Going to medical school is a dream for many students around the world. Getting a medical degree is definitely challenging and the hours can be long, but successful foreign medical graduates gain an enormous amount after graduation, as do the communities in which they eventually settle down to work.
Unfortunately, for many students who want to practice medicine, the challenges begin long before they ever start medical school. Simply getting accepted to medical schools is an immense challenge in many countries around the world, which is why Caribbean medical schools are so popular with international students.
Caribbean medical school graduates earn the opportunity to help improve the lives and health of others, and they gain access to a variety of interesting and well-paying career options as they move on to practicing medicine in fields as diverse as family medicine or plastic surgery. Best of all, Caribbean-trained doctors start down a lifelong educational career path in an intellectually stimulating environment that is always changing.
When you’re researching international medical schools, remember that not all Caribbean med schools are of equal quality. To help prospective med students decide which of the many Caribbean medical schools they should apply to, we grouped them in three tiers based on approvals and accreditations. Read on to find out how they stack up.
3 Tiers of Caribbean Medical Schools
Top-tier Caribbean Medical Schools
Top-tier Caribbean medical schools are the ones you should seriously consider. These widely recognized medical schools typically have approval from state agencies, such as the New York State Education Department and the Florida Department of Education, recognition from the Medical Board of California, and accreditations from major accrediting bodies like the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) or the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM).
Top-tier Caribbean medical schools are also approved to participate in the U.S. Federal Direct Loan Program (sometimes referred to as Title IV). These schools also have thousands of alumni in residency or practicing throughout the U.S. and Canada – another testament to the quality of the top Caribbean medical schools.
Mid-tier Caribbean Medical Schools
Mid-tier Caribbean medical schools may include universities that do have CAAM-HP/ACCM accreditation, but hold only one of the previously mentioned state approvals or don’t have any state approvals at all.
Bottom-tier Caribbean Medical Schools
A bottom-tier Caribbean medical university has no state approvals or CAAM-HP/ACCM accreditation, which should be taken into consideration for prospective medical students.
How to Choose a Caribbean Medical School
If you’re an aspiring medical school student and you’ve decided that you want to pursue your medical education at one of the many schools in the Caribbean, there are a number of factors for students to consider. However, when researching Caribbean medical schools, it is important to note one very important thing: not all schools are created equal.
The most important two factors to consider when judging a Caribbean university school of medicine are related to:
- The accreditation level of the Caribbean school in question
- The success of that school’s students
Let’s break each of those down.
The accreditation status of a medical school is the key indicator of the institution’s legitimacy and education quality.
American and Canadian students often wonder if an education from a Caribbean med school will allow them to practice medicine in their home communities. This is where students need to do their research when it comes to finding accredited Caribbean medical schools in order to pursue clinical rotations and residency in their home communities.
Whether you’re an aspiring medical student from the United States, Canada or abroad, the most important accreditations to look out for in a prospective Caribbean medical school are those from the following organizations:
Established in 2003, the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) helps to determine and prescribe standards and accredit various medical education programs in the region. They help generate confidence and provide an assurance of quality among stakeholders, students and the public.
The Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM) helps governments in other countries ensure that students accredited by the ACCM meet the standards that are set in their own countries.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) has vouched for the standards of accreditation used by both the CAAM-HP and theACCM, describing their standards as comparable to those used to accredit medical schools in the U.S.
Established in 1972 by the World Medical Association, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) aims to enhance the quality of medical education worldwide, and works with doctors, educators and universities through their six regional associations.
U.S. Department of Education Recognition
Being accredited by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) means that the United States affirms that institution’s acceptability and level of quality. Note that the US DOE does not accredit Caribbean medical schools. However, remember that the DOE’s NCFMEA has deemed both the CAAM-HP and ACCM as employing standards comparable to those in US medical schools, which is why students of that Caribbean medical school are eligible to receive federal student aid through the US DOE.
Various U.S. State Approvals
If you’re a student who wants to practice in the United States, having approval or recognition from various state boards and departments is also important in a Caribbean medical school. Three major ones to look for are:
- New York State Department
- Florida Department of Education
- Medical Board of California
Student success comes in many forms, and two of the most important metrics for success are:
- Residency performance
- The first-time pass rate of the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 (USMLE)
It’s no secret that obtaining a residency is strongly tied to a student’s academic performance. Successfully obtaining a residency would, in this context, represent a good “residency performance.”
A high overall residency performance rate from each graduating class would be an indicator of the quality of the Caribbean medical school’s program.
Good residency performance represents both the personal success of medical graduates, and acts as an indicator of the effort the medical school puts into their student body as a whole.
USMLE Step 1 First-Time Pass Rate
Although USMLE Step 1 will be a pass/fail exam starting in January of 2022, the first-time pass rate is still an important metric to take into consideration when looking at a school.
Failing the USMLE even once can potentially set you back when applying for competitive residencies or sought-after specialties, so it’s important to ensure that you’re in the hands of an institution that fully prepares its students for this exam.
Learn More About American University of Antigua College of Medicine
We hope some of the information presented has helped guide you as you perform your research into some of the options for accredited Caribbean schools of medicine. If you still have questions, we have answers!
If you want to know more about Caribbean medical school requirements, want to discover Caribbean medical schools accredited in the United States or Canada, or are simply a student or aspiring doctor that wants to learn more about the AUA, visit our website.
There you can discover our campus, explore some of the scholarships on offer, or add to your knowledge about what it’s like to live in Antigua.