Canadian Medical Schools Cause Canadians To Go Abroad

Canadian medical students sitting in a circle on the campus lawn

In Canada in 2017, only 2,617 of the 13,690 applicants were admitted to medical schools. An astonishing 81% were rejected. Therefore, a large percentage of Canadian applicants looked abroad, most of them to Caribbean medical schools. But, what happens when school is over? In 2018, of the 1,758 international medical graduates (IMGs)- most of whom were Canadians that tried to match back home, only 123 were selected. 

The decision to study abroad is a major one with many factors to consider, from proximity to home, academic approach, matching, cost, and long term career plans.

Caribbean Medical Schools vs. Canadian Medical Schools



In this post, we’re trying to address quality of life and logistical considerations that are often overshadowed by more typical medical school considerations, like: 


These factors are usually what most prospective med students are looking for. In reality, most of the fully accredited Caribbean medical schools offer the same level of quality. The biggest difference between Caribbean medical schools and Canadian medical schools is quality of life. 


One financial consideration is that the Eastern Caribbean dollar is “pegged” to the US Dollar at an exchange rate of 1 USD=2.70 EC. Because of the relative comparability of the USD and CAD due to the close economic and geographic relationship between the two nations, $1 CAD holds a value of $2.06 EC, meaning food, accommodations, and other incidental and entertainment based expenses are far cheaper in the Caribbean than Canada.


From a financial perspective, we believe Trinity to be one of the best Caribbean medical schools for Canadian students. Aside from scholarships plus federal and provincial funding and loans, Trinity costs $46,540 CAD, thanks to our Canadian exchange rate grant.

Canadian Medical School Acceptance Rates



First, let’s revisit the situation itself. The Canadian system for training aspiring physicians is broken (see below for a specific chart of acceptance rates in Canada). Because of the sheer lack of opportunity at home despite a pressing need, there is a high instance of Canadians going abroad for medical school. They leave to the tune of upwards of 2,400 students a year and most perform very well before heading home or putting down long term roots practicing in the United States. In the interest of leaving these future physicians as informed as possible, it’s time to parse through the factors that determine the best Caribbean medical school for Canadian students.

Academic Priority and Pedagogical Style of Caribbean Medical Schools

Medical schools in the Caribbean, by and large, follow a North American model that trains students to practice in the US and Canada because most Caribbean students are from those two nations and both countries loom large as providers of care in this part of the world. Similarly, the LCME accreditation guidelines by which US and Canadian schools (in conjunction with the CACMS) are measured are a global standard. Trinity’s accreditation, CAAM-HP is based on the LCME to the point that the US Department of Education has deemed it a comparable standard.


Caribbean vs. Other International Medical Schools

The model around the world tends to be about training doctors to practice in the school’s respective location, meaning that clinical education is focused on the acute needs of local populations. Medical schools in the Caribbean provide an opportunity for qualified future physicians to gain a knowledge of healthcare wherever they decide to live.


Because these schools in countries like Europe and Australia are focused on training physicians for local practice, there is a lack of the specific training to help students succeed. Specifically, on the USMLE Step exams that you find in the Caribbean. This is key. It’s at this point where Canadian students often say, “But Canadians don’t take the USMLE, they take MCCEE.” That’s true, but as IMGs, it’s advisable to do both to maximize opportunity. At the conclusion of a medical education in any non-North America specific institutions, students will enter into the Canadian (CaRMS) or US (NRMP) matches cold, with minimal contact with departments and a skill set while no doubt more than adequate, not suited for their particular needs practicing in North America.


Caribbean Medical School Then Canadian Residency


When it comes to residency in Canada, unfortunately, the match itself is no less competitive than attaining a seat in medical school in the first place. As illustrated above, in 2018, there were 2,980 applicants to CaRMs (the Canadian residency match program) from Canadian medical school graduates. There were 1,758 additional IMGs (international medical graduates, most of which were Canadian citizens that studied abroad). 7% of them matched back in Canada. Regardless of what Canadian applicants are being told by other medical schools, it’s important to recognize that 93% of the applicants do not match back when they graduate from non-Canadian schools of medicine. When juxtaposed with schools with 1000+ medical student classes claiming a 99% match rate and promising the moon to applicants, this is a damning statistic that’s worth carefully inspecting. The competition is fierce, and while electives back in Canada are an integral part of matching back, it still also takes stellar board scores and great interview skills.


This is why it’s so critical to consider ease of access back to Canada, as well as curriculum preparation when selecting a school. For students considering other schools in Europe and Australia as an option, while there are many excellent institutions and these are wonderful countries to learn and work in, in both cases, IMGs are only considered in EU and Australian residency programs after locally educated applicants have passed through the system. In the US and Canada, while residency matches are highly competitive, IMGs are permitted to apply throughout the process and are not only considered after all locally educated applicants have been processed.


With these challenges in mind, we strive to make Trinity the best Caribbean medical school for Canadian students. To learn more, read testimonials from our Canadian medical students.


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