Starting with a brief history lesson...
Roughly 30-40% of our classes are comprised of medical students and graduates who have attended school out in the Caribbean. At first, you'd think, "How on earth does someone go down to the Caribbean to study? Medicine!?" After all, most of us associate the Caribbean with sun, sand, crystal blue oceans and an endless supply of margaritas and daiquiris. But if you didn't already know, since the late 70's, students from the US and Canada have been making their way down to the islands to earn a medical degree. Why, you ask? The simple answer is, because it's too hard (too competitive) to get in back home (USA/CAN). However, over the years, the Caribbean medical school system has created a bit of a 'loophole' that allows North American students to go straight into medical school without having to do the dreadful 4-year undergrad!
After all, high school students in the UK, Australia, Africa, South America...basically everywhere else except North America, all enter medical school right out of high school. Although the exact process differs from country to country, you can expect to start medical school at the ripe at of 17/18 and spend the next 5-6 years completing all the premedical, medical and clinical sciences, only to graduate at the tender age of 22/23 with a medical degree. And what's even better is that should any of these medical graduates choose to migrate to Canada or the USA, they are eligible to sit for the various licensing exams and compete for a medical residency!!!! WHAT!!! *jaw drop*
In case you're wondering, the average North American medical graduate is 26/27 before they apply for residency so that's ONE prime reason why many choose to go down to the Caribbean: many of the schools down there have adopted this kind of timeline with a predominantly US-focused curriculum.
So let's talk about these schools. Since the late 1970's, the very first private offshore medical school to come into existence was St. George's University (SGU) on the Island of Grenada. It was started by a group of businessman. Since 1978, SGU, which initially started off as just a medical school, has grown into a behemoth of a educational institution, with multiple schools, faculties, and disciplines. Albeit, they have had to deal with their fair share of hurricanes, campus crimes and other common headaches that many caribbean schools face. Today SGU is actually owned by a Toronto-based Private Equity firm. Why? Because at the core of it all, these private offshore medical institutions are businesses and clearly very profitable for their share-holders!
Around the time SGU came into existence, another wealthy US businessman by the name of Robert Ross decided to shelter his profits in the Caribbean and after doing some research (I don't even think the internet existed back then...Google definitely wasn't around; so Kudos to him), started a medical school bearing his name, Ross University on the island of Dominica. Like SGU, Ross U had its fair share of hurdles, headaches and hurricanes but today, it too is a juggernaut in the Caribbean landscape; pumping out hundreds upon hundreds of physicians each year. Actually on a side note, Ross University recently retrofitted a cruise ship and moved their entire medical school to the island of St. Kitts (where they have their vet school) due to the recent devastation from hurricane Maria. Oh yeah, I should add that Mr. Ross sold his medical school and vet school to Devry Inc. (I'm sure you've heard of Devry - they run a stream of private career colleges throughout the US and even had a stint in Canada a while ago) back in 2003 and walked away very very rich. Devry would then continue their shopping spree, picking up another Caribbean medical school, the American University of the Caribbean in 2011 from then owner, Dr. Paul Tien. Here's another interesting side fact: AUC initially started in Montserrat in 1978 but had to jump ship to the island of Sint Maarten because of a volcano eruption! YIKES.
(I just realized that this topic requires more than 1 post to really do it any justice)
So that rounds up the top three oldest private medical schools in the Caribbean. Now are they better than the others that exist today? Yes and No. It all depends. I'll continue talking about how the other schools were birthed and where they stand next to these giants along with other related facts and tidbits on the next post!