Throughout the Caribbean, there are over 50 medical schools where people from North America and around the world go to get their medical degree.
Many Caribbean med schools also offer streamlined pathways to becoming a doctor that would normally be difficult to find in the U.S.
Whether it’s dual baccalaureate/MD programs or easier transferring from a local university to one in the Caribbean, these schools expand access to quality medical education, international exposure, and clinical opportunities.
Furthermore, a medical education in the Caribbean usually charges lower tuition and offers ample scholarship opportunities. The quality of curriculum remains high while being relatively affordable to most students.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt to enjoy warm weather and white sand beaches year-round.
For these and many other reasons, U.S. and Canadian citizens look to Caribbean med schools as an alternative or back-up option to med schools in North America.
Caribbean schools may even be better for those interested in working as a doctor elsewhere in the world, since the global perspective of Caribbean learning environments and global accreditation allow for a smooth transition from med school to residencies around the world.
This article will discuss 10 of the best medical schools in the Caribbean, including their state-of-the-art facilities, financial aid opportunities, program offerings, and curriculum structure.
Most follow a U.S.-style curriculum — two years of basic sciences followed by two years of clinical rotations — so graduates apply for residencies well-prepared for the unique challenges of the American healthcare system.
All Saints University School of Medicine (Roseau, Dominica)
ASU School of Medicine is a private medical school with a campus located on the coast of Roseau, Dominica and administered from an office in Toronto, Canada.
It’s a relatively new school, founded in 2006, but it is quickly becoming a hub for international medical students looking for a global perspective to medicine.
The school emphasizes its excellent academics and affordable tuition, especially compared to med schools in the U.S. There are generous financial aid packages that cover up to 20-25% of total tuition costs, and an automatic scholarship for Dominica citizens covering 50% of tuition.
ASUSM offers two different MD tracks: the four-year and the five-year degree. The four-year MD follows a traditional curriculum structure — two years of introductory science courses followed by two years of clinical clerkship — that is open to applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree and the proper pre-med course requirements.
The five-year MD is designed for recent high school graduates who want to study medicine right away. This rigorous program consists of four semesters of pre-med courses directly followed by the four-year MD curriculum. Students in this accelerated program take three semesters a year in order to finish within the five-year timeframe.
Students in either program have the opportunity to complete their clinical clerkships from a variety of institutions around the world, including U.S. hospitals in Chicago, Little Rock, and St. Paul.
They also have the option to study in other Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-approved teaching hospitals in Canada, the UK, and the Caribbean.
University of Medicine and Health Sciences (Basseterre, Saint Kitts)
UMHS’s medical degree is a 10-semester MD program that takes students from the beaches of Saint Kitts to the suburbs of Portland, Maine, to various clinical clerkships across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.
The first four semesters are taught on campus in Saint Kitts, followed by a fifth semester in Portland to learn the foundations of clinical medicine. Then, students have the option to do rotations at UMHS’s affiliated hospitals.
UMHS has a 96% retention rate and 93% first-time pass rate on the USMLE Step 1. Students enjoy a scenic location right by the Caribbean Sea and state-of-the-art learning facilities.
Classes are held in large auditoriums equipped with multiple 56-inch LED monitors and high-definition LCD projectors. Multi-purpose labs feature these audio and visual capabilities as well as projection microscopes. The school is also home to high-tech anatomy, neuroanatomy, and human simulation labs.
The Anne Ross Library and Learning Resource Center provide further research resources and study spaces so students can learn to their fullest potential. Archives include physical books, multimedia sources, and journals in ebook format. Throughout campus, students stay connected with high-speed internet despite their island location.
The curriculum largely follows that of the best U.S. med schools, but UMHS’s tuition is relatively affordable, unlike its mainland counterparts. Furthermore, students can apply for various merit, government, and third-party scholarships.
Trinity Medical Sciences University (Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)
Trinity Medical Sciences University was founded in 2008 to address the shortage of doctors in the U.S. and Canada. To this day, its mission remains to educate and train tomorrow’s physicians to meet the healthcare needs of the communities they serve.
The school has administrative offices in Roswell, Georgia, and the curriculum follows the American model of med school training: two years of basic science instruction, then two years of clinical rotations. Students learn in hands-on, small group settings and get clinical exposure starting as early as the first semester.
Trinity is a growing school, which means that class sizes remain small in order to facilitate more student-faculty interaction. And its size doesn’t prevent it from getting involved in community health programs through local charity groups and homes for children.
The university has a partnership with Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown, meaning that students can find clinical experiences well before years three and four. Milton Cato is a teaching hospital with 230 beds, and students participate in weekly rotations, health fairs, and triaging patients.
The clinical half of the MD program actually takes place either in Baltimore, Maryland or Warner Robins, Georgia. In Baltimore, students can take advantage of the city’s extensive teaching institutions, including the University of Maryland hospital system and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In Warner Robins, Trinity students benefit from the school’s partnership with Houston Healthcare (HHC). HHC is a sprawling medical institution serving over 300,000 people annually.
Xavier University School of Medicine (Oranjestad, Aruba)
XUSM offers both a pre-med and an MD program. The pre-med program is for bright high school graduates who want an accelerated path to med school since it lasts only a year and a half. They can then transition to the four-year MD program, which consists of two years of basic sciences followed by two years of clinical rotation.
Xavier is dedicated to producing physicians who are socially minded, clinically competent, professional, and lifelong learners.
To this end, the school has established several pre-med programs in India, Jordan, and Ghana. This innovative program allows aspiring doctors to take pre-med requirements in an institution in their home country before pursuing their MD at Xavier.
Once they finish their pre-med requirements, they move to Aruba for the basic sciences portion of the MD, followed by clinical clerkships in the U.S.
Often, these scholars hail from medically underserved communities that they come back to serve after getting their MD. In this way, Xavier educates not only Americans and Canadians but also a diverse international student population hungry to help the world’s current healthcare needs.
During clinicals, students go through a thorough 48 weeks of core rotations, after which they can choose elective rotations at affiliated hospitals in Illinois, New York, Maryland, Puerto Rico, and more.
XUSM faculty represent a broad range of clinical and geographic backgrounds. Most have established careers practicing in the U.S. Some bring perspectives from other industries, such as Jacques Odryzynski, a former process engineer for Valero who moved to Xavier to teach chemistry.
American University of Antigua (St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda)
AUA holds 14 different accreditations and approvals that allow graduates to practice medicine in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, the UK, India, and elsewhere.
The curriculum follows the American model that balances basic sciences and clinical experiences, but its international program agreements separate AUA from other Caribbean med schools.
One of the programs is offered through the American International College of Arts and Sciences – Antigua (AICASA). Students who graduate with an associate degree from AICASA are guaranteed admission into AUA College of Medicine, as long as they fulfill eligibility requirements.
Another such program is for Florida International University (FIU) graduates who maintain a minimum GPA, complete pre-med coursework, and get a letter of recommendation from a university official.
Preferred admission to AUA is given to these applicants. If they get in, they’ll have the option two years later to return to FIU for the clinical portion of their medical education.
Furthermore, AUA med graduates will also receive preferred admission if they apply to pursue a Master of Public Health degree at FIU.
There is also a list of schools from which, if graduates meet GPA and letter of recommendation requirements, are guaranteed admission to AUA College of Medicine. They’ll also be eligible for a Preferred Program Grant in addition to any scholarships they receive.
Some of these scholarships can be very generous, including the $80,000 Provost Scholarship and the $50,000 Physician Diversification Initiative Scholarship. AUA also offers service and cultural awards to incoming medical students who can demonstrate a significant contribution to their community.
St. Matthew’s University (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands)
St. Matthew’s University is home to a medicine and veterinary medicine program, conferring both MD and DVM degrees.
Students will reside in a two-story former hotel along a 7-mile beach on Grand Cayman island. The residence hall is located a few miles from campus and allows for a relaxing yet productive learning environment. There are a total of 80 single rooms, 29 standard suites, and eight deluxe suites.
The MD program is a 10-semester course of study divided into basic sciences (the first five terms) and clinical training (the latter five terms). After completing basic science instruction at SMU, students travel to rural hospitals across the U.S., Canada, or the UK to complete their rotations.
The MD program boasts an excellent 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 95% first-time pass rate for the USMLE Step 1 exam.
Students also benefit from SMU’s Center for Learning Enhancement (CLE), which is an integrated program that supports students throughout their studies.
Through CLE, students benefit from faculty reviews and tutoring outside of class time, peer mentoring, academic advisors, and academic development workshops that improve students’ performance in med school.
The DVM program is an accelerated 3-year course of study that features classes no larger than 20 and 10-20% more affordable tuition.
Students will work directly with a variety of species and gain clinical experiences in small-animal and large-animal hospitals. They also have the option of applying for year-long externships at partner institutions in Canada and the U.S.
Saba University School of Medicine (The Bottom, Saba, Caribbean Netherlands)
Students and graduates of Saba have particularly good outcomes. Between 2015 and 2019, the first-time pass rate for the USMLE Step 1 exam was nearly perfect — 99% — and between 2018 and 2019, 94% of Saba med school grads got residency placements.
Founded in 1992, Saba has a decades-long history of producing excellent physicians through its quality med school curriculum.
The school started as an international medical school to rival U.S. and Canadian med schools and continues to offer a globally competitive curriculum.
Saba is also the only med school in the Caribbean with accreditation from the Netherlands, which holds the school to high European standards as well as those of the U.S.
In collaboration with the University of South Wales, Saba offers the Pathway Partnership Agreement to qualified USW Medical Sciences graduates. This program will allow them to matriculate with advanced standing into year 2 of the MD program at Saba. Students will be able to earn their MD degree in eight semesters instead of ten.
Saba also offers generous scholarships to incentivize U.S. and Canadian students to study on the Caribbean island and return to practice in their home country.
American merit scholarships start at around $25,000 and can go up to $110,000. Canadian applicants are eligible for the Loyalty Scholarship ($65,000) or Merit Scholarship ($25,000-55,000).
In addition to the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), student organizations include the Women’s Medical Student Association, Indian Students Association, Muslim Students Association, and more.
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (Sint Maarten, Kingdom of the Netherlands)
Since 1978, AUC has produced nearly 7,000 graduates and significantly boosted the number of physicians in the U.S. and worldwide.
The school delivers an American-style curriculum through international learning experiences and nurturing social accountability.
The St. Maarten campus features technologically advanced classrooms, labs, and a medical library. MD students complete the fundamental science portion of their studies here before going off to clinical rotations in the U.S., where AUC has administrative offices in New Jersey and Florida.
AUC is also branching out to reach aspiring physicians outside the U.S. The new UK-Track medical degree program allows non-U.S. citizens to earn an MD from AUC by studying at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
Within this track, interested students can either apply as a graduate (bachelor’s degree holder) or undergraduate.
Graduate entry into the MD program takes four years, whereas undergraduate entry leads students to a BS in Medical Sciences and an MD within five and a half years.
At UCLan, one of the UK’s largest universities, students will benefit from the school’s vast resources, diverse perspectives, and intricate student networks on top of a world-class medical education.
Another international program offers a gateway for students with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree from an institution approved by India’s National Medical Commission.
These students can apply to transfer with advanced standing to AUC’s MD program. Once there, they must complete at least two years of medical study.
AUC offers scholarships that fund up to $80,000 of tuition.
Ross University School of Medicine (Bridgetown, Barbados)
Up until January 2019, RUSM was located in Portsmouth, Dominica, where the school suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria. Its new location in Barbados allows the school to continue educating physicians to address the growing global shortage of medical practitioners.
The school has graduated over 16,000 doctors eligible to practice in all 50 U.S. states. As one of “The Big Four,” Ross has an established reputation among Caribbean med schools.
Unlike many mainland U.S. med schools, Ross accepts three new cohorts of students per year in September, January, and May. This keeps the student body population dynamic and thriving.
Even though 86% are American citizens, students represent many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Clerkships are completed in the U.S. or the UK. After graduation, RUSM graduates have a first-time residency match rate of 92%, comparable to the mainland U.S. match rate of 93%.
Ross is dedicated to expanding access to quality medical education. One of the ways is through generous scholarships that cover partial to full tuition, which totals $250,000+.
Another way is through new partnerships with a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), such as Dillard University, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tuskegee University.
These partnerships allow students from these universities to gain easier access to quality medical education and increase physician diversity in the U.S.
St. George’s University School of Medicine (St. George, Grenada)
For the past 12 years, SGU has produced more doctors for first-year U.S. residency programs than any other med school in the world.
Part of why it’s been a leading producer of physicians is its large student body population, which totals about 6,500.
These students have the option to earn an MD in four (or more) years, and they can pair the MD with an MBA, MPH, or MSc.
Two-thirds of students are U.S. citizens, but the total student body represents over 150 different nationalities, and graduates practice in more than 50 different countries.
SGU’s goal of educating future doctors spans the globe. Right now, interested applicants can start their MD from Grenada but also the UK and India.
SGU’s longstanding partnerships with Northumbria University and the Ramaiah Group of Institutions allow med students to learn in their home country before spending a year in Grenada to finish off their basic science studies. It’s almost like being able to study abroad as a med student.
SGU is also committed to the scientific research and development of the Caribbean region. The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) promotes health and sustainable development through interdisciplinary research and community programs.
Internationally recognized and regional scholars, including School of Medicine faculty and students, collaborate on solving the health and environmental problems of the Caribbean islands.