When I am helping a student with BS/MD programs, I am sometimes asked about Caribbean medical schools as an option. While they may be an option for some students, I don’t normally recommend them. Why?
There are several potential issues. First, the dropout rate for the Caribbean medical schools is much higher than it is for traditional medical schools. This may be because the typical student attending a Caribbean medical school is academically weaker than a traditional medical school student and has trouble handling the work. Whatever the reason, medical school is expensive and if you drop out without finishing, this can be a very expensive life lesson.
Which brings me to the second point. Caribbean medical schools are expensive and often more expensive than medical schools in the US. Even if you become a doctor, you will most likely have a higher debt load than the average US medical graduate. Graduating with $400,000 in debt from a Caribbean medical school is not unusual. Even for a well paid doctor, that kind of debt load can be expensive to pay off.
Third, getting clinical training at a Caribbean medical school can be a challenge and may be getting more challenging. Caribbean medical schools historically have paid hospitals in the US to act as the clinical training sites for the medical school. However, clinical training hospitals are getting to be in short supply in some locations and US medical schools are pushing the hospitals to be a clinical site only for US medical schools. What the hospitals will do remains to be seen but the issue is out there.
Fourth, the pass rate on the United States Medical Licensing Exam, the USMLE, has much lower rates for the Caribbean schools than for US medical schools. Most US medical schools have pass rates in the mid 90% range. Caribbean medical schools often have pass rates in the 70% range. If you don’t pass these exams, you don’t get your medical license.
Fifth, getting a residency after completing a medical degree at a Caribbean school is more challenging than if you received your degree from a US medical school. Most residency directors graduated from US medical schools and often have concerns about the quality of education provided by the Caribbean medical schools. Whether this is a legitimate concern or not, they are the ones making the decisions of who to admit to the residency program.
Many of these issues were recently discussed in a Bloomberg article about some of the for profit Caribbean medical schools.
So, does that mean you shouldn’t consider a Caribbean medical school if you can’t get into a US medical school? Not necessarily but you need to be aware of each of these issues and ask lots of questions before committing to a Caribbean medical school.