A Lifetime of Learning: An Overview of Med School
You got into medical school. Now what? At American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine and U.S.-modeled Caribbean medical schools, medical school is split into two phases: Preclinical Sciences and Clinical Sciences. These provide the foundations for required post-graduate training, which is fulfilled at a residency. What happens during these two phases? More info below.
This phase comprises the first two years of medical education, which is usually four semesters on a two-semester schedule. Here students gain the medical knowledge they need to become physicians. Most Preclinical Sciences courses have a familiar college feel: go to class, study, and take an exam. Considering how much information you have to learn within two years, these classes are a lot more intensive and require much more studying than a typical college class. Subjects covered during this phase include anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, histology, embryology, microbiology, pathology, pathophysiology, and neurosciences.
In U.S. medical schools, this is typically known as pre-clinical sciences. However, there is little to no clinical work done at this point. AUA offers early hands-on clinical training to better prepare students for their clinical rotations. AUA students can shadow physicians between semesters, participate in AUAs Simulation Lab, and take some courses at Mount St. Johns Medical Centre in Antigua.
Preclinical Sciences culminates with students taking the USMLE Step 1, which is a cumulative exam of the knowledge obtained during the first two years of medical education.
After passing the USMLE Step 1, students move onto clinical rotations. These comprise the last two years of medical education and take place at university-affiliated teaching hospitals. During rotations, clinical students apply the knowledge they learned during the Preclinical Sciences to real life medical situations. Students are supervised by residents and attending physicians as they interact with patients. Required rotations include internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, neurology, and psychiatry. There are also elective rotations in more specialized subjects.
Many U.S. medical schools have a hospital associated with their school, allowing students to participate in clinical rotations at that location. On the other hand, Caribbean medical schools have a network of affiliated teaching hospitals. AUA has dozens of affiliated teaching hospitals located throughout the United States. There are also affiliated hospitals for elective rotations located in Canada and India.
Besides doing exceptionally well on rotations, students should try network with hospital administrators and physicians during their Clinical Sciences. This will allow you to make the connections necessary to obtain the residency you desire.
Medical students secure residencies during their last semesters of medical school. A residency is required post-graduate training to obtain medical licensure throughout the U.S. or Canada. These are usually obtained by applying and interviewing through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) or the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). There are a limited number of residencies available each year because the federal government freezes the number of open residencies. Residency spots function this way because any compensation received from residency work is paid through Medicaid. Residencies lengths vary based on what residency you earn (from three to six years) and can be more intensive than medical school.
As long as you do well during medical school, you have a good chance of matching at the residency you want. However, U.S. medical school graduates have a better chance of matching at more specialized residencies while many Caribbean medical school students secure primary care residencies If you do decide to attend a Caribbean medical school, make sure that school can have graduates secure residencies in the United States. AUA is recognized by the Medical Board of California and approved by the New York State Education Department. This allows graduates to match in residencies in these states and any states that follow their approval guidelines. Other schools don’t have these approvals, which makes your options for residencies more limited when you graduate.
If you are prepared to dedicate yourself to a lifetime of medicine, then you should apply to medical school. U.S. medical schools typically begin in the Fall. AUA has a rolling admissions policy, which means applicants can apply anytime. Classes begin in August and February.