FOREIGN MEDICAL SCHOOLS: A FEW CONSIDERATIONS
Choosing to pursue a medical education outside the United States comes with a unique set of benefits and challenges, if you ever intend on practicing inside the country. There are both good and bad aspects to this course of action. One of the first considerations you must make is as to which of the various medical traditions you plan on beginning your studies in.
For example, in Europe, medical schools accept students straight out of their equivalent of high school, and enroll them in a 6 year program. After that program is complete, the new doctors have the equivalent of both a bachelor’s degree as well as a specialized degree in medicine. However, other places in the world do things differently. In the Caribbean, the educational medical tradition caters more to students who already have completed some form of higher education. However, their programs only require an additional 4 years of study to complete, making the trade off in time obvious once again.
The other prime consideration for prospective doctors to consider when selecting the institution for their education is how the different schools they are looking at are licensed. Not all diplomas are created equal, when it comes to practicing medicine inside the United States! Some schools’ diplomas are indeed treated as if they came from a U.S. school, some will require that you receive additional certifications from the ECFMG, and still others are not certified at all. If you go ahead and get one of those degrees, you will never be able to practice in the U.S. with that particular accreditation. You will want to be extremely careful about checking on the licensing status of any educational institution you are considering attending.
A third concern, less important than the first two but still relevant, is that of residency. Many of the various residency programs across the country simply do not accept international medical graduates, meaning it is significantly more difficult for them to get accepted into programs to complete this crucial step of their educations.
The last thing to keep in mind is that regardless of where you train, you will be required to pass all 3 of the USMLE Step exams if you want to practice in the U.S. Make sure you take all parts of all tests; in past years requirements were different and foreign students only had to take the clinical skills portion of one of the exams. However, since 2005, all students must take all parts of the exam.