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Studying medicine abroad in English – Caribbean and Europe

20140929_World_SS_196903178By Dr. Moshe Cohen From The Student Doctor Network

Over the past decade, there has been a rise in North American applications to English-taught medical programs abroad. The competitive nature of medical school admissions and studies, coupled with expensive tuition costs, make it difficult for many to pursue a medical education in the US. For this reason more and more students are seeking the alternative options of studying medicine in the Caribbean and in Europe.

The largest objection to studying medicine abroad is that students who have completed their studies outside the US often find it difficult to compete for good residency positions upon their return to North America. One reason for this is the element of medical school prestige: a student who has studied in the Caribbean might find it very difficult to compete for a position against students from more well-known US schools. Naturally, there are also less tangible factors such as relations and ties to the medical community, which can determine the success or failure of securing a residency position in a leading hospital. For this reason, the bulk of students who have studied medicine overseas return to the US and complete their residency in clinics and smaller hospitals.

Nonetheless, all medical students who wish to practice medicine in the US, whether they have studied in the US or abroad, must take the USMLE in order to obtain a license to practice medicine in the US. This assures a basically level field based on merit and medical knowledge and not only institutional reputation and personal connections.

Although there is no doubt that the leading medical schools in the US produce doctors with high USMLE results, some would be surprised to discover that many who have studied medicine in Europe or the Caribbean go on to succeed in the USMLE and later in in their medical practice. For example in 2014, 6,357 foreign medical graduates matched to a US residency, a number that has been gradually increasing1.

Medical Schools in the Caribbean

There are some 60 different medical schools in the Caribbean which offer English-taught medical studies programs developed for international students. This number has risen dramatically in the last 20 years as the demand for medical studies abroad has grown and students began looking for viable options “near home”. Therefore, studying medicine in the Caribbean is becoming a progressively popular alternative for US and Canadian citizens who find it difficult to gain admission to a medical school in the North America.

As previously mentioned, most medical students who studied at accredited Caribbean medical universities and showed high academic and clinical performances are able to compete with US medical students for residencies in the US.

Most Caribbean medical schools follow the American formula in regard to admission requirements and curriculum. This can pose some difficulty as students seeking medical studies abroad often try to avoid the requirement of a bachelor’s degree, heavy pre-med course load required and the MCAT.

Nevertheless, there is a very high variation in quality among medical schools in the Caribbean. It is important that students review the curriculum, affiliations and accreditation of medical schools in the Caribbean. Specifically, applicants should find out if there are any in-house preparation programs, the average USMLE scores of students in recent years and where have past graduates matched for residency. These sort of things can give a good indication of the quality of the program. Check for schools with strong connections to North America who maintain a solid reputation for producing good doctors. Here are a number of schools you should consider: St. George’s University School of Medicine (about 70 percent of the students are from the US), Ross University School of Medicine (91 percent of the students are from the US), and the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (86 percent are US students).

Medical Schools in Europe

As in the Caribbean, the increasing demand for English-taught medical programs abroad has lead more and more universities in Europe to offer English-taught medical programs. Today, there are at least 70 medical schools in Europe which offer English degrees (excluding the UK) and the number is rapidly growing.

Universities in Europe hold certain advantages over medical schools in the Caribbean, including long and prestigious histories, cheaper tuition, easier admissions processes and more lenient requirements. Most schools require passing the admissions exam but don’t require pre-med courses or a bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, students are continuously evaluated throughout their studies.

The admissions exam does require pre-med knowledge in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physics, but students can acquire that knowledge independently and could, in theory, apply right out of high-school.

For some students, the location of medical schools in Europe is more suitable, as studying medicine in the Caribbean often requires students to “get used to” small-island lifestyles. Europe offers big city life and easy travel options. However, it is important to consider that the quality of the programs can shift depending on the country, because there isn’t a single blanket medical system in Europe.

As with medical schools in the Caribbean, it is crucial that interested candidates review the accreditation for English-taught programs at the different medical schools in Europe. Examining the programs’ reputations, past graduate successes and present students’ experience will serve a great help for applicants trying to reach a decision.

Dr. Moshe Cohen is the CEO and a teacher at M.D. International Studies – Pre-med course specializing in preparing students for medical studies in Europe:

For more information on Caribbean Medical Schools:

For more information about Medical Schools in Europe English taught programs:


Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. IMG Match Performance in 2014. April 3, 2014.

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