After much research, I decided to accept American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in Sint Maarten as my Caribbean Medical School. When making my decision a lot of factors came into play including class size, drop out rate, USMLE scores, and Match rates. With 40 years of history (established in 1978), American University of the Caribbean prepares students to become excellent physicians while also providing the best resources for each and every student.
One of the most important things when looking into medical school was Match statistics for Caribbean Medical Schools. Although USMLE scores are high in all the "big four" Caribbean Medical Schools, Match rates differ. In the 2017 AUC match statistics, 84.4% of AUC graduates obtained residency. 1 in every 3 graduates were able to obtain residency in their home state, and 9 AUC students obtained residency in a World Reports top ranked residency programs. AUC graduates were able to obtain residencies in many different specialties including - anesthesiology, neurology, surgery, vascular surgery, emergency medicine, internal medicine and many more.
Accessible plane flights to and from the island were also taken into consideration. Sint Maarten has many direct flights from many major airports in the United States. Even after Hurricane Irma and the airport being ruined in Sint Maarten, the community has been able to repair the airport to get the facilities up and running. Although there are not many night flights, there are many flights landing in Sint Maarten every day.
When I first started looking into statistics of AUC, I noticed AUC class sizes range from September class being 100-200 students and January/April classes can be 100 students or even lower. Drop out rates at AUC ranged from 10-13% which was significantly lower than many other Caribbean medical schools within the same ranking. Many of the other "Big Four" Medical Schools had class sizes between 400-600 students. As I was looking into class sizes, I wanted to make sure that I was able to have enough one on one time with professors if I needed help understanding any lecture material.
AUC shows a presence of over 20 student body organizations with many students in many different organizations. Students also are able to participate in tutoring fellow students with peer based learning. Tutors set up sessions each week dedicated to reviewing material they mastered the semester before. This allows students to interact and share strategies to further excel their learning and knowledge base for each subject. Anatomy dissection lab also offers TA positions which allow TA's to teach cadaver dissection and further assist in more difficult dissections. The intimacy between the small class sizes allows students to interact easily and get to know each of their classmates.
When I talked to previous graduates in the MERP Tutoring graduates in Miramar they had nothing but positive remarks to say about the student body and faculty. Many of the graduates stated they felt like they established a close group of friends with many of their classmates and was able to communicate with many of their teachers if they had any difficulties. The intimate setting seemed to be exactly what I wanted in a medical school.
A couple months later, I jumped on a plane to Sint Maarten with 3 suitcases in hand. After arriving to the island, we heard of a potential storm headed toward Sint Maarten. Within days of the storm, the school warned each student with an email of upcoming news updates until it was the night before the storm. They held multiple meetings leading up to the storm to help answer any questions students had. The night before the storm, AUC emailed out the students stating all students should come to Building 2 for shelter. The school brought us into shelter at the Auditorium where our classes would be held with over 300 seats. The gigantic auditorium was going to be my home for the next 8 days. At this time, AUC continued to keep us updated on the news and the thoughts of how the storm was going to progress. When the storm was over, the school continued to keep us safe and have each of the students interest at heart. They held meetings at least 3 times a day to keep us updated on what was going on with evacuation, our community, and search and rescue. They eventually had each student evacuated by the military off the island to Chicago where they paid for hotels for each of the students, significant others, and family housing while they decided where to move the school until the facilities in Sint Maarten could be back up and running. They eventually booked all of the students flights back home then flights to England where they booked us all apartments with our friends we had made throughout the hurricane. Throughout this entire process I felt like the school continued to take into consideration the students opinions, thoughts, and concerns. They continued to have our best interest at heart.
After moving back to the island feel so safe, comfortable, and welcomed into the AUC family. AUC faculty truly care about their students education, physical, and emotional well being. There are wellness councilors located on the island to help any students through any difficult emotions from moving to the island or leaving loved ones. Faculty members truly seems to have open office hours on top of being available at their set office hours. I can email any of my teachers and ask for assistance with any problems or set up one on one appointments in order to go over concepts.
I continue to be amazed by AUC's perseverance, dedication, and passion to make sure each of their students has the best education they can possible have throughout their time in medical school.
My only concern is being at a foreign medical school. Although this is a large concern for many students, many of the doctor's I assisted previously in the Emergency Room were IMG's from other Caribbean Medical Schools. The more I share about the journey of taking Caribbean medical school the more doctors I realize decided to take a Caribbean Medical School Route. I believe even the statistics show that no matter what medical school you decide to attend perseverance and dedication will ultimately lead you to your dreams - becoming a MD.