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Five Factors Aspiring UAE Medical Students Should Keep in Mind

by Eddie Rayner

Many would-be medical students from the UAE looking at international education options will have found themselves navigating the overseas medical school application process. This procedure can be incredibly intimidating and fraught with challenges.

Bob Ryan, Dean of Admissions at St. George’s University, Grenada, agrees that for UAE hopefuls, “selecting the best medical school option is not an easy task and needs careful consideration.”

Prospective UAE medical students looking to study medicine abroad have a raft of international options available

To assist those UAE students currently contemplating studying overseas as a stepping-stone to a career in medicine, Bob Ryan offers the following guidance, providing an honest and holistic checklist of factors that students should consider before making any final decision:

1. Graduate Success
You’ve probably known of several great medical schools for most of your life. Programmes create that name recognition by developing a history of educating successful graduates. A successful alumni network is a great measure of a successful medical school; for example, St. George’s University has contributed over 18,000 physicians to the global physician workforce, with students, graduates, and faculty from over 150 countries. They have practised in every state in the US, as well as in more than 50 countries. Look for a university with a storied reputation when it comes to graduating physicians to the global workforce.

2. The Location
No aspiring medical student should be too picky when it comes to location. Gaining acceptance to a quality medical school is tough. That said, you can certainly keep location in the back of your mind if you find yourself s with multiple options.

The location also comes into play later on. Some medical students already know where they want to practice one day. They may have a better chance of securing a residency in that area if they’re able to meet physicians through volunteer work or clinical rotations. This means it’s also important to look into where schools’ clinical rotations take place – some programmes offer a variety of options for students.

Most importantly, medical schools with multiple global locations may also appeal to UAE-based students due to the international education they will be exposed to. An array of curricula, residency programmes or study placement options in various countries would undoubtedly provide a well-rounded education and solid options for embarking on a medical career at home in the UAE or abroad.

St. George’s University has contributed over 18,000 physicians to the global physician workforce

3. USMLE Step 1 Performance
With many physicians from the UAE educated under US educational frameworks and many hospitals operating under US-led best practice guidelines, most will tell you the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 is the most critical test they took during medical school. This is why it’s essential that young people who want to study medicine in the US verify the programmes they’re considering and adequately prepare for this exam series. It’s wise to look into pass rates and average scores across different programmes. Keep in mind that, according to performance data released by USMLE, 97% of examinees from US and Canadian schools taking Step 1 for the first time in 2019 passed. That’s a quality standard you would want to see from international schools as well.

4. Ability to Pursue Personal Interests
It’s easy to chiefly focus on entry requirements and residency placements when comparing medical schools.

While those are important factors to consider, students shouldn’t forget about their personal interests. Some schools offer opportunities to further certain passions through organisations, events, and more. Those can be valuable for students. How would students ever grow as humans and as doctors if they read the same books and learned the same things without also going forward via their personal interests?

5. Financial Stability
Tuition and fees are probably on your mind – and rightly so, especially in these times of financial uncertainty. While cost alone shouldn’t determine where you attend school, it’s certainly worth considering.

And keep in mind that evaluating the cost of any programme should include numerous factors. When it comes to medical school, you really do get what you pay for.

Additional Pointers for Students from the UAE

  • International students are usually exempt from the US admission requirements, but they will be expected to meet English language requirements if English is not their principal language.
  • Visiting campuses may not be possible, so do contact the schools you are interested in to see if they offer virtual tours.
  • Speaking to other students who’ve gone through the process may prove helpful, and they’ll be able to offer perspective on what their experience at that school was like.

Bob Ryan, Dean of Admissions at
St. George’s University, Grenada