Trinity, Transfers, and the Changing Face of International Medical Schools

There are quite a few medical schools operating in the Caribbean. This has been a source of everything from hope and opportunity to stress and uncertainty over the past half century or so for US and Canadian students. And while we obviously think that we’re the best choice for anyone considering an international medical education, we wanted to take an opportunity to discuss a major ally of ours in the fight for quality: The ECFMG. 

Today, we’re going to discuss what the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) actually is and what it isn’t. We’ll also get into how they’re making the Caribbean a better place for students considering an education abroad. (You will be unsurprised to find that Trinity ticks all of their boxes as one of the best schools in the region).

ECFMG3First, let’s talk about what the ECFMG actually is. The ECFMG is a partner of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and the Clinical Skills Evaluation Collaboration (CSEC) to ensure any internationally trained medical students meet specific standards prior to obtaining a medical license or practicing medicine of any kind in the United States. ECFMG Certification is required for each student to sit for the USMLE Step exams, the exams that all students intent on practicing in the US must pass for licensure.

You’ll note we said, “required for each student” not “school.” This leads us to what the ECFMG isn’t.

It’s not an accreditation agency. It certifies students, not schools, to take the USMLE licensing exams. Be wary of any school claiming an ECFMG accreditation. It doesn’t exist. However, the ECFMG is wielding its authority in a new way starting in 2023 (bear in mind this is the graduation year for any student starting medical school in 2019, more on that later). However, the ramifications are already taking hold right now, with schools “ghosting” their students and shutting down with little to no notice or recourse.

You can read the full text yourself here, but as of 2023, the ECFMG will not certify anyone that studies at an international medical school that does not have an accreditation recognized by the US Department of Education. (Note that Trinity’s accreditation has been recognized by the US Department of Education for several years, now.)

While the rule takes full effect in 2023, the speculation has been it will start to have a serious impact as early as 2019. The concern is that that state medical boards, even those without restrictions on schools or their students, may start to deny applications for licensure from students that did not spend all four years of their education at a federally-recognized-as-accredited program. 

It turns out this was a conservative estimate: schools are already closing now, at the end of 2018. Schools have already started closing their doors, putting campuses up for sale, and leaving their students out in the cold. A tremendous influx of students seeking to transfer have reached out as a result. 
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As heartbreaking as it is for those students already affected at these other schools, this change via the ECFMG is a celebration of good faith operation and quality education. In many ways, top schools like Trinity, and students across the region have been waiting for this last gap in the system to be closed for years. We could not be more excited as a result.

The ECFMG is not stopping there, though. They’ve actually published a guide to help students navigate through choosing an international medical school at all, even those that will remain open past 2023. 

We thought we’d go through each item and show you how Trinity stacks up.

For the past ten years, Trinity School of Medicine has operated under a guiding principle of striving to be the best option for anyone looking to study medicine abroad. That meant staying small, staying focused, and staying honest, with ourselves and our students. It’s worked out very well, too. We once saw someone sarcastically refer to us as, “The mighty Trinity School of Medicine” because of our size and, at that point, relative youth. As the landscape of medical education in the Caribbean changes, we’re proud to see how that isn’t a joke anymore.

Put another way, when the ECFMG said “get on our level?” We were already there.

It’s a great feeling. We hope you’ll join us and find out for yourself.

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