After doing much research, I feel that the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) prepares students well to become physicians. It has one of the top medical programs in the Caribbean, and with more than 30 years of history (established 1978), it has a proven track record. Most graduates obtain very decent residencies and some even very prestigious ones like the Mayo Clinic or Baylor. If these students can make it, there is hope for me too.
As an AUC student, I will spend my first two years learning Basic Sciences on the island of St. Maarten. Then if I pass the USMLE Step I, I will spend the last two years learning Clinical Sciences in affiliated teaching hospitals in the States or the United Kingdom.
I had a wonderful experience with AUC’s personal relations. Immediately after submitting my application, I was assigned an admissions adviser who has given me so much help and support. The staff is really nice, accessible, and they contact me often. My admissions adviser even wrote me a personalized letter. This is probably standard for them, but it still makes me feel that I am cared for and not just another applicant out of many from the pool.
AUC students take USMLE-style exams for all of their classes, with the same style of questions, and even a eight-hour simulated USMLE comprehensive exam at the end of fifth semester. As a result, the students are well prepared and the USMLE Step I first time pass rate is high, over 94%, with a third of students scoring over a two-digit score of 99 (which is the highest you can get). Compare this with US MD schools (94%), US DO schools (81%), SGU (91%), and non-US schools overall (73%).
The class size at AUC is not too big, and not too small. The September class has around 200 seats while the January and May classes have even less… around 100 seats. Small class sizes are definitely a plus, as there is more opportunity for student-teacher interaction and community bonding. Ross and St. George’s, on the other hand, have class sizes of 400-700 each semester.
The presence of 20 different student organizations in a school as small as AUC shows a highly active student body, which is facilitated by the school’s intimate environment. The students help each other out, as evidenced by the tutoring program taught by students for students, student-run workshops, and the anatomy TA program. The administration encourages students to participate in the decisions of the school, such as hiring new faculty, as students take surveys and evaluate candidate deans and professors. The multiple “Townhall Meetings” each semester are also a way for students to openly voice their opinions, questions, and ideas to the administration. The school also recognizes and gives many awards to students, and the students award their favorite professors and faculty members. With this kind of intimate relationship among the students, the faculty and administration, AUC truly is a community with a camaraderie and environment of encouragement that is not often seen in larger schools of the same academic caliber. AUC’s intimate size makes this possible.
AUC has a wonderful alumni connection, which is essential in maintaining the spirit of the alma mater, and not to mention, networking. AUC sent me their alumni magazine, called AUC Connections, and it was awesome reading about the exciting things are happening with AUC alums today: some get honors, some publish significant findings of their research, and some are very successful cardiologists, and still others go on to very cool non-traditional medical careers, like Dr. B who works as an official ringside physician to professional boxing matches in Las Vegas and Reno. With a good alumni association, both students and alumni will feel they are part of a greater family, and the networking will be handy when finding jobs in the future.
The standard of living on St. Maarten is relatively high. Plus, with direct flights, it is very accessible to the states.
During clinical years, AUC students do rotations at teaching hospitals in the states and the UK, the same hospitals that US med students and UK med students rotate at. Some hospitals, like Providence Hospital, are recognized as among the top teaching hospitals in the nation. The NHS teaching hospitals in the UK are well-known around the world for clinical training and some schools in the US send only their top students to the UK. This used to be the case for AUC as well, with only the top ten students being chosen for the opportunity, but today, the clinical opportunities to train in the UK are open to any student.
In regards to the academics and learning environment, I have only heard positive reviews about this school. The only concern I’ve heard is that it is a foreign medical school, and that I might face stigma from some people after coming back to the states. But my father is a foreign medical graduate, the doctor that delivered me is a foreign medical graduate, and one of the best doctors I’ve seen in my shadowing was a foreign medical graduate… If I pass all the same licensing boards and obtain the same accredited education, being an international medical graduate should not even be an issue. But with the proven track record, helpful advisors, organized alumni networking, beautiful beaches, and a chance to pursue my dreams… I am looking forward to my time at AUC.