Launching today on the Saint James Blog, the first in our series of interviews with graduates of Saint James School of Medicine, where we talk about what it’s really like to be a student at Saint James, and discuss the graduates’ experiences of clinical rotations, residencies and their plans for the future. Today we talk with Dr David Klein.
Dr David Klein graduated from Saint James School of Medicine in 2010 and is scheduled to start a residency in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, later this year.
David came to Saint James as a mature student, aged 29. He says, “I applied twice to med school in Canada, but my grades were not competitive enough. So I entered the workforce and gained some life experience and maturity in the process. After 4 years, I was ready to go back to what I really cared about; medicine. I had always had an interest in geriatrics, but realized during my volunteering experiences that there were major gaps in my medical knowledge.”
“I started looking at offshore medical schools. I wanted to take the cheapest, fastest route to qualify as a MD and get back to Canada to practice, and Saint James fulfilled these requirements.”
David is frank about his time studying in Bonaire, saying that he found it difficult. “I was a big city boy so Bonaire was a complete shock for me. If you are used to living in large cities, it can be emotionally and psychologically quite taxing to suddenly find yourself in such a small place with not many things to do past 6 pm!”
However he says, “From an academic standpoint there is no better environment to remove distractions. Bonaire is pleasant and quiet and very conducive to study. I coped with my culture shock by getting busy setting up study groups, and mentoring other students. I discovered there were a number of students at the school who had learning disabilities, and needed extra support. I made it my mission to be as readily available as possible to assist students.”
He says, “The student body at Saint James is very diverse, all ages and all backgrounds. Making friends is effortless and seeing your fellow students again during clerkship rotations in the US is an absolutely wonderful experience! I can tell you that I have become best of friends with a few fellow alumni and I will miss them terribly now that I am back in Canada.”
Today Dr Klein serves unofficially as a student liaison for new and prospective students of Saint James, giving advice on how to acclimatize to studying in the Caribbean and get the most out of the experience. He also assists students during clinical rotations and those interested in returning to Canada for residency training.
He says he is often asked if Saint James prepares students well for the USMLE and Canadian licensing exams. He believes that the School covers 70% of the material tested on the exams and that this is standard for most offshore medical schools. He notes, “Every medical student has to allow for a period of self-study after their basic sciences to pass the exams, whether this is a Kaplan course, online QBANK such as USMLEWORLD, or other online resources. I know of students from our school as well as Harvard or the University of Toronto that failed the USMLE exam several times. You cannot assume that because you get A’s in med school, that you will pass licensing exams. Saint James, like most medical schools is flexible and reasonable at providing a second or even a third chance to pass exams. But, at the end of the day, if students are not highly motivated and self-disciplined, they will have difficulty with licensing exams”.
Dr Klein is also often asked if Saint James prepares students for residency. He laughs and says, “I haven’t started my residency yet, so I don’t know for sure, but I suspect there isn’t a medical school on the planet that can really prepare you for the challenges of residency. Saint James provides you with the fundamentals of basic sciences on the island and then ensures a high quality education during your core clerkship rotations. This, ultimately, facilitates an understanding of the expectations for a medical residency.”
Dr Klein closes by saying, “I’d like to tell students that your interests may evolve as you go through your medical training—keep an open mind! You may find that you hate or can’t relate to many of your rotations, or love a rotation that you never thought you would. When I first started clerkships I thought I wanted to practice family medicine clinically. I now find myself gravitating towards public health, preventative medicine and education. One of the most incredible aspects of having ‘M.D.’ after your name is that it empowers you with the flexibility to do anything (teach, practice clinically, open a business, work for an NGO, author books, become a researcher or public health advocate)—you, in essence, become recession proof! With discipline and perseverance you will successfully jump through the many hoops ahead of you and enjoy an incredibly rewarding calling. I wish you the best of luck on your journey!”
If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact Raj Mitra at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also interested in talking with current students of the School interested in sharing their story and advice with new and prospective students.