Medical School Abroad: Five Things To Know

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Aside from the obvious differences of studying in a foreign country vs the US, such as cultural experiences and possible language barriers, there are many unique factors to take into consideration if you’re contemplating studying medicine abroad.

Read on for five key differences and similarities of receiving your medical training abroad as opposed to staying in America:

  1. Cost
    Medical school debt is a primary topic of concern for students, for obvious reasons. A report that looked at 218 foreign medical schools in nine different countries found that the total amount of federal spending on student loans for students going to medical school in a foreign country represents less than 1% of all federal student lending. You can also save money by studying abroad in certain programs where medical students can graduate in three years instead of four.
  2. Time and timing
    Depending on what country you want to study in, you might experience some variation in the duration of your medical training and the timing of when most students begin their medical training. For example, medical students in the UK begin their training right out of high school, and their medical schools last for five years instead of four. However some schools in the Caribbean are more likely to accept non-traditional medical applicants for people hoping to make a career change later on in their life. In addition, several programs abroad do offer a chance to obtain an accelerated degree, which would allow you to save time and money by graduating semesters earlier.
  3. Curriculum
    No two medical schools, even within the same city, will have identical curriculums. However, students have noted that American medical school curriculums are very information-heavy in the first two years, which are traditionally spent in the classroom, compared to medical schools abroad, which tend to have more self-directed learning for students. Medical schools in foreign countries will also have different semester or quarter systems, which affects the course load and difficulty.
  4. Where to practice
    One in four practicing physicians in the U.S. attended medical school abroad – a percentage that has remained relatively stable since 2005. Unfortunately, though the number of medical school openings has increased as both foreign and US medical schools respond to the impending physician shortage, the number of available residency slots in the U.S. has not increased. Policy-makers predict that this bottleneck may result in fewer foreign-education medical school graduates matching with U.S. residency slots.
  5. Patient care
    In the past there was a stigma that doctors who had studied abroad would receive a lower-quality medical education compared to students who studied at an American school. In 2010 a study revealed that these concerns are unfounded, as researchers found no significant difference in patient health outcomes between patients who were treated by US-trained physicians as compared to physicians who received their education in a foreign country.
Ariel Jacoby
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