Even though many Canadians may have a preconception of what medical schools should encompass, that preconception may not include any Caribbean medical university. Is the curriculum as rigorous as our Canadian-based schools? Are the licensing procedures so difficult that graduates of these programs, including Canadians, risk unemployment? And perhaps most importantly, how can we be certain that Caribbean medical schools graduate the best doctors?

The truth is, however, that the shortage of doctors in Canada requires that we broaden our minds. The health of millions of Canadians depends upon it.

The Dissonance
Perhaps it is simply the word “Caribbean” that conjures dissonance. After all, this word evokes scenes of seaside bliss, relaxation, and cruises designed to help us leave all responsibility behind. Yet there is another side that we seldom if ever see. Most of us are unaware that there have been three highly successful Caribbean medical universities for over 40 years. As of this year, 60 such Caribbean medical universities are striving to improve medical conditions around the world.

Still, how can we be sure doctors schooled in such a climate meet our standards? Accreditation is the key. Caribbean medical universities are aware of the stereotypes, and utilize layers upon layers of accreditation to improve their reputation. This process includes local, national, and U.S. and Canadian accrediting commissions. Several U.S. states and Canadian provinces offer guidelines for additional levels of accreditation, which helps ensure a better licensing process.

The Reality
The organ systems-based curriculum is comparable to U.S. and Canadian medical schools. The rotations that provide hands-on experience throughout the programs are a desired component of the best medical schools anywhere. As a result of such high standards, several Caribbean medical schools are eligible for U.S. Federal Direct Loan and Canadian federal and provincial loans. This financial assistance could allow Canadians a unique opportunity to pursue medical degrees in an unconventional and affordable way. Each province and the Canadian government have already begun reviewing licensing and residence options for graduates of non-Canadian medical universities.

Of course, the best supporting evidence are the graduates themselves. Their impressive licensing test results and successful global placements leave little to debate. One particular school alone has provided over 13,000 physicians to the global medical workforce. The sheer number of its successful graduates in the field is demonstrative of the potential impact Caribbean medical schools can have on global healthcare.

The Solution
Perhaps it is time we fully recognize Caribbean medical schools for what they are, viable pathways to becoming excellent doctors- doctors who can help alleviate our physician shortage in Canada and the world.