By DR. ORIEN TULP
The University of Science, Arts and Technology Montserrat is a Caribbean-based medical school that has graduated a greater proportion of non-traditional and minority medical doctors than virtually any school in the Caribbean or the United States. The cost of attending the school is considerably less than one half that of the cost of attending any US medical school, and less than one quarter that of attending some Caribbean medical schools. Plus, USAT has a generous scholarship programme that encourages minority, non-traditional and underserved students to become physicians and earn double doctorates (MBBS/MD and PhD).
The US-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates is a private entity and currently the only approval agency for foreign medical graduates to sit for the US Medical Licensure Examinations and to submit applications for post graduate medical specialty training programmes in the US.
The ECFMG recently attacked USAT Montserrat over the ECFMG’s vague definition of what is a campus. Up until the ECFMG attacked USAT over a definition of a word, USAT Montserrat had served minority and non-traditional medical student applicants for over 15 years without a single blemish on the school’s outstanding record. During those 15 years, hundreds of USAT students have passed the US licensing examinations and entered medical training in the US at a higher rate than virtually any other Caribbean or other international medical school. Many completed some or all of their medical training on the Montserrat campus since 2003 to the present. USAT has produced a greater proportion of minority, underserved and non-traditional students entering the US medical system than virtually any other medical school in the Caribbean, adding welcomed diversity to the US physician workforce.
The USAT students entering the US medical training system are highly motivated and have established an outstanding record in medicine, academia, research, and the scientific and medical communities. The measure of a medical school’s quality is graduates’ acceptance into the US medical training programmes and their success post residency. In 2019 USAT graduates had a 90 percent acceptance rate into the US system. This record has been consistent for several years. In addition, USAT faculty and staff have also published over 200 articles in the scientific literature in just the past few years, resulting in thousands of reads, citations and presentations in the scientific community world-wide, including one that earned a first place prize for best paper and presentation at an international conference held this month in London. Thus, USAT records place it at the very top tier in academic ranking of international medical schools.
Thus, the attack by ECFMG was not over USAT medical training or scientific integrity, but appears to be over their desire to close USAT for economic reasons. Since USAT is affordable, it attracts students away from the far more expensive US and other Caribbean training programmes and the now crippling student loan debt (sometimes exceeding $500,000) that typically may be incurred by students attending some of those more expensive institutions, and which has become a serious financial issue for the US and its student lending organisations. The attempted closure of USAT by the ECFMG appears to be just a part of an apparent US-led incentive to close most Caribbean medical schools by 2023. USAT was not the first Caribbean medical school to be so attacked and likely will not be the last if the trend continues.
Thus, the ECFMG attack was not over whether USAT students were qualified or did not have superior performance in the US medical training system, but over the definition of just one word, “campus,” which the ECFMG has yet to define. The reason for the attack was not over the USAT’s education programme, but over the desire and design to close the majority of Caribbean medical schools by 2023. The ECFMG appears to be participating in a programme along with other entities, likely including some state agencies, to force closure of the majority of Caribbean medical schools by 2023. The apparent goal is for the majority of the now existing Caribbean medical schools to be forcibly closed by 2023, which is predicted to have a highly significant negative impact on US and international student tourism in the Caribbean Community.
USAT was not given notice of any deficiency whatsoever prior to the attack by the ECFMG. USAT first found out about the attack by reading a notice on the internet. USAT has a federal lawsuit ongoing. USAT has sued the ECFMG for their deliberate attempt to force the closure of USAT without giving notice or reason. USAT is now in the US federal appeal system suing the ECFMG for its nefarious attempt along with other US entities to close many Caribbean medical schools. The suit is active and will likely take at least two years to be resolved.
In the meantime, minorities, nontraditional and other underserved students are being denied their rightful opportunity to become physicians in the US because of the apparent greed of the ECFMG.
The fees for the US Medical Licensing applicants are deemed overly expensive by most minority and underserved applicants, and may take one or more years for them to complete. However, those applicants who may pass all elements of the US Medical Licensing examinations on their first attempt wind up spending far less (over $3,250 start to finish) than those who may have to repeat those exams up to the current six attempt limit, all at their own expense, common among other international schools. Additionally, USAT offers all active students a USMLE scholarship credit as an incentive for applicants who are successful on their first attempt. Remember, the most brilliant minds that may help to shape the world of tomorrow may be found anywhere on the planet today, regardless of their origins, given an opportunity for them to participate in the discussion. USAT via its various colleges provided that opportunity.
Dr. Tulp is the founder and president of USAT, and he is currently helping to open the University of Health and Humanities Virgin Islands.