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Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo / Photo by Stuardo Herrera

There’s a reason doctors in training at the Caribbean’s numerous medical schools don’t talk about their studies.

As if the perpetually sunny forecast isn’t enticing enough, doctors-to-be (and nurses, too) who choose the Caribbean for medical school often enjoy the benefits of personalized attention and a small student body typically lacking in large North American or European universities.

Small student-professor ratios permit unmatched opportunities for mentoring and research that might take years to attain at other schools. Caribbean medical schools also provide students with specialties and training opportunities that are difficult to find elsewhere.

From specializing in tropical medicine to fulfilling residency requirements in small family or community-based practices, students who graduate from Caribbean medical schools will possess extensive hands-on clinical experience in settings that will give them insight into the ways in which society and medicine intersect.

There are still more benefits to studying medicine in the Caribbean. While they may be smaller than continental medical schools and may not have the same range or easy accessibility of medical technologies, facilities are modern, and often new.

Then there’s a benefit that’s often overlooked: diverse student bodies. Universities in the Caribbean attract students from around the world.

While this is also true of continental universities, foreign students in large schools often get absorbed into their own unique cultural groups. In the Caribbean, the small admission ratio serves to keep students intermingling regardless of their background.

Saba University School Of Medicine / Photo by misscrabette

Studying in the Caribbean isn’t without its challenges or drawbacks. If you’re a foreign student, there’s the issue of securing the appropriate visa to study abroad. You’ll also want to make sure that the country (and state or province) where you want to practice upon graduation recognize the validity of the degree you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Depending on the programs you’re considering, you may need to meet a language proficiency requirement, though many programs are taught in English.

Finally, some students have difficulty adjusting to the insular nature of island life. After the initial thrill of fun and sun wear off, it might be hard to establish a satisfying social life, especially on a small island where everybody knows everybody.

And while the cost of school may be much lower than elsewhere, the cost of living on islands is often high, as so many essential items are imported, so any savings may be offset by unanticipated expenses.

If you’re considering studying medicine abroad and think the Caribbean might be right for you, here are six islands with highly ranked medical schools just waiting for your application:

1. Antigua

Founded in 2004 by U.S. physicians, American University of Antigua is a brand new campus and the student body currently numbers just around 1,000.

The curriculum is designed for students from the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean to practice in their home countries. Though a handful of US states impose stringent accreditation standards that do not recognize degrees from medical schools in the Caribbean, AUA is one of the few schools whose graduates are accredited by New York to practice in the state.

Cayman Islands / Photo by JD Pavkovich

2. Cayman Islands

St. Matthew’s University turns 12 years old this year, and offers both research and clinical practice to students in the areas of traditional and veterinary medicine. Loans and scholarships are available for study; another benefit of St. Matthew’s is its rolling admissions policy (semesters start in September, January, and May).

3. Jamaica

University of the West Indies turned 60 years old in 2008, and offers more than 800 programs of study, medicine among them. UWI medical specialties include family, emergency, accident, internal, surgical, internal, sports, oral, and veterinary medicine. Be sure to check which of the university’s four campuses offer the program that interests you.

4. St. Kitts Ross University

Since its inception in 1978, more than 9,000 students have graduated from Ross in medicine or veterinary medicine. Ross is a stand-out among Caribbean medical school programs because its graduates are accredited to practice in all 50 US states and 10 Canadian provinces.

5. Dominican Republic Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo

One of the Caribbean’s oldest universities (founded in 1538), the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo offers courses of study in medicine, nursing, radiology, and pharmacy. The medical school’s course of study consists of 11 semesters, terminating with a residency that includes pediatrics, ob-gyn, psychiatry, and traumatology rounds, among others.

Universidad de la Habana / Photo by Wagner T. Cassimiro “Aranha”

6. Cuba

Not the first or obvious choice for American citizens, the Universidad de La Habana’s medical school is a highly competitive option for citizens of other countries.

Cuba, despite the economic embargo that has kept the country and its people without much needed resources, is admired around the world for its advanced health care and pioneering medical research, including in the areas of cancer, meningitis, cholera, and HIV/AIDS.

Students who are accepted to this program will enjoy unparalleled research opportunities: more than 52 scientific research institutes are in the capital alone, and researchers around the world come to Cuba to collaborate with colleagues.

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About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • Brian

    I think it is also worth mentioning Puerto Rico. There is the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine ” target=”_blank”>http://www.md.rcm.upr.edu/ as well as the Ponce School of Medicine ” target=”_blank”>http://www.psm.edu/ Both are accredited with the USA

  • Julie

    Brian- You're right– UPR is definitely a good choice, especially for American citizens. I didn't include it for reasons of space, as was the case for a number of other medical schools in the Caribbean, but thanks for mentioning it.

  • Dr. J

    No offense to your journalistic skill, your writing is very good, but I'm not sure why someone without a medical degree would even attempt to write this article. ____There are a lot of incorrect assumptions: the training ratios in Canada are actually very close to one on one and many of my friends have done extensive research with more than one mentor, in some areas they have specific rotations involving preceptors who work one to one. It's significantly easier to publish if you're working with a Canadian research team or university. ____The article also doesn't take into account the transition to residency and the fact that medical degrees from the Carribean are not well received in Canada

  • Julie

    Dr. J- Thanks for your input. This article was researched extensively and I conducted a number of interviews with students who have studied at medical schools in the Caribbean. The "assumptions" to which you refer apply primarily to American (US) medical schools), and I clearly mention in the article that residency issues and reputation issues need to be taken into consideration.

  • alexis wolff

    Really interesting article, Julie. Caribbean medical schools get a bad rap, but there are certainly some advantages, as you point out. I've heard from med school friends that St. George's in Grenada actually has a great residency placement rate.

  • malcolm x

    if u have a problem with the research then y dont u do your own and stop complaining

  • DT

    I’m surprised to see that St. Georges University (SGU) nor American University of the Caribbean (AUC) made it to the list. Most US students who want to practice in all 50 states in the US choose one of the Top 3 – Ross, SGU, AUC (in no particular order). I’ve recently also heard the list maybe expanded to include Saba as well, although I’m not 100% sure if they have received accreditation from all 50 states. Either way my experience from being an AUC student has been amazing and I can definitely attest to the fact that you will get a great education there. Island life can be very difficult for those who haven’t been away from the comforts of home or even the US, but being on St. Maarten makes it a lot easier than being on some of the less ‘touristy’ islands like Saba, Dominica (Ross), Grenada (SGU). Either way if medicine is your dream don’t let the Caribbean school stigma get in your way!

  • Basquiat

    About the University of Santo Domingo you say is “One of the Caribbean’s oldest universities”. This university is the first founded in the New World (October 28, 1538)
    Please correct.

    Basquiat

  • De La Cruz

    “One of the Caribbean’s oldest universities” = The oldest university in all of the Americas.

    De La Cruz

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/misscrabette/3854543278/ MissCrabette

    Julie,

    I must say that, like DT, I am also very surprised that St. George’s University and American University of the Caribbean were not mentioned in your article. They, along with Ross University and Saba University, are the first (and probably only) Caribbean medical schools that a US citizen should consider.

    I find it laughable that St. Matthew’s University and American University of Antigua made it onto your list (as “highly ranked medical schools”, no less), considering that their graduates cannot be licensed in all 50 US states like the graduates of the other four schools I mentioned. Actually, they have both been disapproved by the Medical Board of California and a few other states.

    To top it off, it’s interesting that you are using one of my pictures of the Saba University campus, but there is no other mention of the school in your entire article. Also, please note that the Creative Commons license associated with that photo does not allow any derivative works, including cropping.

  • http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com Benji

    Hi Julie,

    I enjoyed reading your article and I think you put a positive light to coming to the Caribbean for medical school. However, there are some important pieces of information that I’d like to clarify for you for this article.

    First, I think it is noteworthy to distinguish between regional medical schools and off-shore medical schools.

    Regional medical schools in the Caribbean are geared towards students from the Caribbean who plan to practice in the Caribbean in the future. In the list, UWI, U.A. Santo Domingo and U Habana are regional schools, designed for local students of those countries to practice in their respective countries.

    Then, there are off-shore schools, primarily designed by American educators for-profit to train American and Canadian students to eventually return to to the States or Canada to practice. In the list, St. Matthew’s, AUA, and Ross are off-shore schools. Of the off-shore schools, the only four schools that are completely accredited by all 50 states and considered “first-tier” are Ross, AUC, St. George’s, and Saba. Schools like St. Matthews and AUA are considered “second-tier” because they are not accredited by all fifty states. St. Matthew’s have tried years to get accreditation from California and other states without success. AUA is in a lawsuit with Arkansas right now because of that state’s refusal to recognize AUA graduates. In the list, I would definitely expect St. George’s, AUC, or Saba to come before AUA and St. Matthew’s.

    Also, please note that Ross University School of Medicine is located on the island of Dominica, not St. Kitts. The campus on St. Kitts is Ross’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

    Again, I admire your attitude and goals for this article. I just would like to clarify some information in case any prospective students come across this article.

    Thanks for understanding,
    Benji

  • John

    Thats a picture of the bottom at saba it looks like…. All i know is the person who wrote this article isnt a caribb med student. And to all the students on the islands, back me up when i say the reason we are down there is the sun and jetskis. lolol
    I’m now on my second island and in my third year trying to complete the basic sciences. And it is tough to believe I know, but the caribbean is no picnic. It is a great option for students to go to medical school, but the students on Saba really dont spend that much time sipping pina coladas on the beach. At least I didnt. Im sure the guy who wrote the article isnt a student down here, and with all do respect, you have no idea how far mistaken you are about everything. But it seems like many people are confused about what is really the situation with the schools down in the caribb. Ok see ya!

  • http://utilitycomputers.comlaptop-surge-protector Jack Jacquet

    Just proves the old adage. It’s an ill wind that blows no good. – A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is just putting on its shoes. – Mark Twain 1835 – 1910

  • abdul

    Iam a medical student,I want to to residency in Accident and Emergency as soon as am done with ma courses
    can anyone inform me what are the procedures in joining Residency in Cuba,,,,in either university of Havana or Universidad de La Habana
    hve nice time all you all

  • http://www.runehead.com RuneHead

    I’m studying at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia and it has many of the benefits mentioned for these Caribbean schools, except that cost of living here is much cheaper.

  • MyOtcWorld

    good article visit http://www.myotcworld.com to buy otc products and otc medicines at cheap price.

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