AUC Responds to Bloomberg Article

September 10, 2013

The October issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine includes an article on DeVry and the medical schools that are part of the DeVry family of institutions, including American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC). The author, Janet Lorin, visited the AUC campus and spoke with several faculty, students, and leaders.

AUC welcomed the opportunity to share information about our medical program, our exciting vision for the future, and most importantly, the quality and commitment of our students. We would like to offer additional context regarding the issues discussed in the article.

AUC is an accredited medical school according to the standards and provisions of the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine.

  • These standards are deemed comparable by the US Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), through a provision in the Higher Education Act. The NCFMEA reviews the standards used by foreign countries to accredit medical schools and determines whether those standards are comparable to standards used to accredit medical schools in the US. NCFMEA has reviewed the standards set by the country of St. Maarten using the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine, our accreditor, and deemed St. Maarten to have standards comparable to those used to accredit US schools.

  • Because St. Maarten has earned NCFMEA approval for its standards, students at AUC are eligible to gain access to the Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. This is not a “loophole” exploited by international schools, but rather a provision that reflects the US Congress and Department of Education’s recognition that select international schools provide a quality medical education and have an important role to play in supplying physicians for the US workforce.

  • More information about AUC’s accreditation

Our goal is to provide medical education that is comparable in quality to that provided in the US, and prepares our graduates to have successful and sustainable careers in healthcare.

  • AUC is in the midst of a multimillion dollar investment in new academic facilities and infrastructure to enhance the learning environment for students in the basic sciences. A new academic building will feature a simulation lab for early clinical skills development, and a cutting-edge anatomy and medical imaging laboratory. These are important investments designed to give students and their faculty the resources and tools they need for a quality medical education.

  • AUC develops mutually rewarding education partnerships with quality teaching hospitals in the US and UK to provide clinical rotation opportunities for our students. AUC shares tuition revenues with partner hospitals, providing them with much needed support to enhance academic infrastructure and technology, hire residents and teaching fellows, renovate facilities, and support indigent care, among other needs.

AUC’s medical degree program is challenging, with a rigorous, US-model curriculum that tests our students’ endurance and resilience. We work hard to find students who have what it takes to succeed, and then support them throughout their education.

  • Data for the three incoming classes of AUC’s 2012-13 academic year are as follows:

    • Average MCAT score: 25

    • Average cumulative undergraduate GPA: 3.24

    • Average prerequisite GPA: 3.06

  • Past academic success, including high test scores and GPA, is only one predictor of success in medical school. AUC uses a holistic admissions approach that looks at a candidate’s life experience, determination, and social maturity, in addition to their academic record. Looking at these factors helps us to evaluate potential students, particularly older and non-traditional students.

  • In addition to undergraduate performance and MCAT score, AUC admissions criteria also include personal integrity, life experience, volunteer work, adaptability, and social maturity.

  • AUC’s investments in instructional technology, facilities, faculty, and learning support systems (including a new course that prepares students to succeed on milestone exams) are all aimed at giving students the support they need to succeed.

AUC’s primary focus is student outcomes: performance on Board exams, securing a residency, and program completion.

  • Board exam performance: Performance on Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam is one of the most important factors in students securing a residency. USMLE Step 1 is the most important test a medical student will take and an important metric for evaluating educational quality at any medical school. In 2012, AUC students achieved a 96% first-time pass on USMLE Step 1, the same rate posted by US schools. Unfortunately the comparison of US schools and AUC that was included in the article omitted this important point.

  • Residency: Preparing our students to secure a residency is one of AUC’s highest priorities. In addition to offering excellent academic preparation, AUC has dedicated staff whose responsibilities are to assist students who are preparing for residency by advising on the application process, providing necessary documents to match-related organizations, and providing specialized resources to help students learn about requirements for different specialties and residency programs. Key points on AUC residency placement are:

    • Over the last four years, the residency attainment rate for first-time, eligible graduates, who actively sought residency has averaged 87%.

    • Total graduate residency attainment rate through three residency cycles was 87% (for students who graduated July 1, 2009 -June 30, 2010).

    • The method of calculating residency first-time eligibility match rate in the Bloomberg Markets article discounts graduates who match into “transitional” programs or “preliminary” residency programs – even though the National Registry Matching Program does not. The Bloomberg Markets article is essentially discounting the validity of the NRMP’s data in order to imply that a transitional or preliminary match is the equivalent of failure to match.

  • Program completion: We acknowledge that student attrition is an important issue. Most attrition at AUC occurs in the first year of study, before students who are taking loans accumulate a large debt load. We’re concerned about attrition and work to make sure our students receive the support they need to succeed; but while it’s an issue, we will never sacrifice academic quality to show a higher graduation rate.

  • On-time completion rate: The article states that AUC had an “on-time completion rate” of 66%. There are multiple reasons why medical students might elect to take more than four years to complete the program. For example:

    • Residencies start July 1 nationally. Because AUC enrolls students three different times per year, not every student is on the traditional academic calendar reflected by the July residency start. Therefore many students elect to space out their courses to finish the program and prepare for the residency match at the same time as those who started the medical program in September.

    • Other students might opt to take a semester off to prepare for the Board exams, if their timing allows.

AUC is committed to educating our students about the responsibilities and risks that accompany their investment in education.

  • We are very conscious of the financial responsibility that a student takes on in pursuit of their dream to become a physician. Therefore AUC maintains a strong commitment to providing financial counseling to students prior to their matriculation and throughout their education, so that they understand the financial commitment and risks they assume when agreeing to the terms of a student loan. We also encourage students to borrow the minimum amount needed.

  • AUC has staff dedicated to providing financial counseling in order to promote financial awareness, advise students on repayment and debt forgiveness options, inform students of scholarship opportunities, and encourage responsible borrowing.

  • The three-year cohort default rate for AUC is 1.1%. This is an indication that students are securing employment and paying down their debt.

  • AUC recently engaged with GL Advisor, a debt management firm that offers guidance to professional students that incur large student loan debt.

AUC has over 5,000 alumni, who are practicing in all 50 US states, Canada, and more than 20 other countries. Many of them are practicing medicine in some of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. Many are chief residents at their hospitals, entrusted with overseeing fellow physicians and responsible for entire divisions of patient care. Here are a few of their stories:

  • Drs. Nicholas and Lisa Batson have been appointed to lead the Division of Psychiatry at Crystal Run Heallthcare, a premier multi-specialty healthcare provider in the mid-Hudson Valley and lower Catskills region.

  • Dr. Randall Castor an emergency room physician at MedWest-Swain opens Smoky Mountain Urgent Care and Family Medicine center in North Carolina.

  • Dr. Gabriel Gizaw, who recently was the keynote speaker at AUC’s 2013 commencement, serves as an aviation medical examiner with the United States Navy.

  • Dr. Dimitriy Golovyan was awarded first prize in the poster category of the annual scientific meeting of the New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP), and invited to present his research at the national ACP meeting.

  • Dr. Vish Kalapatapu named chief of staff at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.

  • Dr Laura Pickett landed competitive Dermatology residency at the University of Ottawa.

  • Dr. Scott Suciu was named Chief Resident in Anesthesiology at Boston Medical Center, the busiest trauma hospital in New England.