Students who want to attend a Caribbean medical school—and practice medicine in the United States or Canada may be wondering: are medical schools in the Caribbean accredited, and if so how are Caribbean medical schools accredited? If a Caribbean medical school is accredited that means the school meets the functional and structural standards for medical education in their region. They should also make sure that the regional accreditation meets the standards of 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. 

Students of properly accredited Caribbean medical schools—such as the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)*—have the same privileges as students of medical schools in the United States and Canada. They may qualify for federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. They may register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates® (ECFMG®) to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®). They 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.

Accreditation is all-important: graduates of non-accredited medical schools cannot earn residencies, nor can they take the licensure exams—meaning they cannot practice medicine in the United States or Canada, where all medical schools are LCME accredited. At its most basic, accreditation answers three key questions:

  • Has the medical school clearly established its mission and institutional learning objectives?
  • Are the medical school’s curriculum and resources organized to meet its mission and objectives?
  • Is the medical school currently achieving its mission and objectives and is it likely to continue to achieve them in the future?

Accreditation Procedures for Caribbean Medical Schools 

A common question prospective students often have is: Are Caribbean medical schools LCME accredited? RUSM, located on the island of Barbados, is accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP)*. CAAM-HP is recognized by the U.S. National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) as meeting LCME standards. CAAM-HP is also recognized by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), the international authority on medical school standards. CAAM-HP accredits more than a dozen medical schools among the member states of the Caribbean Community and in the Dominican Republic. It has accredited RUSM since 2009. 

So exactly how are Caribbean medical schools accredited? CAAM-HP accreditation is a rigorous, peer-review process that 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, 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.

CAAM-HP is not the only medical school accreditation authority in the Caribbean Islands. The Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), which is also recognized by the NCFMEA and the WFME, accredits the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)** and seven other Caribbean medical schools. (To see if a particular Caribbean medical school’s accreditation authority meets the U.S. and international standards, check the NCFMEA and WFME approval lists.)

System and Procedures In the Caribbean Med School Accreditation Process

The first step in the CAAM-HP Caribbean medical school accreditation process is a request for assessment by the government of a medical school’s home country. For RUSM, this took place in the late 2000’s—and it took place on the island of Dominica, about 200 miles northwest of Barbados. Ross Med was founded in Dominica in 1978, but Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage there in 2017. After a brief nomadic existence—classes were held on an Italian cruise ship and then in Tennessee—RUSM found a permanent home in Barbados in 2019.

After a medical school submits required documents—such details as courses, clerkships (clinical training), enrollment, facilities, faculty, resources, and an institutional self-study—CAAM-HP officials arrive to perform the assessment and determine the school’s accreditation merits. The CAAM-HP accreditation procedure is based on the system used by the LCME. 

When seeking the answer to the question: how are Caribbean medical schools accredited, it is important to note the various characteristics that are necessary for a school to have. An accredited medical school must meet all 12 LCME standards regarding such aspects as curricular content, faculty, learning environment, organization, and structure, as well as student selection, services, and support. 

Accredited schools must also help students through financial aid, debt management counseling, and reasonable tuition refund policies. Schools are accredited for a period of four to eight years, after which time CAAM-HP repeats the accreditation procedure through a survey to ensure the school continues to meet all standards. RUSM’s last accreditation survey was scheduled for March 2020, but travel restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the survey. RUSM retains its accreditation status until a survey can take place in the near future.
 

Simulation and Approvals in the Caribbean Medical School Accreditation Process

A rather specific type of medical school authorization relates to healthcare simulation, one of the most important parts of a school’s curriculum development. Simulation refers to the artificial representation of real-world processes to achieve educational goals through experiential learning. Medical simulation allows students to gain clinical skills through deliberate practice—they can learn from mistakes without the fear of harming patients. Simulation practices in medical schools are authorized by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH). RUSM’s Simulation Institute is accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH, www.ssih.org) in the areas of Teaching/Education, since November 2013. 

After LCME or CAAM-HP accreditation, medical school approvals may also come at the state level. Individual states may review an international medical school much in the same way that CAAM-HP or the LCME do. RUSM graduates do their clerkships in any of 23 affiliated teaching hospitals spread across nine U.S. states and Washington D.C. (as well as at three hospitals in the United Kingdom), and Ross MDs are eligible for licensure in all 50 states. But the individual states of California, Florida, New Jersey, and New York have independently reviewed RUSM and found it to meet their rigorous medical school standards. Most states do not conduct such reviews, but those states defer to the approvals of California or other states that do. 

RUSM also meets international approval by being listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, published online by the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education Research® (FAIMER®) and the WFME.

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

Related resources:

  • RUSM Accreditation and Approvals
  • RUSM FAQ’s
  • RUSM MD Program
     

    *Ross University School of Medicine is accredited 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.

    ** AUC is accredited through 2021 by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), which is the accreditor used by the country of St. Maarten.

    The United States Department of Education, via the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), reviews the standards that countries use to accredit medical schools. The NCFMEA has determined that the ACCM’s accreditation standards are comparable to those set by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which accredits medical education programs in the United States.

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.