Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More about offshore med schools and residency prospects

Back in April, I blogged about the prospects for graduates of Caribbean medical schools matching in categorical surgical positions and estimated that graduates of two of the more prominent Caribbean schools, St. George's and Ross, had a 2.5 to 3% chance.

What about some of the other Caribbean schools? Hard data are difficult to obtain since most of the schools do not publish match statistics, and in particular, the number of graduates who don't match in any specialty.

Here is what one recent commenter on that April post had to say:

My girlfriend studied at University of Medicine and Health Sciences (UMHS)-St.Kitts in the Caribbean. She is a very hard worker and studied well. All of my savings are gone and extra bank loans add up. No match, no residency, and no more hope. Applied for medical lab tech and waiting. In my opinion, IMG is not an option, try local medical schools and if not try something else.

The UMHS website says 59 of its graduates matched in a specialty in 2014, 2 in preliminary surgery and 2 in general surgery, presumably categorical. The number of graduates of UMHS is not listed although the school apparently has three graduations per year reflecting its three different starting dates for students per year.

Another school, Medical University of the Americas on the island of Nevis, had about 90 matched graduates for 2014, 2 of whom obtained positions in surgery—both preliminary.

An additional commenter on my April post, who turned out to be the owner of a different Caribbean school, said this:

Caribbean medical school is best platform and nice and informative….. Successful communication is key in every successful business…. Understanding your subject and having good knowledge on your blog topic is always essential for a successful blog… Thanks for this post…..

Normally I would have blocked this comment as spam, but before I did so, I googled his school, the American Global University School of Medicine, located in the Central American country of Belize. The International Medical Education Directory lists its total enrollment as 100 students. The school's website does not provide any details about match results for its graduates or much of anything else, such as names of faculty or specific hospitals where students do clinical rotations in the US.

I found some other interesting links—too many to list here—about the school, its officials, and its standing in Belize. You would be wise to google it too, or you can see some links in my comment to the school's owner on my April post.

If you have any interest in attending this or any other school not accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), you should do a thorough Internet search before going ahead with an application. Do not send money unless you are certain that the school is legitimate and that most of its graduates are obtaining residency positions.

Keep in mind that the number of residency slots available for international graduates will decline even further over the next few years because several new US medical schools will be producing graduates, and many established schools have expanded their classes.


Anonymous said...

so that guy paid for his girlfriend's Caribbean Medical School with his savings? questionable investment there.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I'm going to agree with you on that. I wrote this post to try to help others decide about that same investment.

Anonymous said...

These graduates are usually rich people's kids, and are often classified as IMG's in Canada, having a heads/leg up on people who do not have English as their first language.
American hospitals suck cash to accommodate these rich kids in their last 1 or 2 clinical yrs.
All about money,,,

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Yes, there is substantial money to be made by hospitals that host these students.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/05/nyregion/05grenada.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-08-08/news/offshore-med-school-scholarships/

JEN said...

I used to work with a MD that went a Caribbean Medical School. He kind of was a laughingstock amongst his peers.

Anonymous said...

I think the chances for a foreign grad to match in surgery is slim. However, if you are a med student who passed your boards recently and graduated recently, there is a lot of opportunity in primary care. In fact the nrmp stats for family medicine, IM, psych, pmnr, etc; really do show success for foreign physicians. Surprisingly, one student matched into plastic. There are random surprises. If you see the match results of the big 3 carribbean schools, Ross, St. George, AUA, there is a lot of surprises. I saw orthopedic! Nothing is impossible, but you have to be that excellent to make into any surgical spot. Or your daddy must really know someone. Last, a lot of these students match in NY, Michigan, Ohio. You won't find them matching at UCLA, USC, etc. Sorry, I'm from sunny california. Truth is people do make it, and the story regarding UMHS does not make sense to me at all. If that person passed all the boards and was a recent grad, he/she can match into psyc, FM, IM. There is something missing. Here in California we have a lack of Spanish speaking physicians and we have developed programs for foreign Spanish speaking medical students. This program teaches them about American medicine, how to study for the boards, and we match them with a mentor. The goal is that they fill the gaps in primary care and help with the spanish speaking population. With our guidance, almost all have matched in primary care spots. The people who have success in surgery are the students who completed a residency in their country. I know I went off topic and that we are discussing Caribbean. I would never send my kid to a foreign medical school or Caribbean. I do want to say that some of the most talented physcians I've worked with immigrated in the 80's early 90's from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, China, etc. I am amazed at their skills. While I am American, I do think having a diverse group of residents in any specialty is important. If you get a guy from India who is really talented and can contribute to your program, who not, he/she will help other residents out too. I do want to say though that some of the top Caribbean grads are incredibly high. This is a small percentage and I think these students have it in their mind this is their only chance and they will do anything and everything to do well. There are many American medical students who barely pass their step 1 and match perfectly fine. If I ever became a Chairman, I would give a foreign student a chance if they did perform so well. A lot of medical grads seem to come from Univ of Guadalajara as well and they do really well. If that UMHS grad is reading this, if I am assuming everything correctly, passing scores first attempt, good LOR's, and you stay involved working with MD's. Meaning do a research project with an MD at a univ, I do think matching in primary care is an option. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

One thing I would like to add after researching, UMHS is owned be the original founder of Ross university. Ross University is now owned by Devry. I thought many of you would have found it interesting Devry is involved in medical education. Not only do they make money from med students, they have a nursing program, and Veterinary school. It's all about the Benjamen's! Who wants to start a foreign school with me, seriously? Have a wonderful morning.

artiger said...

Some good physicians, even some dandy surgeons come out of these schools. Given what was said earlier about more students being pumped out of inshore schools along with no expansion of residency positions, this almost seems predatory.

Anonymous said...

I work for UMHS in the admissions department. I can tell you that almost all students who pass USMLE Step 1 on the first try will get a residency. Students that don’t get residency even after passing USMLE Step 1 on the first try do so usually because they applied too narrowly (i.e. only surgery, emergency medicine, in desirable big cities, etc.). After advisement from us, they are almost always able to get a residency the second time around. It is just a fact that most Caribbean medical graduates will go into a primary care residency. The biases and hurdles for an IMG to get a competitive specialty such as surgery or emergency medicine are vast. However, as previous posters have stated, it’s by no means impossible. High Step 1 score gets you up to bat, but then normal job seeking skills such as networking and interviewing take over. We try to advise and guide our students as best as we can to maximize their chances for matching, but it’s never a guarantee. Prospective students are justified to be weary of foreign medical schools, especially since there are so many, with such poor and conflicting information about them. At the end of the day, you should always try to speak to current students, alumni and advisors who have some type of firsthand knowledge about the school you are researching. Many premed advisors have visited these schools and can provide feedback. UMHS encourages any students and their family to tour our campus and sit in on classes before attending. We offer a tuition credit for anyone wishing to do this. I agree that the practices of some schools is abhorrent, which is why proper due diligence is necessary. I don’t agree that the Caribbean is not a viable option. If you are unable to gain admission to a domestic MD or DO school, and your dream is to pursue medicine, going the Caribbean route can absolutely lead to residency, and even a great residency at that. Students just need to really do their due diligence with which school they choose, and go into it eyes wide open on the specific challenges and opportunities of being an IMG. www.umhs-sk.org

Skeptical Scalpel said...

How many students do you graduate each year? You publish a nice list of where everyone who matched is going, but how many of your students either do not match or don't even enter the match?

Anonymous said...

The Caribbean is a giant risk. The only legitimate school is SGU and that too if you're a really good student or someone who is coming in HIGHLY motivated.

I know people who passed basic sciences and could not pass the school's comprehensive shelf examination.

The Caribbean is not another route to becoming an MD. The way you should look at this route is as follows...Apply to US programs, if you get rejected, enhance your application, if you get rejected again figure out why, then after you figure that out, decided if SGU is for you. Chances are that student will make it out of SGU.

All those other school's are giant gambles and cannot guarantee you anything. In the previous post, the UMHS person is failing to let the prospective student understand that basic sciences is no walk in the park. Forget the talk about matching until you get your STEP 1 and 2 scores. How schools like UMHS prepare you for that is up for debate.

Anonymous said...

@Jen he was still an MD though

Anonymous said...

First, UMHS was founded, and is currently run by Warren Ross. He is a man of incredible integrity, who values quality of education and student support above all else. Under his leadership, UMHS is the antithesis to what SGU, Ross U or AUA have become. Warren and Robert Ross built Ross University, which eventually changed hands to Devry. What Devry does, and how it chooses to run its schools has no bearing or association with how Warren Ross or the Ross family approach education.

UMHS' graduating classes for the past few years have been between 100 - 130 (the school started in 2007, so each graduating class is growing in size). This year we had 118 residency matches. Last year we had 89. The majority of our students who apply for residency will get residency. Graduating students that don't apply for residency fall into two camps - have missed the match due to what trimester they were on; or may be strategically taking extra time (if they failed USMLE or had some other negative circumstance) to volunteer/research/work with additional hospitals to increase their chances for matching.

No medical school, US or Caribbean, can guarantee you anything. Getting through basic sciences is incredibly difficult, no matter where you go to medical school, and a graduating class will have always lost a portion of the students who initially started. The Caribbean is absolutely a viable route to becoming an MD, if….1. you are a student who deserves (respectfully) to be in medical school, and 2. you choose one of the medical schools that has quality facilities, proper faculty, USMLE preparation, proper clinical affiliations and training, and the accreditations necessary to gain residency (i.e. will give you the opportunity and the resources for you to step up to bat). Regarding caveat one - some schools in the Caribbean will take any applicant, no matter what their credentials or prospects for success are. I mean this with all due respect, but some students are not cut out for medical school, and will never succeed down this long and arduous path. To accept these students, knowing this, is exploitive and wrong. Regarding caveat two - some students are very capable of making it through medical school, but will attend one of the Caribbean schools lacking some or all of the criteria I listed above. If your school is not providing you every resource and opportunity to succeed, then you are hamstrung through what is already an extremely difficult path.

I understand the negative biases and concerns about the Caribbean. There are some terrible actors that exploit students and represent the worst of proprietary education. However, UMHS is the farthest thing from one of them. We absolutely welcome any student, blogger, advisor, etc. to visit our campus, meet our students, or sit in on a class. I urge you to take everything you read on the internet with a huge grain of salt. Seeing is believing. I stand by everything I've said and everything UMHS does and represents.

Anonymous said...

UMHS is worst than most, they start with a big class then weed people out along the way. The people who survive are from wealthy families and who connection.most of the people who made it to residency it was because they had someone who had a spot ready for them...are there people who made it on their own ofcourse there are but they are a minority.favoritism plays a role at UMHS. Professors don't want to teach you they want you to learn on your own...no decent school does that.i was accepted into several med school i picked UMHs bc it was cheaper and my advisor told me he trusted them...umhs is the biggest mistake of my life...

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Above you have the pros and cons of UMHS. Caveat emptor.

Snowy said...

"What Devry does, and how it chooses to run its schools has no bearing or association with how Warren Ross or the Ross family approach education."

Clearly the Ross family approach to education is build up a private medical school and then sell it, cash it out.

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