Going Abroad for Medical School

I am premed and am casually thinking about going to med school abroad, specifically in Europe. Do students from Wash U ever go to Europe for med school? I know "med school" there is usually 6 years since it is combined with undergrad, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts on all of this.

Answer by: Dr. Joan Downey

The only students I think attendance in their home country of citizenship makes ANY sense is the International citizens attending college in the USA who might be able to apply to their countries medical schools while simultaneously applying to the USA medical school since the statistics of acceptance to a USA medical school are so challenging (~300 non-USA citizens of 20,000 total accepted to USA medical school per year). As you point out the European method is straight from highschool x 6 years and graduating from a USA college may not dove tail with their curriculum well.

If you are a USA citizen I have never recommended applying to a non-USA medical school for reasons that you invite additional significant challenges to practicing in the USA unless you have had at least 2 -3 well done (not suboptimal) unsuccessful applications to USA MD and/or DO medical school.

1. You will be a Foreign-trained medical graduate and you will be required to take (and be at the top % of your class)  the 3 part Board  exam to be considered by USA residencies (and likely the TOEFL-English exam) 

2. As a Foreign-trained graduate there will not be a uniform acceptance ( each State Board) and decision on what part of your clinical training you will need to repeat even if you complete a USA residency in full-- if you decide to specialize in a Fellowship. If you come back for Fellowship in the USA, you may have to repeat 1-2 years of Residency (this is a step back) aftercompleting a USA Fellowship for licensure. 

3. Increasingly you may not get back into a Residency in the USA.   About 10 years ago the medical schools were asked to increase their class size by ~10% and most have however the funding for Residency (by Graduate Medical Education) was not increased and therefore the residence slots were not  increased. As the USA medical graduates finish medical school they are getting the priority for residency slots and not foreign medical graduates. This year 200 USA medical school graduates did not match to residency.  You cannot be a practicing physician without a residency. There is a bill in Congress to once again try to increase GME funding to expand residency slots but in the meantime USA med school  grads will be displacing Foreign med school grads.  The Foreign medical school graduates historically in the past went to smaller not as academic residency  likely due to the difficulty in understanding/translating their training to USA curriculum accreditation expectations. 

If you are an International citizen

1.  For list of US and Canadian Medical schools that can accept International citizens:

 2. Two schools built for international students:

George Washington International MD program need to practice in country of origin; need to take boards and retrain in residency if you want to come back to the U.S.§  http://www.gwumc.edu/imp/education/internatmd.cfm

Duke-NUS: joint program (5 years) - only takes 5 a year, but program is expanding. 

Summary from an American Medical News article (8/8/2011):

  • Foreign trained physicians wanting to practice in the US must seek certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.
  • This includes passing 2 steps of the USMLE  (US Medical Licensing Examination)
  • Once certified, they must complete residency training at a US institution, regardless of their years of experience abroad.
  • Those who want to specialized must redo Specialty training such as fellowships.
  • A program called the "Welcome Back Initiative" helps foreign trained health professionals enter the US health care work force through 9 centers nationwide     
  • (Boston, Denver, New York, Providence RI, San Antonio TX, San Francisco, Silver Spring MD). It  has helped 11,347 health professionals of which 36% (N=4022)    are physicians (ie graduated with a medical degree from a Non-USA medical school);13% Dentists, 9% other health professionals.
  • Of the 4022 physicians involved with the Welcome Back Initiative, only ~100 (2.48%) have entered residency training.

Many foreign trained doctors instead pursue other health careers in the USA- RN, Respiratory Therapy, Physician Asst., Research