June 14, 2021

The cure for Asia’s doctor shortage is in the Caribbean

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By Dr G Richard Olds From The Times of India

This fall, tens of thousands of students will apply to medical schools all across Asia. They’ll face daunting odds.

Acceptance rates at two medical schools in Hong Kong and Singapore- which collectively host five institutions- hover around 10 per cent. One school in New Delhi accepts less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of applicants.

Consequently, scores of students who would make great doctors find themselves on the wrong end of an admissions decision. That’s bad news not just for them but for their countrymen, given the staggering doctor shortages many Asian nations face.

Salvation lies across the Pacific, at medical schools in the Caribbean, for both aspiring doctors and public health officials concerned about that looming physician gap. The data show that these schools produce graduates who are every bit as qualified and competent as those who attend medical school in Asia or the United States.

Asia’s population is surging, and there aren’t enough physicians to meet the growing demand for care. Hong Kong will be short 1,000 doctors by 2030. Singapore will need about 6,000. India will be short an alarming 2 million.

Asian medical schools aren’t producing enough graduates to quell these shortages. It stands to reason that schools abroad could supply them. But many aspiring doctors and government officials are wary of Caribbean medical schools, whose reputations vary widely.

However, the same can be said about medical schools in China, India, the United States, and countless other countries.

What should matter more is whether the Caribbean’s top medical schools produce doctors that are well-prepared for successful careers. The answer is a resounding “yes.”

Just look at Caribbean medical graduates’ performance on the United States Medical Licensing Examination- widely considered one of the world’s most difficult medical exams, even compared to the highly-competitive tests used in Asia. As Yang Mianhua, deputy dean of Shantou University Medical College in China, recently explained, “The mainland [China] exams are still all about rote learning from books and getting a passing [score] while the USMLE is about selecting the best.”

At top institutions in the Caribbean, pass rates on the USMLE can reach 95 per cent. That’s comparable to the pass rates for students educated at American and Canadian schools.

Graduates of top Caribbean medical schools achieve top testing marks, thanks in part to the schools’ investments in student support. Some schools offer students access to a range of academic programs designed to improve skills ranging from note-taking and time management to oral communication, reading efficiency, and English language proficiency.

Many Asian physicians began their careers at top Caribbean medical schools. They’re now licensed and practicing everywhere from Malaysia and Thailand to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Students looking to pursue careers in medicine need not confine their gaze to medical schools in their home countries. Institutions in the Caribbean have trained hundreds of doctors who are providing high-quality care to countless patients across Asia. The continent will need even more to meet its denizens’ burgeoning demand for care in the years to come.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Dr G Richard Olds is president of St. George’s University

For more on this story go to: https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/voices/the-cure-for-asias-doctor-shortage-is-in-the-caribbean/

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