CARIBBEAN: Medical schools battle to retain US access

When the United States sent some 6,000 troops to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983, ostensibly to rescue American medical students affected by a Marxist coup, it was the first time most people outside the region heard that Americans went to the Caribbean to study to become doctors.

Since then, St George’s University School of Medicine, where the students were enrolled, has gone on to become one of the best known private medical schools in the Caribbean and one of the biggest employers in Grenada. It has a campus that includes professors and students from more than 140 countries and “a clinical training programme involving more than 60 hospitals in the US and the UK,” according to the institution.

Now universities in New York  want the state’s Board of Regents to impose restrictions on offshore medical students doing their clinical training in the state’s hospitals. The New York schools say offshore students compete with their own students who are struggling to obtain training slots, and such slots are a priority as the state faces a significant shortage of doctors that is predicted to worsen.  Other authorities are also taking measures to toughen the medical licensing procedure for off-shore-educated doctors, by ensuring that they come from accredited schools and also by heightening the standards of regional accreditation bodies.

Margaret A Lambert, St George’s Dean of Enrolment Planning and Director of University Communications and Publications, said she did not think her institution would be affected.

“We support the Board of Regents in implementing tougher standards because some of the medical schools need it,” she told University World New.  “The initial motivation [from the New York universities] might not have been the best and the reasons may not have come from a good place, but the result of what they’re doing is actually quite good,” she added.

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