There is a strong misconception, that Caribbean Medical Graduates/ IMGs, are committed to primary care specialties when they choose to pursue their medical degree offshore. While there may be a stigma surrounding the quality of our education, admittedly in comparison to our US and Canadian peers, AUA has proven with the quality of its students and their accomplishments, that no field of medicine is beyond our reach.
Through early integration of clinical sciences into our education, students are prepared for the wards, years ahead of their peers. The importance of physical examination, and attention to detail that is emphasized via actual patient care even while studying the basic sciences. This primes AUA students to integrate their book knowledge, with actual patients. It’s been years since I was on the island, however, I still recall entering an operating room in the Antiguan Hospital we were at, and feeling enthralled as we watched as the Surgeon removed a neck mass. Though I couldn’t identify the feeling at the time, I now recognize that the ability to use my hands to heal was something that spoke to me.
Fast forward to clinical sciences, where I fell in love with the operating room. I knew that this where my path lay, and I used my third and fourth years to strengthen my clinical acumen. One of the most important things I did, ensured I worked with residents. They are wonderful advocates and can empathize with your position as a student since they were most recently in your shoes. Most importantly, they demonstrate how important it is to function as a member of the medical team. Many AUA Alumni can vouch that their rotations, and ultimately the decision on specialty, were impacted by the relationships they cultivated with their residents. AUA’s rotations are widespread, all across North America, and there is so much opportunity for growth during these weeks. Though sometimes this requires moving, I loved the opportunity to explore the country and network. If you are thinking about a subspecialty, it is very important to build connections. In your fourth year, sub-internships/ acting-internships/ audition rotations are key. This is where you prove to a program that you are a contender for one of their spots, and they see you in your element. With a growing network via the Alumni Association, these fourth-year sub-internship options are growing, and students should actively reach out to those in the specialty they are interested in! Being a graduate of AUA means you are already self-motivated and defied the odds in pursuit of your dreams. This fighting spirit is obvious in our work, and programs value this level of commitment, that appears to be inherent within our students.
Research can be a key component to your application, and I would strongly suggest finding a mentor either on the island or during clinical science that can guide you. Publishing, not only demonstrates your commitment to academia but also to further the field of medicine.
Whatever specialty you choose, just remember you are not limited. AUA graduates have gone into every specialty/ subspecialty, and continue to become leaders in their respective fields. The above is just some insight based on personal experience, but the most important thing is keeping an open dialogue. Never feel as though you cannot ask questions, and always stay positive. The road is long, but the destination is worth it.
Srikant Sivaraman is originally from Toronto, Canada. He completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2007 and graduated from AUA in 2012. He completed his General Surgery Residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center/ Shock Trauma Center in 2017. He completed his Vascular Surgery Fellowship at Wayne State University in 2019. He is now a practicing Vascular Surgeon in Colorado.