Students interested in a career as a physician know that it is difficult to get into medical school in the United States, and that many excellent students are turned away. With a little extra determination, however, some turned away students may still gain entry. They just need to set their sights a little lower—to the south, that is, among the sunny islands of the Caribbean Sea. 

Properly accredited medical schools in the Caribbean—such as the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)*—offer many advantages and may provide a second chance to students who missed the cut in the United States. Here are five reasons why going to med school in the Caribbean—particularly RUSM—may be the best option for good students determined to practice medicine.
 

First: A Good Education

The reason students go to medical school is to get a good education that prepares them for medical residency and licensure and a career as a physician. You might be thinking —but why go to med school in the Caribbean? Several accredited Caribbean medical schools provide a good education, and RUSM, located in Barbados, is a great medical school to consider. RUSM meets the standards set by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accreditation authority for medical schools in the United States and Canada that provide Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees. 

This means that Ross students enjoy many of the same advantages as medical students in the United States. RUSM students may qualify for federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. RUSM students may register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates® (ECFMG®) to begin the United States Medical License Examination ®(USMLE®) process. And RUSM graduates may also move on to medical residencies accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the residency authority in the United States and Canada.

At the end of the first two years of medical school, students take the USMLE Step 1, also known as “The Boards”—the first big test of the medical licensure process. A medical school may measure its educational program by the success of its students on this first USMLE exam (there are two later tests before licensure), and Ross Med students do well. 

In 2019, the percentage of RUSM students who passed the initial step of the USMLE on the first attempt (97 percent) was far higher than the average percentage for students from other non-U.S. or Canadian schools (78 percent) and a tick higher than the success rate of students enrolled in U.S. and Canadian medical schools (96 percent).

Another measure of a good medical education is the percentage of students who go on to a medical residency. When applying to med school in the Caribbean, it is important to look at their residency placement. RUSM has a strong history of graduating students earning internal medicine or specialty residencies. 

As of May 14, 2021, 91% of first-time eligible 2020-2021, RUSM graduates earned residencies throughout the United States. This far exceeds the average residency placement rate for students from other non-U.S. or Canadian schools (61 percent) and edges out the rate for graduates of U.S. and Canadian medical schools (94 percent).
 

Second: Support and Research

Going to medical school is not easy, and students may need help with academic or clinical training, as well as support with emotional, social, or physical and mental health issues. Whether they are applying to Caribbean medical schools or American med schools, students may also need help with housing, balancing family and school obligations, or managing financial aid and residency matches. 

Student support at RUSM—and some welcome diversion—may come from extracurricular activities and clubs and organizations. As a student going to med school in the Caribbean, groups may explore Barbados and participate in dancing, diving, soccer, or equestrian and other local activities on the island. There are also organizations specifically for Asian, Black, Canadian, Christian, Indian, Jewish, Latino, LGBTQIA, and Muslim students. 

Special interest and teaching assistant groups cover such topics as cardiology, endocrinology, genetics, nephrology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, pathology, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, and surgery, as well as emergency, family, internal, lifestyle, and sports medicine. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) help educate and inform RUSM students and connect them with other medical students and professionals around the world.

At RUSM, the Rely on Student Service (ROSS) support network links RUSM clinical students with teams of dedicated advisors. The Academy of Teaching and Learning (ATL) helps students achieve educational and career goals with faculty and student-centered programs and the Medical Education Research and Scholarship (MERS) program that encourages students to conduct research in all fields of medical education.

RUSM students sharpen their expertise in scientific processes—and strengthen the all-important Medical School Performance Evaluation (MSPE) for residency—through research opportunities in various fields. Every year, RUSM students publish work or present research studies and findings at conferences and meetings around the world, and the annual RUSM Research Day symposium features numerous presentations on particular themes. Another great point for prospective students as to why go to med school in the Caribbean.
 

Third: Clinical Training Opportunities

The last two years of medical school usually include the clerkship, or the clinical portion of the training. Most clinical training takes place in teaching hospitals. It provides supervised experience working with patients and gives students an idea of which medical specialty they want to pursue. During clinical rotations, students are part of a medical team, led by an attending physician, that includes residents (doctors-in-training) and interns (first-year residents). 

Another reason as to why go to med school in the Caribbean? For RUSM students, clinical training takes place at hospitals with accredited residency programs in the United States or in the United Kingdom. There are three affiliated hospitals in the United Kingdom and 23 RUSM-affiliated hospital programs spread throughout the United States are ACGME- or LCME-approved. Elective rotations may take place at a number of other hospitals, and students interested in a global health career may do parts of their rotations in other countries.

RUSM’s Office of Career Attainment (OCA) provides advice and support to students during the critical clinical rotations as well as during the residency application and matching process. The OCA also prepares students for the second round of the USMLE, which students must pass to earn ECFMG certification and to graduate. (RUSM students do well on that exam too, passing at an 89 percent rate on the first try.)
 

Fourth: Getting In

One of the great advantages of Caribbean medical schools is that they offer opportunities to study medicine to a larger percentage of applicants. They also tend to have a more holistic approach to admissions.

Holistic admission considers an applicant as a whole person rather than a mere set of grades and scores. This approach considers a student’s adaptability, critical judgement, intellectual and social maturity, life experiences, and volunteer work, as well as graduate school performance when applicable. 

A holistic approach does not discount grades and test scores, but it does allow for more leniency in academic performance. Students who may have missed the cut on U.S. medical schools—where matriculants have a mean undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.73 (out of 4.0) and an average Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score of 511.5, according to data from the AAMC—may have a chance at a Caribbean school where the student averages are slightly lower. At RUSM, matriculated students have a mean GPA of 3.22 and an average MCAT score of 493.
 

Fifth: The Beauty of Island Education

Students must concentrate on their medical studies, of course, but they also need restful downtime and opportunities to do something enjoyable away from classrooms and textbooks. If you are contemplating as to why go to med school in the Caribbean, you may want to take into account the stunning environment. The beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados offers many enjoyable things to do, and a tropical climate to do them in. 

From white-sand beaches to expansive golf courses, Barbados is a Caribbean paradise replete with modern comforts. Barbados, a former British colony, retains much British influence in its language and culture as well as in the architecture and such sports like cricket and horse racing. 

Landing at Grantley Adams International Airport, incoming Ross Med students will see the clear blue Caribbean waters against the brilliant white Barbados beaches as well as the sloping green hills of the island’s interior. Excursions on the beautiful island include diving, golfing, hiking, sailing, and other activities, as well as exploring the local markets and duty-free shopping opportunities. Students will also get to know the friendly island population—including the mischievous Barbados green monkey.

The Ross University School of Medicine combines medical science, clinical training, and soft skills support in a state-of-the-art educational environment that keeps learning relevant, contemporary, and competitive. Take the next step toward becoming a physician: apply for admission to RUSM.

Related resources:


*Ross University School of Medicine is an accredited medical school, determined by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP, www.caam-hp.org). CAAM-HP is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programs of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM.

Accreditation by CAAM-HP is a rigorous, peer review process which examines all aspects of a medical program. The CAAM-HP board, an independent and autonomous body of professionals, only certifies medical schools which are operating at the highest levels of industry standards.

Through this accreditation, the CAAM-HP provides assurance to medical students, graduates, the medical profession, healthcare institutions and the public that programs leading to qualifications in medicine meet appropriate national and international standards for educational quality, and that the graduates have a sufficiently complete and valid educational experience.

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2021-2022, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 96% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2022-23 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2021-22 who were active applicants in the 2022 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.