Navigating Your Medical Education Journey
The U.S. is currently facing 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.
Looking for a Caribbean medical school to earn your MD can be a daunting task that may seem overwhelming. There are many factors to consider that the average medical student may not even think to pay attention to until it’s too late.
There are many medical schools in the Caribbean that can help you earn your medical degree, but not all of them may be right for you. It’s important to look beyond the degree itself and find the school that will best set you up for a successful career in medicine in the U.S. or Canada. Some of the most important things to consider when choosing the right Caribbean medical school include:
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 schools. 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.
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 is 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). These accrediting authorities for Caribbean medical schools are 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.
Trinity School of Medicine is accredited by CAAM-HP, and therefore, compliant with the Education Committee for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) 2024 Rule. This rule dictates that all international medical graduates be required to have graduated from an accredited school in order to sit for USMLE Step Exams and apply for residency in the U.S.
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 a significant 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 has 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.
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, 96% of our students pass the USMLE Step 1 exam on the first attempt.
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. However, 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 students 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 provides students the kind of clinical experience you would expect from a U.S. medical school. Our clinical clerkship facilities in Warner Robins, Georgia, in partnerhip with Houston Healthcare and Central Georgia Technical College, provide the highest quality clinical education to Trinity students.
Trinity students can complete their full 48 weeks of core rotations in our affiliated hospital and clinics – no waiting for rotations slots to open and no waiting between rotations. An extensive list of fourth-year elective rotations is also available. Students can finish on time and stay on track for their residency match cycle.
A 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, target residencies where they will have the best opportunities for success, and 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 the 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 over 90 percent.
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:
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 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 their interviewer and to the admissions committee that they 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 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.
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 scholarships and grant opportunities for their students to cover a portion of their tuition and fees.
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.
At Trinity School of Medicine, we offer a wide range of scholarships and grants to further reduce the student burden. Our graduates have the lowest average student loan debt among the top Caribbean medical schools. Our accreditation and over 90% residency match rate puts Trinity at the top for return on investment.
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. Accreditation standards ensure that 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.
Most students of international medical schools are on the Caribbean campus only for years one and two, often no longer than 16-20 months. After that, they usually return to the U.S. for clinical rotations.
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, hiking, sailing, and scuba excursions off-campus. Breathtaking ocean views from many Caribbean campuses are a calming presence even on the most stressful days.
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. 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.
After learning about the top-quality education students receive at Trinity, you may be wondering where does the stigma of Caribbean medical schools comes from? In the past, Caribbean medical accreditation standards were admittedly lax by U.S. and Canadian standards. This is no longer the case (at least, when it comes to CAAM-HP accredited schools). CAAM-HP closely evaluated the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) guidelines and standards for U.S. medical schools and applied them in the Caribbean to demonstrate a commitment to quality.
The founders of Trinity set out to build a top-quality medical school recognized for excellence among all medical schools. We achieve that excellence through the personal investment we make in each student who enters our school, starting from the admissions process and continuing through their academic and clinical studies, residencies, and medical practice. U.S. and Canadian residency directors recognize the quality of Trinity graduates, who continue to secure top-choice residencies in the national annual match programs.
Ready to begin your journey in becoming an MD? Apply to Trinity School of Medicine today and be on your way to securing a great residency and prosperous medical career.