Should I Study Medicine in the Caribbean? 7 Things to Consider


06.10.2019

No student would describe their path to medical school as easy. Every aspiring MD like yourself has to dedicate a considerable amount of time to acquiring relevant experience, obtaining letters of recommendation, and filling out applications. And that doesn’t even cover how much effort goes into studying for the MCAT and maintaining a strong classroom performance.

It’s no wonder getting into medical school has become such a challenge. The number of applicants is outpacing the number of seats available, both in the US and Canada. This means you could be perfectly qualified and still find yourself without an acceptance letter—unless you look into alternative options.

If you’ve been considering Caribbean medical schools, you’ve likely come across St. George’s University (SGU). Perhaps you’ve heard about SGU’s residency placement success or state-of-the-art facilities. Even still, you wonder whether you should really study medicine in the Caribbean.

It’s understandable to have some concerns about attending medical school in such an unfamiliar place, but it might be a better option than you realize. Many SGU graduates found it was a great learning environment. You might discover the same thing.

7 things to know when deciding whether to study medicine in the Caribbean

To truly understand what it’s like to attend SGU’s School of Medicine, we reached out to a few grads. They offered some perspective that could help you decide whether the program is a good fit for you.

1. Some schools are head and shoulders above the rest

It’s easy to lump all Caribbean medical schools together. But doing so doesn’t do justice to the ones that are worth your time. St. George’s University isn’t just any Caribbean school. The program was thoughtfully developed to provide students with an outstanding medical education. Dr. Casie Wiley, SGU grad and Family Medicine Resident Physician at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, was fortunate enough to discover this when comparing institutions.

“Not all Caribbean schools are created equal.”

“Not all Caribbean schools are created equal and, from my research, I quickly realized SGU is by far the best,” Dr. Wiley says. “SGU has been around for so long that they have created a curriculum and teaching environment that rivals any US school.”

2. Most of the warnings you’ve heard are misinformed

You’ll see people slandering Caribbean medical schools online, but you might even hear remarks from your peers or professors. Dr. Elizabeth McKinnon, SGU grad and Forensic Pathology Fellow at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, says a lot of people in her life framed attending a Caribbean school as some sort of punishment. She was also warned that it could be dangerous.

“My family flooded me with false diatribes about how traveling outside the US was unsafe,” she says. “This worried me that I would find peril in unfamiliar places.”

Both of these worries faded once she started medical school at St. George’s University. Grenada is incredibly safe. The US Department of State assigns a travel advisory status to every location. Grenada has a level-one ranking, which means it’s among the safest places you can visit. Dr. McKinnon also mentions it was a great learning environment.

"By the first week of school, attending SGU felt like the scholastic journey I had foreseen for myself and my career."

“By the first week of school, attending SGU felt like the scholastic journey I had foreseen for myself and my career,” Dr. McKinnon reflects.

3. Studying abroad can benefit your ability to learn . . .

Medical school is a trying time for aspiring physicians. You need to commit to a rigorous study schedule in order to be successful. And that often means severely limiting family visits and social events. Studying medicine in the Caribbean can actually be an advantage in this department.

“Being far from family and friends back home was hard sometimes, but being in Grenada really helped me avoid being distracted,” Dr. Wiley offers.

Dr. McKinnon agrees. She says the physical distance from loved ones seemed to actually help her achieve her potential.

4 . . . and it’s only temporary

There will undoubtedly be times when you miss your friends and family if you leave home for medical school. But consider that you’re only away for a few years—not four. Most St. George’s University students spend their final two years of medical school completing clinical rotations in the US. Dr. McKinnon found comfort in that knowledge.

“In difficult times, I could lean on the thought of being able to advance my schooling at home,” she says.

5. Students actually support one another

Trying to gain acceptance to medical school often feels like a fierce competition. Everyone is vying for the same limited number of spots, so many SGU students are surprised by the supportive environment they encounter. There are plenty of resources built right into the program, and students genuinely want their peers to succeed.

“At SGU, everyone wants everyone else to succeed.”

“Now that I’m in residency, I’ve heard about people’s experiences at numerous US med schools, and so many people talk about their fellow students being super competitive and cut-throat,” Dr. Wiley says. “At SGU, everyone wants everyone else to succeed.”

And classmates aren’t just study buddies. Making lifelong friends seems to be a shared experience among SGU students.

“I made so many wonderful friends,” Dr. McKinnon reflects. “They’ve all gone on to become successful physicians, entrepreneurs, and members of their respective communities.”

6. Outcomes are far better than you might expect

Graduating from medical school doesn’t mean much if you don’t match for a residency. Without completing your postgraduate training, you can’t obtain your medical license. That’s obviously a troubling thought.

Think going to a Caribbean school will put you at risk? Think again. Dr. Wiley says her United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 scores were higher than the average US grad’s, and she’s already in residency.

Dr. McKinnon is another example of how much you can achieve by attending SGU. Critics say international medical graduates (IMGs) are only capable of matching for primary care fields. Given she completed a competitive pathology residency, that’s obviously not true.

Need further proof of what’s possible? There are many more success stories.

"If you’re still wary, check out our match list."

“If you’re still wary, check out our match list,” Dr. Wiley says.

7. It’s your decision

Having trusted mentors can be a huge help when making any major life decision. That’s certainly true when trying to determine whether you should study medicine in the Caribbean. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s ultimately your future.

“You must make the decision based on whether it is best for you, not what is best for your family, pre-medical advisor, or peers,” Dr. McKinnon says. She also advises anyone considering SGU to speak with a current student or graduate. “They have the best insight on whether attending SGU is for you,” she adds.

Realize your MD potential

If you know you’re meant to become a doctor, don’t let obstacles stand in your way. These SGU grads chose to study medicine in the Caribbean and ultimately achieved their goals. If you’re willing to put in the work, you could be just as successful.

Interested in getting to know even more about St. George’s University? Visit our request information page today.

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