No matter what you may have heard, the best Caribbean medical schools have a lot to offer. With a multitude of respected programs, great facilities, and a gorgeous location (obviously), it’s no wonder why more and more students are interested in attending.
But before you rush out and start applying, it’s important to understand how these med schools operate.
Fortunately, this guide makes it easy. In it, you’ll learn what Caribbean medical schools are the best (and why).
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know which ones interest you the most!
Table of Contents
- Why Consider Caribbean Medical Schools?
- Potential Disadvantages
- The Best Caribbean Medical Schools
- Closing Thoughts
Why Consider Caribbean Medical Schools?
For the average prospective medical student, the path to becoming a doctor is relatively straightforward. You work hard to maintain a high grade point average, study for months to get the highest MCAT score possible, and apply to US-based medical schools.
Unfortunately, getting into a traditional MD program is harder than ever before! Admissions guidelines are getting more competitive with every passing year. Spots in medical schools around the country are limited.
As a result, even competitive students are getting denied. In recent years, only 41 percent of medical school applicants matriculated.
To put medical school competition into perspective, even “very safe” schools typically require a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Luckily, there are some alternatives to traditional US-based medical schools.
Caribbean medical schools have been giving US students the opportunity to earn a degree for decades.
Unlike US-based schools, Caribbean medical schools have less-stringent admissions guidelines. While still competitive, these schools accept students with lower undergraduate GPAs.
For example, the average GPA for matriculants at some of the top Caribbean medical schools is around 3.3 or 3.4. As a result, US students who have otherwise given up on their dreams of becoming a doctor can still receive the education they desire! In general, your chances of getting accepted into these medical schools are much higher (even the best ones).
There are currently about 60 medical schools in the Caribbean. Some of the earliest schools were first established in the 1960s. Many followed in the subsequent decades, providing students with many options for their education.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s still possible to become a doctor without a degree from a traditional US-based medical school.
In fact, international medical graduates, such as those that complete their education in the Caribbean, are said to make up about a quarter of the physician workforce in the United States!
If you complete your education at a Caribbean medical school, you can go on to have a very successful career in the United States. You can apply for residencies and take the United States Medical Licensing Examination just like traditional MD or DO graduates.
Before you start looking into the best Caribbean medical schools, there are some potential caveats. While it’s possible to complete your education in these schools and have a successful career in the United States, it’s not a walk in the park.
Statistically, graduates from Caribbean medical schools have a harder time breaking into the US healthcare industry. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, competition is fierce when applying to US residency programs. American medical students are far more likely to secure those spots than students graduating from a Caribbean medical school.
It’s not impossible to get a residency, but you’ll have to work harder to be considered. This means achieving a very high GPA and doing respected rotations during M3 and M4.
The second big issue is passing the USMLE. The USMLE is required to practice medicine in the United States. Unfortunately, many Caribbean medical schools have a reputation for graduating students that end up failing the USMLE.
This fact is a point of contention among many Caribbean medical school advocates and critics. Some say that the reason USMLE pass rates are low is that the curriculum is not up to par with US-based schools. Others say it’s simply because matriculants don’t have the academic abilities needed to successfully pass the USMLE.
Of course, there’s no guarantee either way. Many graduates from Caribbean medical schools have gone on to pass the USMLE. It’s all a matter of how hard you work and prepare!
The Best Caribbean Medical Schools
There are several Caribbean medical schools to choose from if you’re thinking of going this route. However, it’s important to note that not all medical schools offer the same quality of education.
Medical schools in the Caribbean are largely for-profit schools. When you’re choosing which school to go to, you need to pay attention to USMLE pass rates, residency match rates, and attrition rates to get a good idea of what the school has to offer. You can even look into US accreditation for schools in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Currently, there is no official ranking system for Caribbean medical schools. But, there are a handful of institutes that have a reputation for providing high-quality education. The following schools have a proven track record of preparing graduates for obtaining their medical licenses in the United States.
1. St. George’s University
St. George University is located on the island of Grenada, which is located in the West Indies. The school was established over three decades ago and continues to have a solid reputation in the medical world. This Caribbean med school accepts students from over 140 different countries.
There are several programs to choose from. St. George University has a traditional MD program as well as a seven-year program that combines a BD and an MD into one.
St. George University has impressive statistics all around. In 2020 alone, over 1,100 of the school’s graduates were accepted into residency programs throughout the United States and Canada. According to USMLE performance data, the school also had a UMSLE Step 1 pass rate of 96 percent in 2018. That makes them one of the best Caribbean medical schools out there!
2. Saba University School of Medicine
Saba University School of Medicine is a relatively new school that was first established in 1992. It’s located on the island of Saba, which is a municipality of the Netherlands.
Despite its short history, Saba University School of Medicine is highly respected in the field. In the United States, the school is officially approved by the New York State Education Department and recognized by the Medical Board of California. It’s also licensed by the Commission for Independent Education in Florida.
The school offers an MD program. The first five semesters of the program are centered around basic sciences and fundamental principles. During the final five semesters, students complete clinical rotations and studies.
One big perk of Saba University School of Medicine is the acceptance of US federal student aid programs. This makes it significantly more affordable to attend.
3. Ross University
Ross University School of Medicine, also known as RUSM, is located in Bridgetown, Barbados. Originally, the school was established in Dominica. However, it was relocated to Barbados in 2019.
The school focuses on providing a hands-on learning experience. RUSM prides itself on giving students a global health perspective, which can benefit you no matter where you end up practicing in the United States.
RUSM offers a traditional MD program. However, the curriculum is split up a couple of different ways to accommodate the unique needs of students. You can choose a track that matches your pace.
Whatever path you choose, the curriculum remains the same. You’ll spend the first half of your education studying the foundations of medicine and basic sciences. The latter half is dedicated to clinical experience and rotations.
4. American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine
Located in St. Maarten, the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine has a proven track record of success. The residency match rate for graduates in 2019 was 91 percent. In 2017, 96 percent of graduates passed Step 1 of the USMLE on their first try!
The school has a single MD program. The curriculum is modeled off of US-based programs, preparing you for licensure in all 50 states. Five semesters are spent covering the medical sciences.
During this time, you will gain clinical exposure while collaborating with fellow students and medical professionals. When you complete your clinical rotations, you will become an acting member of the team. You’ll work alongside attending physicians and gain that important clinical experience.
5. American University of Antigua
The American University of Antigua is one of the newer Caribbean medical schools. Despite being established as recently as 2004, the school has already developed a good reputation. It’s even built solid relationships with hospitals and schools in the United States.
Currently, the American University of Antigua has a network of over 40 affiliate hospitals across the United States and Canada. Students can complete clinicals at these locations and gain experience working with a diverse patient population. The school also has a clerkship certificate program with Florida International University.
The school offers a handful of programs, including a traditional MD, an accelerated pre-med program, and a BS for Human Health Sciences. As you can see, there are many reasons why this is considered one of the best Caribbean medical schools you can attend.
6. Medical University of the Americas
Medical University of the Americas is a smaller school located on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. The school accepts approximately 80 to 90 students annually for the incoming class. Most of those students come from the United States and Canada
This small class size provides a more intimate learning experience. Students receive one-on-one support from instructors as they learn basic sciences and fundamentals. Even during clinical rotations, you can get ongoing personal support.
This medical school in the Caribbean has very respectable statistics. Since 2001, roughly 88 percent of all graduates secured a spot in residency programs in the United States and Canada. Approximately 99 percent of graduates also passed Step 1 of the USMLE on their first attempt.
As you can see, the best Caribbean medical schools are nothing to look down on. In fact, they churn out tons of great doctors each and every year!
If one (or more) of them looks interesting to you, we suggest reaching out to them in order to find out more. This is because a lot of them don’t publish program details as much as med schools in the United States.
If you want some help getting accepted (or want to see if you have other options), we’re more than happy to talk with you. We’ve gotten hundreds of premed students accepted into medical school over the years, and will gladly do the same for you.