I've been considering schools outside of the U.S. and I'd like to ask your opinion and what you know about medical schools in the UK, AUS, or the Caribbean's? How would it affect me regarding residency programs and the USMLE at the U.S.? Financially even? Thank you!
This is a great question, and I think it’s bigger than you realize.
1.) Schools for tools! First, let me start off saying something that every doctor and medical student knows, but only a silent majority admit. Medical schools don’t make good doctors. It really has nothing to do with the school at all, it’s mostly about the individual and their work ethic. Some schools provide better resources or opportunities than others. Aside from that, the only really difference between medical schools is any sort of reputation that they may have built. You will meet doctors from Johns Hopkins who, while knowledgeable, make abysmal doctors. You will meet doctors who trained in 3rd world countries in schools that consisted of a few cinder block buildings and a semi-functioning CT scanner but they are utterly amazing at what they do. So keeping in mind that good doctors make themselves, you have to assess what directions in medicine you want to take because…
2.) The residency situation in the U.S. is becoming catastrophic. For years the ever expanding population has been creating and intense vacuum for doctors. Politicians met and harumphed and grumbled and agreed that the cure for this coming problem is more doctors! So they looked at all of the medical schools in the U.S. and told them at accept more students. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately for us the politicians in charge of these matters don’t actually know anything about the subject. Combine that with the fact that the majority of residency positions are subsidized by government money they managed to create a freaking ridiculous bottleneck by increasing the candidate pool for residencies without creating more residency spots. And if you’ve watched the news lately you’ll realize that getting a Republican controlled House to increase funding for residencies is not going to happen for at least 3 years or so. The bottleneck is serious enough that many students from U.S. allopathic medical schools manage to be S.O.L. come match-day.
3.) Things to keep in mind. Coming from a Caribbean school myself there’s this constant overwhelming fear of “WILL I BE ABLE TO GET A RESIDENCY?!?” It’s certainly a noteworthy concern, but at my school our match rate is actually comparable to U.S. schools (this is because our sample sizes are pretty small). But the further I progressed in medicine I learned that the question to ask isn’t “how do people from schools outside of the U.S. match into a residency,” it’s “why is it that people don’t match?” To answer that here’s an anecdote: a colleague of mine has this acquaintance. She’s a foreign medical graduate living in the states and for many years running now she has yet to match into a residency. This is probably exaggeration but I think it was on like 5 years straight now, but anyways you read that and you probably feel a sense of horror for this woman. How can she not possibly match? Well that’s because she only wants to be a radiologist. She doesn’t have any backups that she’s interested in pursuing. Okay, that limits her, but still? How could she not match by now? Well, it turns out because of her cultural heritage she doesn’t want to move away from her family, and there’s only one radiological residency program in the city she lives in. So every year she applies to the ONE residency program and every year she’s not accepted. This is obviously a bit on the extreme end but you read this and you slowly realize maybe it’s not that people aren’t winning the match lottery and losing out as much as it’s that they severely limit their criteria when they apply to residency programs, and therefore limit their opportunities to match. There are some people that apply to hundreds of programs across a variety of fields and not match. That’s inevitable. But the majority of people who don’t match are those who have too narrow of a focus.
4.) Tying it all together. Alright this is obviously getting long winded, so let me recap and wrap it up. Your performance on the USMLE is entirely on you, your school doesn’t have anything to do with it. Some schools have more resources, and of course some schools have a better reputation than others. If you want to be a neurosurgeon then don’t go to a Caribbean school. That’s just a fact of life. If you want to be a family medicine doctor/GP/anything in primary care then the Caribbean isn’t a bad option because they cost SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than U.S. schools and your chances of getting a residency are solid if you can perform well and sell yourself. If you go to an established school in an industrialized country you’re in just as good of a position as if you went to a mid-to-low tier ranked U.S. school. It just all depends really. Anyways, I apologize for the ramble, I just hope it gives you some better perspective.