Good news for anyone considering pursuing a medical degree at an offshore university.

According to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), there are a total of 26,678 first-year positions in the 2014 Match—an increase of 540 positions compared with last year, and an increase of 6,000 positions since 2002.

The international advantage

One reason that international medical graduates (IMGs) are so sought after is because of the fact that their education gives them an international perspective that serves them well in the United States, where 13 percent of the population are immigrants—roughly 40.8 million people. International medical schools, such as St. George’s, are the paragon of diversity, with students from more than 100 countries, and also offer a competitive medical education.

"International medical schools are the paragon of diversity, with students from more than 100 countries, and also offer a competitive medical education."

"In the past few years, the American Association of Medical Colleges instituted its Global Health Learning Opportunities program, which seeks to give students international clinical experiences in order to work with different patient populations and develop cross cultural understanding," said Margaret Lambert, dean of enrolment planning at St. George's University. "At SGU students have always had the opportunity to participate in global medicine—it is only now that the rest of the world seems to be catching on to just how important these experiences are in developing well-rounded physicians for practice in the 21st century. Our students, alumni and faculty have come from over 140 countries; we have selectives in over 12 countries and a clinical training program that spans four countries and 75 hospitals. SGU students are exposed to many different patient population bases and even healthcare systems in their medical training. This is what the world needs: doctors who have on the ground, cross-cultural training.”

Across-the-board rigor

With all honesty, there are individuals who entertain the idea that offshore medical institutions are somehow second tier; however, according to Stephen Seelig, former vice president of operations, ECFMG, 25 percent of all doctors in the US are IMGs and 27 percent of all medical graduates in U.S.-based residency programs are IMGs. Moreover, international medical schools are subject to rigorous accreditation processes and graduates of these schools must take equally rigorous licensing exams in order to practice medicine in the US.

In the final analysis, having doctors with different experiences from different backgrounds is the best way to address the healthcare needs of an increasingly diverse population—and IMGs are prepared to take on the challenge.