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Caribbean vs. U.S. vs. Osteopathic medical schools

Choosing the right medical school is always a difficult decision. There are hundreds of choices in the U.S. and abroad to study. However, where you study can affect what you do with your medical career. Caribbean medical schools, U.S. medical schools, and osteopathic medical schools all have unique approaches to medical education. Here is a brief rundown of some of the key differences among these institutions.

Admissions

U.S. and osteopathic medical schools rely heavily on the MCAT to admit students. Since U.S. medical schools have a limited number of seats and an increasing amount of applications each year, many U.S. medical schools have had to use the MCAT to empirically accept or reject applicants. Osteopathic schools also have a similar dilemma.

Caribbean medical school admissions standards vary from school to school. American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine does not consider your MCAT score while making an admissions decision. Though it requires the MCAT for matriculation to comply with U.S. education standards, AUA takes a holistic approach to determine if an applicant is the right fit .

Tuition

Though the economy is recovering, tuition is still a huge financial burden on students attending medical school. Some physicians are still paying off loans years after they graduated. On average, U.S. public medical schools cost $184,760 and U.S. private medical schools cost $261,855 over four years. Osteopathic schools are generally less expensive than U.S. medical schools but many of these schools fall within that range.

AUA is generally less expensive than these options. This is also less expensive than other prestigious Caribbean medical schools such as Ross and St. Georges. Though there are other inexpensive Caribbean medical schools options, they do not have all the accreditations that AUA does. AUA is recognized by the Medical Board of California, approved by the New York State Education Department, and accredited by CAAM-HP. These allow AUA students to participate in clerkships and for AUA graduates to participate in residency programs throughout these states.

Education

U.S. medical schools are four-year institutions that are separated into two parts: preclinical and clinical. After completing preclinical training and completing STEP 1, students take their final two years of training at a teaching hospital.  Currently, there are 141 MD programs throughout the United States.

Though training is similar to its U.S. medical counterparts, osteopathic medical schools focus on teaching non-invasive procedures to diagnose and treat illnesses, such as the manipulation of bones and joints. Students who graduate from osteopathic schools receive a DO instead of an MD. There are currently only 29 osteopathic programs in the United States.

AUA is one of the few Caribbean medical schools that model its curriculum off U.S. medical schools. The difference between an AUA education and a U.S. medical school is that AUA implements clinical training earlier than U.S. medical schools, allowing students to gain hands-on clinical experience during their first two years. While many Caribbean medical schools teach to the STEP exams, AUA’’s education is more interested in producing compassionate, well-rounded physicians. This gives them an advantage with residency applications.

Residency Chances

Most Caribbean medical schools and all U.S. and osteopathic medical schools have opportunities to pursue residency placements in the United States. However, many U.S. medical schools are attached to a teaching hospital, allowing students to network with hospital administrators and, generally, give them an advantage applying to residency positions during the Match. Despite this advantage, there are still more residency positions available than there are U.S. medical graduates to fill them. Caribbean, osteopathic, and foreign medical students typically fill the remaining open residency slots.

Most graduates of Caribbean and osteopathic medical schools fill primary care residency slots, such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and OB/GYN. Primary care physicians are in high-demand throughout the U.S., which means there are more job opportunities for graduates of these residency programs. Caribbean med school graduates have also filled residency positions in other specialties as well, including neurology, anesthesiology, psychiatry, and many fields that are more competitive.

Become the Physician you want to be

The lessons you learn from medical school will define you for the rest of your medical career. You may change your perspective on medicine or realize a certain type of medicine is not right for you. There is no easy way to become a physician. Take your time to see if you would prefer to study at a U.S., osteopathic, or Caribbean medical school. You still have the rest of your career ahead of you.