MEDICAL SCHOOL FACTS FOR PARENTS: Student and graduate outcomes

RUSM grad Jairo Espinosa and father

Central to our mission at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) is our commitment to providing an opportunity to deserving, dedicated students to attend medical school. But opportunity alone isn't enough. We gear our academic programs and support services to helping our students achieve outstanding academic and career outcomes. The goal at RUSM is to do more than just provide a stellar medical education—it’s to prepare our graduates for residency placement and, ultimately, for rewarding careers in medicine.

In this section, we’ll be exploring two key medical school performance indicators:

  • How RUSM students perform on the United States Medical Licensure Examination® (USMLE) Step 1—arguably the most important exam taken by medical students
  • How RUSM graduates perform in terms of residency placement 

What's the USMLE? | More About the Match | Things to Consider

The Importance of the USMLE to Medical School Students

During your medical school research, including research on Caribbean medical schools, you’ve probably seen references to the USMLE. All medical school graduates, regardless of where they attend school, need to take and pass all parts of the USMLE in order to practice medicine in the US. This prevents unqualified physicians from going into practice.

RUSM students in libraryUSMLE Step 1 is the exam you'll likely hear about the most as you explore US and Caribbean medical schools. It tests a medical school student’s knowledge of the basic sciences. RUSM students take Step 1 after completing the Foundations of Medicine (basic sciences) program on our high-tech Dominica campus—they must pass Step 1 before moving on to clinical training, which takes place in the United States and/or Canada.

Why is the USMLE Step 1 important? When residency program directors are evaluating applicants to their programs, they look closely at the applicants' Step 1 performance. It is critical that students pass Step 1 on the first attempt in order to be competitive in the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP) and other residency attainment services. Then, the higher the passing score, the better chance one has of gaining acceptance into a prestigious or highly competitive residency program.

How do RUSM students generally perform on the USMLE Step 1? We’re very proud of RUSM students’ performance on the USMLE Step 1, and credit both their hard work as well as the preparation they receive from our basic sciences faculty in Dominica. For the past three years, RUSM has performed as well as or better than U.S. medical schools. In 2014 (the last year for which we have official and complete data), RUSM achieved a 97% first-time pass rate on the USMLE Step 1*—that’s the higher than the 96% rate achieved collectively by medical school students in the United States, and also above the rate for osteopathic schools (93%).** Look at it another way: out of 812 students taking the Step 1 for the first time, 790 passed.

*Source: Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates

**Source: National Board of Medical Examiners Annual Reports

You can find more information on the USMLE Step 1, including practice materials, at the USMLE’s official site.

Understanding the Residency Match

You’ve probably heard of Match Day. That's the day recent medical school graduates find out whether they’ve matched to a residency training program at the school of their choice. All medical school graduates need to successfully complete residency training in order to practice medicine in the United States.

RUSM students matching

Here's how the MatchSM process works. During the fourth year of medical school, students submit applications to residency programs. By that point, most medical students have set their sights on a particular specialty area or two, and have some programs in mind where they would like to complete their residency. At RUSM, our Office of Student Professional Development supports students during the residency application process, providing tips on the application process, advice on their chances of gaining acceptance to a given program, and guidance on interviewing and other preparation for the Match process. In March, during Match Week, graduates find out first whether they matched, and then where and into which program.

Want to read profiles of some RUSM students who recently matched? Check out our blog.

The residency Match is competitive. Thousands of medical school graduates apply for residency programs every year, but not every graduate will secure a position on the first attempt or match to their first choice. Residency program directors consider many factors when evaluating applicants, including performance on the USMLE Step 1, performance during clinical rotations, and letters of recommendation. Does where the applicant attended medical school make a difference? We believe it does—one way to evaluate a medical school is by the strength of its graduates. With more than 12,000 alumni, RUSM has a long track record of training well-prepared physicians, and numerous residency programs look forward to welcoming new RUSM graduates each year.

Take a deeper dive into our residency data here.

RUSM students closer lookMaking Sense of a School's Academic and Career Outcomes

As you and your son or daughter explore the different medical school options available, you're likely to be presented with a lot of statistics and data. At RUSM, we're more than happy to explain our performance data and talk about what it says about our curriculum, the quality of our faculty, our student support services, and, very importantly, the quality and determination of our students. Here are two tips to help you make sense of the performance data you will see from RUSM and other schools:

  • Don't just settle for the USMLE Step 1 first-time pass rate. Instead, ask for the number of students who took the test and passed. At some Caribbean medical schools, large numbers of students leave medical school for academic or other reasons before they take Step 1.
  • Residency attainment rate and number of total residency placements are both important metrics. However, you should be aware of a school's track record securing residency positions in the state where your son or daughter hopes eventually to practice. For example, if you're from Michigan, ask how many placements the school had in that state in the most recent match, and where they placed. Some schools boast of a large number of residency placements, but when you look closer, a large majority of those placements are concentrated in one part of the country. Overall, in 2015 the residency attainment rate for RUSM graduates on their first attempt was 88%.

Dive Deeper

There’s much more to explore when it comes to learning about RUSM. Take a deeper dive into RUSM's Parents Guide using the navigation buttons in the menu on the left or the links below.