize is covered by rainforest and it has three medical schools, Grace University School of Medicine, Central American Health Sciences University and the American Global University School of Medicine. If you prefer your Caribbean islands with a Dutch influence, head for the Lesser Antilles. You can attend St Martinus in Curacao, or Xavier Univerity School of Medicine in Aruba, which has the added advantage of no MCATS for admission. Maybe the island of Nevis can tempt you with the Medical University of the Americas. Its neighbor, the island of St Kitts is positively flush with medical schools including St Theresa Medical University, Windsor University School of Medicine, and the University of Medicine and Health Sciences. The choice is yours.

With so many offerings, how do you choose? Cost is a big concern of course. All offer financial aid, though some are much cheaper than others. Saba boasts a cost of around ten thousand dollars a semester, considerably cheaper than its US competitors and the island competitors of St Georges University in Grenada and Ross University in Dominica. Lifestyle is a factor too. The island of Dominica is much less "Americanized" as far as food and shopping than either Grenada or Belize. The quality of education is also a major factor. All Caribbean medical students must take United States Licensing Exam, the USLE, after their second year of medical school. Grenada leads all the other islands with a first time pass rate of 84.4 percent. Dominica comes in second at 69.7 percent, while St Lucia scores a dismal 19.4 percent. Compare that to the US/Canada pass rate of around 95 percent, and you can see what you are up against.

While the quality of the Caribbean schools may not equal those in the United States, for a large population of want to be medical students, it's the only choice. Besides, you know what they call the St Lucia medical student who got the lowest passing score on the USLE? Doctor.