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Medical school is insanely competitive. In the most recent data available from the
AAMC, only about 41% of applicants were ultimately accepted to a U.S. medical school. Osteopathic D.O. schools have been gaining
in popularity in recent years as well, forcing less competitive applicants to turn to Caribbean
medical schools in pursuing their dreams of becoming a doctor. Are Caribbean medical schools a good option? Here are the pros and cons. Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com. It’s important to understand that the medical
school you attend is not the final determinant in whether or not you’ll be a good physician. I know a great deal of highly impressive
physicians who trained at Caribbean medical schools, and other physicians who trained
in the U.S. who are not nearly as impressive. That being said, we believe in full transparency
and making educated decisions. At Med School Insiders, we’re surprised
how commonly Caribbean medical schools are suggested and recommended to pre-med applicants,
without regard for the significant drawbacks. But first, let’s first cover the benefits. First, Caribbean schools are less competitive and therefore you have a higher chance of acceptance. It’s no secret – the main reason and biggest benefit in attending a Caribbean medical school
is that it’s less competitive than getting into a U.S. allopathic medical school. The average MCAT of U.S. matriculants in
2018-2019 was 505.6, and the average GPA was 3.47 and 3.71 for science and non-science, respectively. The average MCAT and GPA for Caribbean medical
school matriculants is much lower. For this reason, the schools have been described
as “second chance medical schools”, offering students a chance who would otherwise
not be realistic candidates for U.S. programs. Number two, excellent climate.
Location-wise, the Caribbean is not the worst place to be. You’ll have warm, tropical climates to enjoy
year-round, without having to worry about commuting in the snow. Not all United States medical schools can
say the same. Number three, rolling admissions.
In order to apply to U.S. medical schools, you must apply through AMCAS in a set timeframe. Caribbean schools, on the other hand, practice
a rolling admissions process, meaning you can apply throughout the year and matriculate
shortly thereafter. But now, the drawbacks. First, it’s challenging to match into a U.S. residency. The NRMP regularly
publishes the Match data for U.S. graduates as well as U.S. IMGs (that’s international medical
graduates). In 2018, 94.3% of U.S. medical school graduates
successfully matched. In comparison, only 57.1% of U.S. IMGs were
accepted to a U.S. residency program. That’s not a comforting number. Even the best Caribbean schools only reach
around 70% match rates on the higher end. Number two, a cut throat and less supportive culture.
Most Caribbean medical schools are in the for-profit business, and profit as the bottom
line is a major driver in their motivation. As a result, student support systems and student
wellbeing is not as highly prioritized compared to many U.S. programs. In addition, you’re less likely to find
a collaborative atmosphere, given that you’re competing with one another to get a coveted
U.S. residency position. In stateside medical schools, pass/fail systems
are more commonplace and the chances of going unmatched are far lower. Unsurprisingly, attrition rates are significantly
higher at Caribbean medical schools. While the literature doesn’t demonstrate
strong evidence regarding wellbeing in Caribbean students versus stateside medical students,
I’d wager that burnout and stress levels are higher in the Caribbean. Number three, Limited Options in Terms of Specialty.
As much as you may think you know what specialty you want to practice long term, you’ll likely change your mind (and often times more than just once). For example, I was positive that I was going
to practice pediatric gastroenterology when I first entered medical school, but I ended
up matching into plastic surgery. A significant limitation with attending a
Caribbean medical school is that you are significantly less likely to be successful in matching into
a competitive specialty. We’ve outlined and ranked the most competitive
specialties before – understand that if you’re going
for specialties like neurosurgery, plastic surgery, or orthopedic surgery, you’re much
less likely to be successful than if you graduate from a U.S. allopathic medical school. Again, it’s not impossible, but you’ll
be at a significant disadvantage. But let’s say you’re going for a less competitive specialty. Maybe you just want to match into a desirable residency program. Even then, you’ll need to make up for the
fact you attended a Caribbean medical school by performing higher on USMLE Step 1 and Step
2CK compared to if you attended a U.S. program. Number four, Inconsistent Quality.
There are over 60 Caribbean medical schools, but the quality at each is subject to vary. Unlike the LCME in the U.S., which is the accrediting
body for U.S. medical schools, the accreditation system in the
Caribbean is less standardized and less robust. As a result, some schools have good results
and good performance from their students — upwards of 95% passing USMLE Step 1 and
a high percentage matching into U.S. residency programs. But others have a Step 1 pass rate as low as 19
percent with equally abysmal residency match rates. And number five, Increased Cost & Debt Burden.
Some Caribbean medical schools have secured federal financial aid options for their students. But still, graduates are left with similar amounts
of student debt, hovering around $200,000. Combined with the fact that you’ll be less
likely to secure a residency position (and therefore practice clinically as a physician),
it becomes clear that this is a riskier financial option. So Is a Caribbean Medical School Right
for You? For most students, I recommend delaying your
application by a year and strengthening your application in order to apply to stateside
osteopathic or even allopathic medical schools. Students are often surprised by how much they
can strengthen their application in just one year. For other students who may not have the patience
to strengthen their app or because of other factors limiting them, Caribbean
medical schools may be their last option. Our team of top physician advisors have helped
hundreds of students get into U.S. medical schools and we can help you as well. From planning out your next year to helping
you craft a masterful personal statement that gets you accepted, we’ve got you covered. And we’re invested in your success. After all, we win when you win. Visit MedSchoolInsiders.com learn more. If you guys enjoyed this video, let me know
with a thumbs up. And if you made it this far, you’ll also enjoy
our Instagram. Follow @kevinjubbalmd and @medschoolinsiders. Thank you so much for watching, and I will
see you in that next one.

About James Carlton

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