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Types of Medical Schools

by Laura Fletcher

The medical doctor fills one of the most prestigious roles in society, but medical school is long and rigorous, and admission is competitive. Students who aspire to this honorable career have several options for the types of medical schools they can attend.

Allopathic Schools

Most future doctors in the United States obtain an MD, or medical doctor degree. These are offered by allopathic medical schools, which include famous names like Harvard University, John Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. The admission rate for allopathic medical schools is 50 percent, and students need a 3.5 GPA and a score of 30 on the MCAT to be serious contenders for admission.

Caribbean Schools

Several Americans founded allopathic schools in the Caribbean after the American Medical Association clamped down on the admission of doctors to U.S. allopathic schools. Additionally, many Caribbean countries have public or for-profit medical schools that work in collaboration with U.S. hospitals. Students at the best Caribbean medical schools often have academic profiles that are good but slightly less than the standard set by American medical schools. For example, Janine Reinhardt graduated from the Ivy League's Cornell University with a 3.97 GPA but scored only 27 on the MCAT. However, there is tremendous variety in the quality of Caribbean medical education, and some schools are not accredited in the United States, so students considering these schools should research them thoroughly. On average, 75 percent of Caribbean medical students pass their U.S. licensing exam on the first try, compared to 94 percent of American medical students. They account for 25 percent of all medical residencies.

Osteopathic Schools

Students who have an interest in alternative medicine, or who want to study in the United States but were not admitted to an allopathic school, might want to give an osteopathic medical school a try. Doctors of osteopathy study and specialize in all the same disciplines that allopathic doctors do, but they take a more holistic approach to patient care, including alternative approaches like massage in their treatments. There are only 23 osteopathic medical schools in the United States, and most of them are not well-known. Admission to these schools is less competitive than admission to allopathic medical schools, with average GPAs of 3.26 for osteopathic students compared to allopathic students’ 3.56. However, according to "U.S. News & World Report," Michigan State University, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth/Texas and Pikeville College are among the best medical schools meeting the nation’s primary care physician shortage.

Foreign Schools

The National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation, or NCFMEA, determines whether the medical school accreditation standards of medical bodies in foreign countries are similar to those used in the United States. Students who attend a medical school that is accredited by a foreign body that is approved by NCFMEA may practice in the United States, but in order to do this you must complete a medical residency in either the United States or Canada, pass the three-part U.S. licensing exam, and submit recommendations from U.S. medical professionals. Bodies currently recognized by NCFMEA include the Ministry of Health/Accreditation Committee of Polish Universities of Medical Sciences, the Mexican Board for the Accreditation of Medical Education, and the Taiwan Medical Accreditation Council.

About the Author

Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.

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