Does Your Medical School Matter? 6 Factors to Consider

Does Your Medical School Matter? 6 Factors to Consider

This article has been updated to provide the greatest relevance & timeliness for our readers. It was originally published August 2017.

As prospective medical students consider their options for where to go to med school, many wonder how much their choice will actually impact their future as a doctor. 

Each year, the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) residency director survey demonstrates that the school a candidate attended is a remarkably low priority in their decision making process. In the most recent report findings, a candidate's medical school didn't even make the top 20 factors when considering an applicant for an interview invitation! 

On its surface, the NRMP survey implies that whatever medical school you choose to attend is irrelevant; as long as you absorb the material and can perform when evaluated on exams, in front of preceptors, etc., that's all that matters.

However, it's crucial to consider that while, on the surface, it may look like your medical school doesn't matter, the learning environment cultivated by that school, and how it has specifically prepared you for a career in medicine, can be the single biggest factor in your success. 

Medical students don't thrive in a vacuum. They need a curriculum, faculty, support structure, living environment, extra-curricular opportunity, even a student body, that is shaped to help them succeed. A school doesn't just provide information, it should help students develop on a personal level into the sort of physician a residency director wants on their team and, ultimately, caring for their community.

In this post, we'll examine factors that the NRMP does consider to be important factors in a residency candidate and how the medical school you attend can help to cultivate and improve your results across each metric. 

1. Medical School Accreditation 

Before we get going, there's one basic element of any medical school that must always be considered first: accreditation. As an international school training students to practice in North America, we feel it is incumbent on us to make sure that we always maintain our accredited status and that information on state approvals is plainly available.

Before we get going, there's one basic element of any medical school that must always be considered first: accreditation. As an international school training students to practice in North America, we feel it is incumbent on us to make sure that we always maintain our accredited status and that information on state approvals is plainly available.

However, we're not here to talk about a school meeting a minimum standard of quality. Today we're focusing on what gives students the best shot at succeeding in their efforts to secure a residency match and have a long, successful career.

2. USMLE Step-1 Score 

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The NRMP's report has shown year after year, the number one criteria has almost always been your Step-1 score. 

At Trinity, we prioritize curriculum that is designed for holistic student success. This includes: 

  • Our Individualized Learning Program, which allows students to get up to speed with an additional term of education without incurring additional tuition costs
  • Our Academic Progress Committee, allowing faculty to discuss each student's strengths and areas for improvement and working with those students to refine their study habits when necessary
  • Our wholly integrated Step-1 prep, placing the methodology and mindset alongside every lecture and lesson

We want our students to not just gain the critical knowledge necessary to practice medicine, but to ensure that they are ready to demonstrate that knowledge when called upon in any situation, whether during licensing exams or a stressful day on rotation

3. Letters of Recommendations in the Specialty

Something we hear whenever we speak with an alum is just how prepared they felt on that first day of clinical rotations. More often than not, preceptors openly comment on their preparedness relative to their counterparts from other schools. This isn't a fluke. Trinity School of Medicine's clinical experience starts the first week of basic sciences and only builds throughout those first five terms.
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So much of clinical rotations can be about performing under pressure and realizing that you are being evaluated at all times. At the same time, almost paradoxically, a major concern of medical students is whether or not their performance is being noticed at all. Trinity School of Medicine's approach to clinical medicine goes above and beyond, and it gets students noticed.

4. The MSPE/Dean's Letter

At Trinity, we consider a "small class" to have 35 students, not 350. With those small classes, each student is more than just a familiar face to the faculty. They're part of an intimate community of students, educators, and administrators. Even outside of the classroom, the Trinity community is tightly connected:  It's a unique environment that creates a special type of community bond, with everyone far from home and working closely, day after day.

How does this relate to student performance evaluations for residency? When it comes time to update and affirm a formal medical student performance evaluation (MSPE), you are not a random student to our dean. You are precisely you.

Our administration knows your strengths and the challenges you have overcome. All of this leads to a more robust and personalized letter from the dean certifying you as prepared to head out into the world and render care to your patients, a proud representation of Trinity School of Medicine.

5. USMLE Step-2 (CS and CK) Scores

TSOM_ORTrinity's approach here is twofold. First, we have made sure to secure clerkship positions in keeping with our growth, ensuring that every one of our students can proceed upon passing Step 1, immediately. There are no waiting lists for rotations, so we never have medical students sitting on their hands. We also have 100% of our core rotations available to be completed at one of our two clerkship campuses in Baltimore, Maryland or Warner Robins, GA. under the tutelage of a dedicated faculty and assistant dean. At the same time, our associate dean of clinical clerkships, Dr. Marc T. Zubrow, works with students on the academic side, while also providing career guidance on many other areas of professional development, not the least of which is residency selection strategy. 

Trinity also employs National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), clinical subject exams ("shelf exams") to assess the educational achievement of individual students in specific subject areas in each core discipline. Shelf exams provide a window into Trinity student preparation and future success on the Step 2-CK exam. Students who have scored at the Honors level on one or more shelf exams have passed the Step 2 CK exam on their first attempt with a score of 230 or above. Students who need additional time to study and prepare for CK are identified through their shelf performance, to assure that they are fully prepared to pass on their first attempt, ultimately ensuring they better represent their capabilities and potential in the match.

Under the eye of our faculty and leadership, Trinity students have a tremendous opportunity to excel, contributing to high performance in the hospital and strong grades reflecting that performance, another major factor in residency selection.

6. Personal Statement

While a student's personal statement is acknowledged as a critical element to success in the match, what goes into properly shaping the person crafting that statement is frequently missed.

Caribbean medical schools are about giving students an opportunity to succeed outside of the inflated competition of the US and Canadian systems. In this respect, Trinity is no different. However, our campus culture and holistic admissions process tends to fill our student body with a very sincere, hard working population of future physicians, many of whom are incredibly engaged with philanthropic outreach throughout their time in St. Vincent.

Trinity provides many opportunities for extra-curricular clinical training, through events like the Village Doctor Exercise or the medical mission work of the World Pediatric Project. Our students frequently go above and beyond on their own, building relationships with local orphanages, holding health fairs (under volunteer faculty supervision), even staging relief efforts and major fundraisers and material drives for those in need. 

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Summary: Does It Matter Where You Go to Medical School?

As we said, where you go to medical school doesn't even crack the top 20 criteria of factors important to residency program directors, and that's a good thing for the entire medical field. There are excellent physicians coming from every medical school, and these students bring their own unique perspectives, compassion, and experiences to the practice of medicine, strengthening it through diversity. However, saying the school doesn't matter is inaccurate. The name of your medical school doesn't matter.

When it comes down to it though, almost every factor in residency match success comes from you: your USMLE Step scores, your attributes highlighted in letters of recommendation, a dean's letter that captures who you are, not just what you've done. These personal achievements come from the environment that shaped you, the faculty that taught you, and the experiences that were made available to you. It's on medical students to make the right choices for themselves, but at the same time, it's on the medical school to make sure we offer the singular best opportunity we can for those students. 

If you're ready to take the next step to find a medical school that can help prepare you for success in your medical career, apply to Trinity today.

Topics: Caribbean medical school student success Accredited caribbean medical school residency match Graduates of Trinity School of Medicine Trinity students