Palm tree and beach in the Caribbean

An In-Depth Look At The Top Caribbean Medical Schools

November 21, 2021
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Part 1. Introduction Part 2. Why Attend a Caribbean Medical School Part 3. Caribbean Medical Schools vs. American Medical Schools Part 4. What to Look for When Choosing a Caribbean Medical SchoolPart 5. Top 4 Caribbean Medical Schools Part 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion

Introduction 

It’s hard to think of a more beautiful place to study than the Caribbean. American students have become increasingly interested in programs offered in Caribbean countries for many reasons. When you factor in the famously lower GPA and MCAT requirements, the beach is not the only draw to applying to programs on the islands.

With declining rates in American medical school acceptances, specialists are concerned about whether there will be enough doctors to treat patients in the coming years.

In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that the U.S. will face a severe doctor shortage by 2033. By applying to schools in the Caribbean, American students can help combat that shortage while still obtaining a high quality education.

There are both risks and rewards when you choose to study in the Caribbean. Here we’ll go over the top four medical schools in the Caribbean, the pros and cons of studying medicine there, what to look for, and FAQs to help you get informed. Let’s get started!

Why Attend a Caribbean Medical School 

American medical schools are becoming more competitive every year. In 2019, only 40.9% of applicants were accepted into medical schools in the U.S. For this reason, many students are sending applications outside of the country in hopes of getting accepted. 

The Caribbean has a few specific attributes that may catch your attention if you want to study abroad. For example, many medical schools in the Caribbean have higher acceptance rates than in the U.S. Caribbean schools tend to have lower MCAT and GPA requirements, a game-changer for students with lower scores. 

Some medical schools in the Caribbean have solid ties to the AAMC, meaning that you can complete your schooling there and then be matched to a U.S. residency program after. Caribbean schools have reasonable residency match rates, some even rivaling those of U.S. schools.

Caribbean Medical Schools vs. American Medical Schools 

The U.S. and the Caribbean both have reputable schools that will set you up for success, although they have some significant differences. Besides the weather and plant populations, there are many pros and cons to consider when deciding where to study.

In this section, we’ve created a table to give you a good idea of how medical schools differ in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

These statistics mainly reflect the averages of all U.S. medical schools vs. the averages of the top four med schools in the Caribbean. More detailed statistics are available on the AAMC website, which is accessible through creating an account.

medical school stats


What to Look for When Choosing a Caribbean Medical School

When researching Caribbean medical schools, there are a few key factors that you should consider. Caribbean schools do not always function the same as U.S. schools, so getting informed before applying is essential. Here is a list of the most important things to look for when choosing a Caribbean medical school.

Reputation

Should be a significant factor in deciding whether or not a school is right for you. A medical school with a poor reputation can make it harder to be placed in a U.S. residency, especially when that school is abroad. Sometimes a school can adopt a lousy reputation by accepting low-performing students who are not ready for the trials of med school.

Accreditation

Is the most crucial factor to consider when researching medical schools in the Caribbean. Accreditation will tell you if a school has met the national standards for offering a medical degree through its program.

If your school is not properly accredited, you may not be eligible to pursue graduate medical education in the U.S. and have a hard time finding a residency.

Residency Placement Rate

will be an important statistic to look at no matter where you decide to do medical school, but especially abroad. You want to make sure that you won’t have difficulty matching with a residency after graduating, no matter where you study.

Cost

Is also an essential factor to consider when studying abroad. Although some schools may offer lower tuition, don’t forget to factor in flights home, rent, food, and everything else you’ll need as a med student. 

USMLE Pass Rates

are often lower when studying abroad, so make sure to check what percentage of your school’s students passed each step of the USMLE.

Ability to Access Loans and Funding

Is another major factor to consider. Ensure that you can access federal loans (if you require them) at your school of choice. Most schools have funding specifically for international students, which is also worth researching.

Make sure to take all of these factors into consideration when researching Caribbean medical schools. Remember that if a school has unbelievably low standards for acceptance, it may not prepare you adequately for the rigorous world of medicine, especially if you plan to practice in the U.S. Take your time deciding which schools to apply to based on your preferences and what each school has to offer.

Top 4 Caribbean Medical Schools 

While researching medical schools in the Caribbean, you may have come across “the big four.” These top four medical schools each have excellent reputations and are worth applying to if you’re hoping to study in the islands. Let’s take a look at the top four medical schools in the Caribbean.

1. St. George’s University in Grenada

St. George’s University (SGU) has a worldwide reputation for medical education. The university is located in the West Indies and was established in 1976. SGU emphasizes easing the physician shortage in the U.S. and aims to make medical education accessible. St. George’s University is also a proudly international school, with students and faculty hailing from over 140 countries. 

SGU is one of the few Caribbean medical schools “recognized by the U.S.Department of Education to administer student loans for qualified U.S. students.” SGU has also provided over 5,000 students with scholarships to ease financial stress, amounting to over $1,000,000 USD over the years. 

SGU is accredited by several different recognized bodies, including the Grenada Medical and Dental Council GMDC, the U.S. National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), and a panel of experts from the U.S. Department of Education.

Mission Statement

St. George’s mission statement says: “Our highest purpose is education and there is no better education than one that is truly international. We are committed to developing the intellectual capacity, creativity, and professionalism of our students, immersing them in the rich diversity of human experience and aspiration.

As a result, they are prepared to shape the future of our world while adding to the knowledge base of humankind.”

Admission Requirements & Application Process

To apply to St. George’s University, you can easily find and download their application online. They also have a transfer request form for transfer students hoping to take part in their education there. You must have completed, or be in, the final year of your bachelor’s degree to be admitted to SGU.

An application to SGU requires standardized test scores, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Their website also has a complete list of mandatory prerequisite courses. For the January 2022 admissions cycle only, MCAT scores do not need to be submitted with your application. This is a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will not continue past this cycle. 

After an initial review of your application and test scores, select students move on to the next round of the admissions process - the interview. If you have received a letter of acceptance after your interview, congratulations! Make sure to sign and submit an Acknowledgment of Admission and pay your tuition deposit to reserve your spot. 

2. American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in St. Maarten

The American University of the Caribbean(AUC) is an international school that operates in St. Maarten while offering a U.S. medical curriculum. They aim to create a tight-knit community of international students with small class sizes and dedicated staff.

AUC is accredited by the National Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM). The ACCM is verified by the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA). Due to NCFMEA approval, students at AUC may also qualify for U.S. financial aid.

As an accredited school, students of AUC are eligible to take the United States Medical License Examinations (USMLE). They must first register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). They even boast an impressive 93.2% first-time pass rate for the USMLE as of 2020.

Mission Statement

According to their website, “The mission of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) is to train tomorrow’s physicians, whose service to their communities and their patients is enhanced by international learning experiences, a diverse learning community, and an emphasis on social accountability and engagement.”

Admission Requirements & Application Process

To be eligible for admission to AUC, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s or equivalent in any discipline. Their prerequisite course requirements are:

AUC typically requires MCAT scores (or equivalent from non-U.S. applicants) to be submitted with your application, but they are waiving this requirement for the January 2022 admissions cycle. They also require a CV, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts, and an IELTS or TOEFL test score if English is not your first language.

All required documents must be submitted alongside an online application form, which can be found on their website. Their start dates are in January, May, and September each year, to give students multiple opportunities to apply.

3. Saba University School of Medicine in The Bottom, Caribbean Netherlands

Saba University School of Medicine (SABA) was founded in 1992 and is an accredited school with an impressive USMLE first-time pass rate of 99%. Their accreditation comes from the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO), as it is located on a Dutch island and boasts high European standards of medical excellence.

SABA has also been approved by officials representing the states of California, New York, and Florida. Due to their accreditation, graduates of SABA can complete the requisite licensing examinations in Canada, Puerto Rico, and all 50 U.S. states. SABA is also approved for U.S. Federal Student Aid programs, making it one of the select international schools U.S. citizens can attend while receiving federal loans.

The university has also had plenty of success placing students in residencies after achieving their degrees in the U.S. and Canada. As of today, more than 3,000 Saba graduates practice medicine in North America.

Vision Statement

SABA’s vision is “to establish an international alternative to U.S. and Canadian medical schools that would provide an excellent medical education and expansive career opportunities.”

Admission Requirements & Application Process

To be admitted to SABA, you must have already completed a minimum of three years of undergraduate studies and all prerequisite courses, most of which center around science and mathematics. You can find a full list of prerequisite courses on their website.

The MCAT is required for U.S. students and is recommended (not required) for Canadian students. Applicants are also required to speak English fluently, as that is the language of instruction at SABA. If English is not your first language, a TOEFL score is required.

Applicants to SABA are expected to have a minimum of 50 hours of direct patient care experience which can come from volunteering, shadowing, interning, or working at a medical facility. If you meet all of the admission requirements, you can move forward with your application to SABA.

To apply to SABA, you must submit an online application, pay the admission fee, and submit all required documents. The required documents are; transcripts, personal statements, letters of recommendation, photos, MCAT scores, and TOEFL scores if applicable.

4. Ross University School of Medicine in Barbados

Last but not least, the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) is an impressive international medical school located in Two Mile Hill, Barbados. Their campus is home to a state-of-the-art medical and anatomical imaging laboratory and a simulation center.

RUSM is accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). The CAAM-HP has been approved by the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA). Their accreditation by this body means that they can participate in the U.S. Federal Direct Student Loan Program.

With a USMLE pass rate of 90.0%, RUSM is in line with U.S. and Canada pass rates. They also have an impressive 92% first-time residency match rate and currently have a student network of over 15,000 graduates practicing in all 50 U.S.states.

Unlike other Caribbean schools, RUSM is U.S.Title IV Funding eligible and has awarded over 50 million USD in scholarships and grants in 2020 alone. To give newly admitted students a good idea of their school’s campus life, RUSM also offers complimentary school tours, including airfare and a two-night hotel stay.

Mission Statement

Their website states that “At Ross University School of Medicine, we believe accessible medicine starts with accessible medical education. Our mission is to educate and empower a truly diverse and dedicated population of students who are determined to make an undeniable impact on the communities they serve.”

Admission Requirements & Application Process

To be considered for RUSM, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. Students must also have completed the following prerequisite courses:

Your undergraduate cumulative GPA will be required for review. If you meet the admissions requirements, you can move forward with your application. Applicants must submit an online application, transcripts, letters of recommendation (two minimum), MCAT scores, and a foreign transcript evaluation if applicable. 

If your credentials and application are reviewed and accepted, you’ll be contacted to set up an interview. Afterward, if you receive a letter of acceptance, you can choose to begin classes in September, January or May.

FAQs

1. Are Caribbean medical schools good?

While some schools in the Caribbean have a poor reputation, some have an excellent reputation and even higher USMLE pass rates than U.S. schools. Make sure to always check for accreditation when applying to any international school.

2. Are Caribbean medical schools easy to get into? 

While some Caribbean medical schools are less competitive and have lower GPA and MCAT requirements, schools with medical programs that are “easy” to get into might not be your best option. 

Medical school is hard to get into to prepare you for the rigors of their programs. If a school is too easy to get into, it may be too good to be true. Always check a school’s reputation and stats before applying.

3. What are the “big four” Caribbean medical schools?

The “big four” Caribbean medical schools are:

4. Is Caribbean medical school cheaper than in the U.S.?

Generally speaking, tuition and living expenses are cheaper in the Caribbean than in the U.S. Prices of each vary significantly between Caribbean countries and schools.

5. Do Caribbean medical schools have good match rates?

Yes! Accredited medical schools in the Caribbean have phenomenal match rates, specifically the “big four.”

6. Do Caribbean medical schools make good doctors?

Because some Caribbean medical schools accept students with low GPAs and MCAT scores who are not necessarily prepared for medical school, graduates can struggle to find residencies. If you intend to study in the Caribbean, attending an accredited school with a good reputation is crucial.

Conclusion

Attending school in the Caribbean can seem like a dream come true to students who yearn for a life on the beach, and it may very well be! If you are hoping to study in the Caribbean, make sure to do thorough research on every school you’re interested in.

Accreditation, reputation, residency match rates, and USMLE pass rates should all be top priorities when doing your research.

Some schools in the Caribbean accept students with low grades that would not match U.S., Canadian or European standards. Even though it may be tempting to apply to schools with low requirements, you should avoid them as they will not adequately prepare you for the medical world. Generally speaking, you’ll be safe applying to the “big four.”

Doing school in a different country is a big decision. If you can afford to take a trip, we would highly recommend touring some Caribbean campuses before accepting an admissions offer. Touring can help you get a good idea of the neighborhoods you’ll frequent, campus life and probably give you a nice tan while you’re at it.

Keep researching and good luck!

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