Why the United States is No Longer Turning up its Nose at Caribbean Medical Schools

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This is a fascinating article about Caribbean Medical Schools and what they have to offer:

It’s easy to dismiss the for-profit medical schools that dot many a Caribbean island as scams, set up to woo unqualified students who rack up huge debts, drop out in staggering numbers, and — if they make it to graduation — end up with an all but worthless degree. That’s been the rap against them for years.

But the schools are determined to change that image. Many are quietly churning out doctors who are eager to work in poor, rural, and underserved communities. Their graduates embrace primary care and family practice, in part because they’re often shut out of training slots for more lucrative specialties. And they just might help solve an urgent physician shortage in California and beyond.

The deans of two of the Caribbean’s medical schools — Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica and American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten — are on an aggressive campaign to improve their image. They’ve published a series of editorials and letters with titles like “Why malign overseas medical students?” and hired public relations giant Edelman to make the case that their humble, hard-working, and compassionate students may be precisely the kinds of physicians America needs most.

“Our students have persevered. They haven’t had all the opportunities in life and they still want to help people,” said Dr. Heidi Chumley, dean of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. “Absolutely we want to get our story out.”

That story is unfolding on the ground in places like Moreno Valley, a city of about 200,000 in California’s Inland Empire, a former agricultural region just east of Los Angeles that grew explosively in the ’80s but has since fallen on harder times. Here, the Riverside University Health System Medical Center rises from a stretch of largely undeveloped land once slated for luxury housing developments. The health system acts as the county’s public safety net for an ethnically diverse, mostly low-income population — including patients like retired carpenter José Luis Garcia.

On a recent clinic visit, Garcia, 69, came in to follow up on a urinary tract infection and his high blood sugar. He saw Dr. Moazzum Bajwa, 30, a second-year resident and graduate of Ross. In a crisp white coat and bow tie, Bajwa entered the examining room and pulled up a low stool. Sitting eye to eye with Garcia, he spoke in a steady stream of fluent Spanish. The visit lasted nearly an hour. In an attempt to keep his patient off insulin, Bajwa had asked Garcia to improve his diet and track blood sugar levels after meals. “Números fantásticos!,” Bajwa exclaimed, looking at the folded sheet of carefully written numbers Garcia had brought to show him.

Bajwa, a former middle school science teacher, then spent 10 minutes drawing a careful diagram — complete with neurons, intestinal walls, and red blood cells, or células rojas — to explain to a rapt Garcia exactly why certain foods raised his blood sugar. He then examined Garcia — noting he had a harmless but interesting muscle wall abnormality — and checked his medical records. Was there a colonoscopy report on file? Retinal photos?

As the visit was ending, Bajwa asked Garcia about stress. Garcia said his wife had recently had surgery for glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most malignant of brain tumors. “Wow,” Bajwa said quietly as he quickly scanned the medical summary Garcia handed him. “Wow.” He sat down again on his low stool. “Lo siento mucho, señor,” Bajwa said, clearly moved. Then he gave Garcia a hug.

“This is a very great doctor,” Garcia said later, through a translator. “Normally, I don’t feel important.”

Bajwa, an American citizen raised in Michigan and North Carolina, is the grandson of Pakistani Nobel physics laureate Abdus Salam and holds two advanced degrees, one in neuroanatomy and one in public health. But he couldn’t get into an American medical school. So he attended Ross University in Dominica. [. . .]

[. . .] AUC and Ross, two of the oldest Caribbean schools — both owned by for-profit educational juggernaut DeVry Inc. — are creating successful doctors. They say they are also giving a shot to students with humble backgrounds, often minorities, who can’t get near American medical schools that focus so heavily on test scores and grades.

“Obviously brains help, but judgement, empathy, intuition, that’s all part of it,” Flaherty said. “Our students are gung-ho. They want to practice medicine. That’s their dream.” [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.statnews.com/2017/02/17/caribbean-medical-schools/

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