The Ultimate Guide to Caribbean Medical Schools
The U.S. is currently facing is a widespread doctor shortage. While U.S. medical schools are expanding capacity, there are still too few slots available to train the needed physicians. Over 60% of medical school applicants are turned away each year by U.S. medical schools.
International medical school graduates (IMGs) fill up to 30% of internal medicine residencies and up to 15% of family medicine residencies, while also seeing steadily growing placement rates in specialty practice areas. Representing a significant share of IMGs, Caribbean medical schools have been a mainstay of supply for many U.S. residency programs.
Why a Caribbean Medical School Education is a Good Choice
Caribbean medical schools provide medical students with curriculum, clinical training, and residency opportunities substantially equivalent to U.S. medical schools. Rather than waiting through additional application cycles seeking entry into U.S. medical schools, students can get started in their medical training and shorten their time to medical practice.
Of course, not all Caribbean medical schools offer equal quality or outcomes. The best Caribbean medical schools can yield career outcomes similar to U.S. medical school U.S. and Caribbean graduates in similar score ranges on U.S. board exams have very similar residency match rates. But prospective students should carefully evaluate the Caribbean schools they are considering.
What to Look for in a Caribbean Medical School
Without a degree from an accredited medical school, MD graduates would not be able to work in the U.S. healthcare industry as a doctor.
Look for a Caribbean medical school that’s accredited by either The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) or The Accreditation of Colleges of Medicine (ACCM). The websites for these accrediting authorities list the schools they have accredited.
CAAM-HP and ACCM are the only accrediting authorities for Caribbean medical schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as having standards equivalent to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the U.S. medical school accrediting authority. Accreditation by one of those organizations is essential for graduates of a Caribbean medical school to gain residency placement and ultimately become licensed to practice medicine in the U.S.
Trinity School of Medicine is accredited by CAAM-HP.
Curriculum and Learning Environment
Academic quality at Caribbean medical schools can vary widely. Not only do you need to find a school that’s CAAM-HP or ACCM accredited, but also one that has the curriculum rigor, qualified faculty and learning environment best suited to prepare you for the all-important USMLE step exams.
Class size and student-to-faculty ratios can have great impact on student success, particularly for students who learn most effectively in a collaborative, small group setting rather than in a large lecture hall environment. Caribbean medical schools vary widely in the size of incoming classes and in student to faculty ratios. The largest schools will take in over 750 students annually and have limited individual access to faculty.
Trinity School of Medicine accepts a maximum of 200 students annually and a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. All students have frequent one-on-one access to faculty. Most Trinity faculty hold both MD and PhD degrees.
USMLE Step Pass Rates & Average Score
United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) step exams are the gateway exams to U.S. residencies for both U.S. and international medical schools. The pass rate percentages and average passing scores on USMLE exams are good indications of the quality of the curriculum and the education received by students. Caribbean medical schools with exemplary pass rates and average scores will make it known to prospective students on their website and will not make them dig around for it.
At Trinity School of Medicine, 93% of our students pass the USMLE Step 1 exam on the first attempt, with an average score of 220.
Students at most U.S. and international medical schools receive clinical training in their third and fourth years through clerkships in teaching hospitals and clinics. The leading Caribbean medical schools send their students to the U.S. for clerkships. U.S. medical schools are typically affiliated with a teaching hospital where their students do most of their clerkships. But Caribbean medical schools must contract with various physician groups and hospitals to secure clerkship slots for their students, often in geographically dispersed locations, and often on a space-available basis.
Medical students receive the best clinical training when their clerkships are in teaching programs fully integrated with the curriculum of their medical schools, when the training physicians are appointed as faculty members of the clerkship programs, when patient volume is sufficient to provide appropriate practical experiences for students, and when student receive individualized instruction and support from their assigned faculty physicians.
When considering Caribbean schools, carefully research their clerkship programs. Are their clerkships in one or multiple metropolitan areas? Are the clerkships in accredited teaching hospitals? Do they have clerkship capacity for all students or as space is available? What is the student-to-faculty physician ratio in the clerkship programs? What patient case volume can they expect? The answers to these questions will be an important indicator of the quality of clinical training students can expect, which can have an impact on their perceived qualifications in the residency match. There can also be a financial impact on students if there are travel and living expenses among multiple clerkship sites.
Trinity’s clinical campus in Baltimore, Maryland provides a medical center environment unique among international schools. Here students complete all third and fourth year clinical clerkships in a leading center for medical education, home to some of the top medical teaching hospitals in the U.S., including the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and LifeBridge Health System. A wide selection of away-rotations is also available to students who desire to complete one or more fourth year electives outside of Baltimore.
Residency Advising and Matching
The substantial percentage of Caribbean medical school graduates will seek residencies in the U.S., even the small percentage of IMGs who will ultimately practice in foreign countries. The quality and reputation of a medical school will be an important determinant of the success of its graduates in the annual residency match. But a residency applicant’s individual qualifications and preparation for the match process will be equally important. A supportive residency advisory team should be on your radar when selecting a Caribbean medical school. A good residency advisor can help students to best present their qualifications, to target residencies where they will have the best opportunities for success, and to prepare for interviews. Speak with current students, alumni, or admissions staff about the residency match support program at the university. You can check others’ testimonials online for yourself.
The key barometer of success of a medical school in placing its graduates in residencies is the residency match rate. A high match rate is an indication of the caliber of the students and the quality of the medical training delivered at that school.
Trinity School of Medicine’s cumulative residency match rate since the opening of the school is 84 percent.
What are Admissions Requirements of Caribbean Medical Schools?
The application process for a Caribbean medical school is similar to applying to a U.S. medical school. Every school is different, but here are some common requirements:
- Degree in a science field from an accredited college or university
- Qualifying undergraduate GPA
- Qualifying MCAT score
- Letters of Recommendation
- Resume/Cover Letter
Caribbean medical schools will vary in their admissions criteria in the key academic measures of GPA and MCAT score. These measures remain important but many of the schools look to qualitative factors that evidence a passion for medicine and a strong potential for success in medical school. Applicants with a weakness in one of the key academic criteria will want to amplify background and experience factors that demonstrate to your interviewer and to the admissions committee that you will succeed in their program and will be a credit to the university as a practicing physician.
At Trinity School of Medicine our mission is to train and instill in Trinity graduates a mission of service to the health and welfare of the communities they will serve. We look beyond the straight numbers to find candidates for admission who evidence a commitment and dedication to medical service and the personal discipline and drive to succeed in the rigors of our program.
How Much is Tuition at Medical Schools in the Caribbean?
Ah, yes. The cost of medical school is on every student’s mind when researching their future at a Caribbean medical school. When you find a good one, don’t let the cost be your sole determining factor. Many Caribbean medical schools offer scholarship and grant opportunities for their students. to cover a portion of their tuition and fees. Every little bit helps, right?
Just as not all Caribbean medical schools are of equal quality, there are significant differences in the total costs to attain an MD degree. The large majority of medical students will finance their degrees through student loans and will carry substantial debt balances into their medical practices. Prospective students should carefully research the full cost of their medical education, their expected loan payments, and when their loan payments begin (during or after residency). Total costs will include not only tuition and fees, but also housing, transportation and living expenses, as well as loan finance costs. The availability of scholarships and grants can reduce the total investment.
Ask the school what the average loan balance is for its graduates. Ask also what loan programs are available to finance your degree and what average financing costs are over the loan terms. You may be paying your student loans for up to 20 years after graduation, so it will matter a great deal to you what your monthly payment will be.
Basic tuition will vary greatly among Caribbean medical schools, from under $100,000 to almost $300,000. At the low end of the scale, students need to be very cautious of accreditation status. The ability to pay off student loans will be very challenging if a graduate cannot practice medicine in the U.S. And loan repayment is even more challenging if the school has high attrition and students leave without an MD degree. At the high end of the scale, students need to carefully consider the high loan payments they will have after graduation. Make sure to ask the school about grants and scholarships available to defray costs.
At Trinity School of Medicine, total four-year tuition is $149,500. We offer a wide range of scholarships and grants to further reduce student burden. Our graduates have the lowest average student loan debt among the top Caribbean medical schools. With our accreditation and 84% residency match rate, that puts Trinity at the top for return on investment.
How hard will it be to graduate from a Caribbean Medical School?
While academic rigor will vary among Caribbean medical schools, the rising tide of accreditation will ensure that only Caribbean schools with U.S. equivalent programs will be able to attract U.S. and Canadian med students. And the programs will be every bit as challenging as U.S. medical schools.
As in any endeavor of high purpose, Caribbean medical students will find their success tied most directly to their own hard work and performance. However, schools that provide strong support systems around their students and ample opportunity to overcome occasional setbacks are the schools that provide an environment most conducive to individual success.
Trinity graduates will tell you that they attribute much of their success to the level of personal support they found at Trinity from faculty, staff, administration and fellow students. The challenges of medical school are much more manageable when others around you are as invested in your success as you are.
What is it Like as a Caribbean Medical Student?
First of all, you are on the Caribbean campus only for years one and two, often not longer than 18-20 months. Then you will most likely be in the U.S. for clinical rotations. Second, life in the Caribbean as a medical student can be both adventurous and rewarding. While studying is the principal activity of Caribbean medical students, recreation and leisure activities abound, including rec center and outdoor recreation facilities on campus, and hiking, sailing and scuba excursions off campus. Breathtaking ocean views from many Caribbean campuses are a calming presence even on the most stressful days.
And the Caribbean island nations provide ample opportunities for Caribbean medical students to serve at- risk members of those communities, including volunteer clinics, medical research and other outreach programs.
Trinity School of Medicine is located on the island of St. Vincent in the Grenadine islands. The beautiful Grenadine islands boast some of the best sailing, diving and fishing in the Caribbean. St. Vincent is served by a new international airport with direct flights from a number of U.S. and Canadian cities.
Trinity students have a truly unique opportunity to participate in the pediatric care mission of a remarkable organization, the World Pediatric Project (WPP). WPP serves at-risk children throughout the Caribbean region through its teams of volunteer physicians, with a world class operating facility in St. Vincent for specialty surgeries. Trinity sponsors WPP and its students serve supporting roles in surgical cases and participate in care discussions with surgical teams.
Caribbean Medical Schools Create Extraordinary MDs
Studying medicine in the Caribbean can help new doctors succeed to the same degree as a graduate of a U.S. medical school. The ball’s in your court!
Ready to begin your journey in becoming an MD? Apply to Trinity School of Medicine today and be on your way to a great residency program and prosperous medical career.