Caribbean M.D. vs Mainland D.O.
I recently received this question from a friend deciding between med schools:
I got accepted to TCOM [a D.O. school in Texas] and Ross [an M.D. school] in the Caribbean. Which one do you think is a better option? Do you think I should reapply to MD schools again? I am very confused and don’t know what to do. Please give me some advice.
In all honesty, this isn’t a fair question. In a way, it’s questioning one’s definition of what it means to be a physician. Is it the M.D. after one’s name… or the actual calling? Is it the fact that you’re attending a mainland school… or just a prestige issue?
First of all, if you’re doing this for a particular degree, you should have some knowledge regarding the fundamental differences between allopathic (“M.D.”) and osteopathic (“D.O”) medicine. These days, to say that, “I’ve always dreamed of being a doctor” is very different than saying, “I’ve always dreamed of being an M.D.” What does osteopathic medicine offer in training that allopathic medicine misses? And vice versa?
When I first decided to become a physician, I hadn’t even heard of osteopathic medicine. I was under the naïve notion that “doctor = M.D.” myself, and unfortunately, a lot of cultures around the world are still firm proponents of that sentiment. Times have changed, D.O. physicians are permeating every residency, and in the majority of cases, patients couldn’t tell you if their physician has an M.D. or D.O. The lines are indeed blurring.
In my short time on the wards, I’ve come across several D.O. residents who, from my eager-to-learn medical student perspective, are better teachers and more friendly to patients compared to their M.D. counterparts. This isn’t to downplay the M.D.s who have taken the time to show me the art of medicine, but I’m trying to make the point that one’s degree (whether M.D. or D.O.) does not, by any means, reflect the quality of a physician. Judge them by the collective package, not just a degree.
In my opinion, when deciding between a Caribbean M.D. school and mainland D.O school, it’s more prudent to assess things which actually matter – the school’s board exam pass rate, cost of tuition/living, and the clinical training you’ll receive. Had I been in this position, I would have chosen TCOM (the only D.O. school in Texas) over any Caribbean M.D. school simply because of the in-state tuition, proximity to my home in Houston, and clinical opportunities in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis. Others may have chosen to go to the Caribbean because of the environment and fact that the M.D. degree is more globally recognized (useful if someone wants to practice international medicine).
So in closing, try picking the school based on parameters which can contribute to your success as a physician and future plans in practice.