All Caribbean Medical Schools must be legitimately accredited by 2024
Due to a requirement by the Education Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates, only students from schools who are accredited by a World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) recognized accreditor would be allowed to appear for the USMLE Exams starting 2024.
To gain some insight into med school accreditation, the Med School Minutes podcast had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Kallol Guha, the founder of Saint James School of Medicine, along with the school’s Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jose Ramirez.
Dr. Guha noted the rigorous demands that go into creating an accredited international program in general. Now that international programs are such a substantial part of the medical school landscape in the United States and Canada, accrediting bodies demand more from Caribbean schools. With the number of regulations and standards in effect, new programs working to inaugurate themselves as US-recognized Caribbean medical schools will not be able to qualify for accreditation overnight.
However, certain parts of the accreditation process have been simplified and streamlined, introducing new opportunities. For instance, about two decades ago, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)—one of the first offshore medical schools founded in the late 70s—struggled to find placement for its students. Now, as institutions like Ross earn increasing prominence and respect, international medical graduates find that rotations and residencies are much easier to come by.
Will New Caribbean Medical Schools Be Accredited in Canada and the United States?
For new schools hoping to arrive on the scene, the heightened regulatory environment will, of course, pose sizable challenges. Emerging schools need new resources to meet the checks and balances that are now a part of the requirements. Medical schools based in the Caribbean or other locations abroad must carefully examine these parameters. They must start with a more significant investment, better faculty, and better facilities from the onset, keeping the interests of their students top of mind. As Dr. Guha jokes, gone are the days when somebody could simply rent a garage and start their own medical school. The new protocols are meant to satisfy students, the government, and advance the ongoing reputation of the schools. For those schools that succeed and exist beyond 2024, students and parents can be more confident in the quality of these programs. The new regulatory standards work to ensure that medical students are investing in a future that will come to pass.
Encouraging Compliant Medical School Institutions
Dr. Ramirez voiced his agreement that these changes are needed—even though it puts new constraints on up-and-coming schools seeking to become respected, organized institutions. Medical graduates are working to become highly skilled physicians and need to meet the requirements expected in the country where they want to practice.
At the moment, its is estimated that over 50% of medical schools in the Caribbean are not properly accredited. This residual number of unaccredited institutions speaks to the former “Wild West” nature of the Caribbean medical school landscape. But new regulations serve to weed out less serious institutions while providing added credibility to schools like Saint James School of Medicine, which grow and transform into competitive institutions. The most ambitious schools will find a way to shoulder their administrative burdens and achieve excellence within the landscape.
As graduates of these schools fulfill the requirements needed to receive a medical license in the United States—the schools that have put in the work and paid their dues will continue to prosper. On a local level, Dr. Ramirez hopes the local island governments will do their part to open up opportunities for these schools, which bring business to the island, while also providing a challenging and rewarding educational experience for students from across the world.
Looking to the Future of Caribbean Medical Schools
Unaccredited schools now provide little to no real advantage to new students. Because these institutions will not be able to meet the accreditation terms required by the ECFMG rule change, they are effectively misleading students.
Dr. Guha points out, “The process of trying to attain this level, whereby the institution will reach a certain point where they will really train students … [who] will be competent and responsible for human life—this experience is not easy to get.” While accreditation is a time-intensive, labor-intensive, and money-intensive process, it always provides a better experience for the student.
What Can Students do to protect themselves?
While choosing medical schools in the Caribbean, students should follow a few simple steps:
- Check to see how long the school has been in operation.
- How many alumni/practicing physicians does the school have?
- What is the accreditation status of the school?
- Cross check the alleged accreditation status of the school by visiting the accrediting agencies website to verify if they are accredited.
- Ask about the most recent Match results.
Any student who does their due diligence, will have no reason to be concerned. However, please remember, a lot depends on the drive of the student, and there is no shortcut to becoming a doctor.