Foreign medical schools present debatable option

By Cara Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

'Tis the season when medical school hopefuls pour over applications, spruce up resumes and pop Rolaids to ease the growing uneasiness at facing a 25 percent acceptance rate.

And the University of Arizona Medical School is no exception.

Last year the school received 461 in-state applications, but only 100 were accepted.

In lieu of facing similar bleak acceptance rates at medical schools across the country, some students are considering a foreign alternative.

Rather than wait another year to apply again, some students are opting to attend off-shore foreign medical schools that have lower admission requirements.

Ross University in Dominica, St. George's University in Grenada, and the American University of the Caribbean have received an influx of American college students in the past few years.

"We consider ourselves an al ternative to American schools," said Sarah Stout, associate director of admissions at Ross University.

However, Shirley Nickols Fahey, head of admissions at the UA Medical School, said she tells applicants that the foreign schools are the absolute last alternative.

"Even then I'm not sure it is a good alternative," Fahey said. "The quality is of great concern and the arrangements for their clinical training leave a lot to be desired. It's a risky path to take," she said.

Qualifications for the UA and similar medical schools across the country include good grades and MCAT scores and a strong science background.

But above and beyond that, Fahey said applicants need to have investigated and spent some time working in medically related areas so they have an understanding of what they are going into.

The foreign schools also require a general background in the sciences, but are more lenient with the grade point average requirements and accept approximately 75 percent of applicants.

"While the average (GPA) in the U.S. is 3.5, we have an average of 3.1," Stout said. "We serve marginal students and those that are on U.S. waiting lists."

She said there were many capable students who were being overlooked as a result of the sheer numbers of U.S. applicants.

"We like to think we are taking students who are caring and have high integrity, and would make good doctors," Stout said.

Fahey said she was not familiar with the school's curriculum but has heard that its ability to teach anatomy is limited because it doesn't have cadavers and its equipment is not up to par with that of the U.S.

In response, Stout said the technology is not as high grade as in the U.S., but she said their curriculum was just as rigorous.

Rosella Storing, a biochemistry senior, thinks the lack of technology can be a positive aspect.

"I'm sure the foreign countries don't have the technology and are deficient in a lot of things, but they have to rely more on their intellect and training than the technological devices," she said.

Storing said she knows a lot of successful doctors who studied in Guadalajara, and she is thinking of Guadalajara as a strong option.

Though they may not all be able to compete technologically, foreign schools can match tuition with their U.S. counterparts. The cost for one year of UA medical school is $6,800, and the cost for one year of Ross University is close to $6,000.

While the Caribbean may offer a more lenient admissions policy, a comparable expense, and an excellent study locale, there is still a stigma attached to opting for a foreign school.

"I think in all honesty the hospitals would always rather have somebody coming from a prestigous school than a foreign school," Stout said.

Currently, Ross University is affiliated with and attempts to place students in approximately 14 U.S. hospitals.

In order to practice medicine in the U.S., a potential doctor must get licensed and do his or her residency work in the states.

Kim King, a nutrition senior, said she would probably never consider those schools as an option.

"I think I would feel like I was selling myself short. If I was really committed to medicine I would probably wait a few years and apply again," she said.

But for Storing, becoming a doctor has less to do with the school and more with stamina.

"My dream is to become a doctor and practice medicine and it doesn't matter what school you attend, it's the effort you put into it," she said.

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