Where Doctors Come From

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It’s very, very hard to get into an American medical school. Even college students with very high GPAs and standardized test scores find it very hard to get accepted into medical school. Some 42,000 students apply to U.S. medical schools but less than 19,000 matriculate.

For students who don’t have good grades or standardized test scores (those 23,000 who don’t get in), however, there are schools of osteopathy or, well, Caribbean medical schools.

Doctors often ridicule the Caribbean medical school but after five or ten years it doesn’t really matter much. For patients and even many hospitals, if people are practicing medicine in the United States, that’s pretty much good enough.

At least for now. According to a New York Times piece by Anemona Hartocollis in the Detroit News:

For a generation, medical schools in the Caribbean have attracted thousands of U.S. students to their tiny island havens by promising that during their third and fourth years, the students would get crucial training in U.S. hospitals.

But in a fierce turf battle rooted in the growing pressures on the medical profession and academia, New York state’s 16 medical schools are attacking their foreign competitors. They have begun an aggressive campaign to persuade the State Board of Regents to make it harder, if not impossible, for foreign schools to use New York hospitals as extensions of their own campuses.

The legitimacy of many Caribbean medical schools ultimately derives from the relationships these schools enjoy with American hospitals, mostly those in New York. American medical schools argue that Caribbean medical schools “turn out poorly trained students who undercut the quality of training for their New York peers learning alongside them at the same hospitals,” according to the Hartocollis article.

Is that really one of the major problems in American health care?

Experts are predicting a shortage of 90,000 doctors in American in the next ten years. More than a quarter of residents in American hospitals currently earn medical degrees from Caribbean medical schools. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer