Sunday, December 22, 2013

Life on the Island at a Caribbean Medical School..It's no vacation!

It's funny now that I am back in the USA to reflect on my life on the island is bitter sweet.  Ross University Basic Sciences lectures are located on the island of Dominica.  Dominica is not a tourist type of island.  Meaning, you will not find all the luxuries of tourism as in most Caribbean islands.  When I first arrived on the island, the plush green surroundings observed as we drove to the city of Picard, was absolutely beautiful.  The driver took pride and letting us know that Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed there.  The drive from the airport to the campus was about 45 minutes.  One of the drives, I dreaded.  The winding road was not to be desired.

However, my son and I quickly made adjustment.  We had to walk every where, although there are taxis available on the main strip or you can hire a taxi driver to take you to your front door if you lived far from the main strip.  Also, Ross University provides a shuttle to class if you need it.

Our first apartment was not the best on the island, I was trying to save money...But, in the end it was not worth it to me.  So, We moved to a more accommodating place.  You can rent apartments with or without generators.  I never lived in a place with a generator.  Although power may go out, it usually isn't out for that long.  Hot water in some places are limited to only in the shower, unless your apartment is more updated.  During heavy rains on the island, all water is shut off.  I never could really understand this..But, when the water came back on it was muddy brown...So, you must have clean back up water.  All drinking water can be bought or you could get filtered water from on campus.  Electricity was bought on a pay as you go basis.  Which really wasn't that bad.  All apartments come with cable and water paid by landlord.  If you wanted wireless internet, make sure you bring your own wireless router.  One of my favorite things about the island was my weekly maid service (which was included in rent) and my laundry service.

In my opinion, I brought entirely too much stuff to the island.  I arrived there with 5 suitcases and shipped 2 barrels.  Yes, there are a lot of things that were not available on the island.  But, the truth of the matter, I really could have done without it anyway...I had entirely too many clothes and shoes...

Now, over the course of my time there Ross has done a lot to improve.  So, first semester from when I first arrived is totally different than what is going on there now.  However, one thing that rings across the board with all semesters (except 4th which is 8 hrs) is: you have class four hours a day, then in afternoon you have small group sessions, anatomy lab, etc..then in the evening you are studying until your eyes bleed..LOL...Medical school is nothing like undergrad.  You must see the material taught at least 5 to 7 times before the exam.  You must see it in different ways: charts, graphs, drawings, rote memorization, answering clinical based questions, etc. Most importantly you must know that rote memorization is not going to work in medical school.  You have to know descriptors and application knowledge.

Although we were on a Caribbean island, the only time we really had leisure time was after an exam.  And the very next day, lectures began. So be ready....I always tried to make time for going to the gym at least 4 times per week or having lunch or dinner occasionally with friends.  Some of my peers where able to get certified diving certificates, go hiking to the boiling lake and waterfalls, and zip lining, etc.  So, if you plan your time properly you will be able to see parts of the island.  Some even stayed over on breaks in between semesters to tour the island.

Medical school is a test of endurance, stamina and determination. There would be times when I thought I could not learn one more thing. I thought my mind was going to burst open.  But, I kept going.  I finished that day and started it all over again the next day.  I always logged my activity for the day, just as a gauge to help me keep track of what I did that day, because by the end of the week,  the amount of information seen is mind boggling and you need to know what you have covered or not covered.  Getting a rhythm and staying on track is so important.  Make sure you do not isolate yourself.  Make sure you get 2 to 3 people to have study groups with and bounce concepts back and forth.  Ask for help when you need it, the sooner the better.  Do not let your past successes or pride keep you from getting the help you need. THIS IS A DIFFERENT PLAYING FIELD AND MOST ARE BARELY MAKING IT.  So, learning to network and learning the process the earlier the better is most beneficial...

One thing I've learned is most of your back home support system, do not and will not understand what you are going through, because they are use to you getting great grades. So, you will bond with your peers.  You may be coming into medical school with a 4.0 gpa, but you may leave medical school with a 2.0 gpa.  It's no cake walk. So, as I said before, do not let your pride keep you from getting help when you need it.

Even though this road to becoming an MD is the most challenging you may ever experience in your life, enjoy your successes along the way.  Enjoy knowing you have what it takes to make it through.  Enjoy knowing that others have done it before you and that means it is doable.  Enjoy knowing that making it to the other side is an accomplish that deserves celebration.  You can make it to the other side.  Be ready to fight for your victory.  Be ready to endure like a good soldier.  Be ready to ask for help.  Be ready to put in the long hours.  Go in knowing, medical school is like no other learning process on the planet.  However, know it can be done and you have what it takes to make it through.

Now, GO live your dream!


  1. I LOVE reading your words. Merry Christmas!!

  2. Which apartment would you recommend living at for all 4 semesters?

  3. One close to campus, since you will probably be spending most of your waking moments.....Close to campus means within 5min walking...however, some people live farther and like it..My last two semesters I was directly in front of the campus....Very convenient....

  4. Just went through your blog and your story is quite inspiring! I'm a premed taking my mcat in a month (& applying in the next cycle). Your encouraging words, your trials and successes, are things that remind me of my own journey and remind me why I continue to push through this tough but rewarding path. Thank you for sharing! Wishing you all the best!

  5. I have been following your blog for some time. Though I know medical school on the island is very challenging, I love how you both draw and convey inspiration (to others) from this. I have appreciated your inspiring words of God's goodness as they gave me hope during many difficult academic periods I have endured. We are rooting for you. I just think you are most courageous going to medical school in the Caribbean and succeeding! May I ask what are the number of African Americans who attend medical school there? You are going to be a great Doctor. Much success on your boards!

  6. Thank you so much for letting me know my words of encouragement are being effective...You can do it...just keep pushing...

    The beauty about the caribbean schools demographics are more spread out amongst minorities than in US school. I have met people from all over the world: India, Japan, Korea, etc. The US schools may only admit 3 to 4% African Americans per class, I have seen up to 10% to 15% admitted at Ross (which still needs improvement). It's really a shame that in order to get more African Americans practicing medicine in US, we have to go elsewhere to get our credentials... But, don't let that stop you...There will be stumbling blocks no matter where you go..Just Do what you must...go where you must...GOD is with you....

  7. I love your blog. Since I have decided to go to a medical school in the caribbean, I really like hearing about your experiences. I think it will definitely prepare for my own adjustment.

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