The Basics of Basic Sciences: U.S. vs. Caribbean Medical Schools
While researching medical schools, you may have come across the phrase “Basic Sciences.” Sometimes referred to as “Pre-Clerkship” or “Pre-Clinical” in the U.S., these classes account for the first two years of your MD and provide the foundation of medical knowledge you will need for the rest of your career. Read on to learn what differentiates these core courses across institutions.
Different Grading Systems
The metric system isn’t the only culture shocks you’ll experience in a Caribbean medical school. While U.S. medical schools have a Pass/Fail system, many Caribbean medical schools still have an A-F grading rubric. American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine adheres to the Pass/Fail system to be more consistent with U.S. curriculums.
While many U.S. medical schools claim to be committed to diversity, Caribbean medical schools actually follow through, boasting more diverse student bodies than their U.S. counterparts. Looking for proof? AUA had a former Congressman praise the diversity on campus and a Huffington Post article highlighted it as well.
Early Hands-On Experience
Many U.S. medical schools are beginning to bring in clinical experience earlier in their curriculum, and you can thank Caribbean medical schools for setting that trend — some provide experience as early as freshman year. From the first semester, AUA offers the Intro to Clinical Medicine I course, which gives students access to medical simulators to practice basic clinical skills.
Comprehensive Shelf Exam
Before entering clinical rotations, Caribbean medical school students sit for a Basic Sciences Comprehensive Shelf Exam. The Comp exam tests students’ preparedness for the USMLE Step 1 and, ultimately, helps them earn better scores on this pivotal licensing exam. Some U.S. medical schools offer a Comp exam, but only before taking the USMLE Step 2 CS, which tests for more than just medical knowledge.
Emphasis on Communication Skills
Despite providing exceptional educations, U.S. medical schools have struggled with instilling compassion and professional skills. Studies have shown that students experience a dramatic drop in empathy after their third year. At AUA, patient communication lessons are built into the curriculum before students transition into clinical rotations, and the Educational Enhancement Department offers extracurricular seminars on perfecting bedside manner.
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