The risky lure of Caribbean offshore medical schools
06 Jul 2017
Many Canadians dream of becoming a doctor. The reality is that only a fraction of students who apply to Canadian medical schools are admitted. This reality is driving an increasing number of Canadian undergraduates to offshore medical schools in Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana, Aruba and other Caribbean countries.
There are over 50 of these private medical schools throughout the Caribbean, catering to international students. They promise low fees, tropical beach locations and the possibility of practising medicine at home or in the United States after graduation.
For-profit schools in the Caribbean also fail to meet the traditional social obligations of medical schools. These obligations are defined by the World Health Organization and Health Canada and they include the duty to train local doctors and to address local health challenges.
Our research group at Simon Fraser University is studying offshore Caribbean medical education, as part of a wider research programme into the equity and ethical impacts of global health-care mobilities. We focus on international movements of patients or health-care providers that are untracked, untraced, and unregulated. Our established research about medical tourism in the Caribbean is what first introduced us to the growing number of offshore medical schools in the region.
Graduation gifts: higher debt and stiffer competition
We have visited offshore medical schools in St. Lucia, Grenada, Cayman Islands and Barbados. We have attended information sessions put on by recruiters from some of these schools in our home city of Vancouver. We see posters advertising these schools throughout our university. And we are frequently targeted by ads on social media encouraging us to apply.