In the town of Vieux Fort, St Lucia, a few minutes’ drive from the Hewanorra International Airport, Guyanese investors have now opened the St. Helen University School of Medicine and are recruiting students from around the world for its first academic year beginning January 2013. It is promising “an innovative, high quality, truly international Medical School, with faculty that includes highly qualified and skilled professors and physicians from the US, Canada, and the Caribbean”. Dr. Van West Charles, a former Minister of Health of Guyana and Deputy Director of PAHO/WHO is Vice President and Academic Dean. Dr. Ameed Raoof , Director of Plastination, University of Michigan Medical School is Faculty Head.
Its President, Guyanese Oma Sewhdat, a Canadian based IBM management and business professional, said the university is modeled according to the “World Health Organisation’s definition of the five star doctor, our programs are geared to produce physicians with a wide range of competencies…clinical decision maker, communicator, community leader, manager, health advocate and scholar/researcher.”
The student community is expected to be diverse in people and culture and would be restricted to 200 hundred students for the initial two years. Through internships at hospitals and community health centres in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean, students would be “well oriented to experiences in the developed and developing world”. The “21st century education” is designed to produce doctors who could perform proficiently across the world. The fees per semester, US$4,900 for the Basic Medical Sciences, $8,000 for Clinical Sciences, and $ 3,500 for the Pre-Med Program are considered “very competitive and affordable”. A few scholarships are available.
Applicants should have completed three years of university studies in any discipline with a minimum 2.7 GPA, obtained at least 3GCE A’ levels from among Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English, a combination of CAPE and GCE A’ level subjects which includes Biology/Zoology and Chemistry, or Level 5 achievement in any Advance Placement (AP), Advance Standing Exams (ASE), or the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English. Students who do not satisfy requirements for the 4-year MD programme may opt for the 6-year programme.
The university concedes that while the study of Medical Science requires “a good grounding in the social sciences, humanities, physical sciences and life sciences”, academic excellence, though necessary, is insufficient to ensure success as a physician. As such admission depends on both academic and non-academic qualities.
Besides recommendations of two references, applicants are required to submit three essays about 250 words each on; an opportunity to respond to a community need; how they resolved a conflict and maintained respectful relationships; and the strategies used to overcome hurdles in a project.
Qualities such as “altruism, reliability, responsibility, perseverance, creativity, and leadership” would be credited.
Commenting on the advantages of selecting St. Lucia rather than any other Caribbean territory for the investment, the President remarked “St. Lucia has a good infrastructure for what we need – good supporting services infrastructure, internet, power, the government is very open and supportive. The location in terms of easy access by air, it is a safe place where crime is not a concern, it already has a few medical schools and the government wants to create an education industry and hub where we are located.”
The St. Helen University School of Medicine is accredited by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health of the Government of Saint Lucia. Further recognition is being processed at the International Medical Education Directory (IMED), maintained by the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER), AVENCINA of the World Health Organisation, and the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Medicine and other Health Professions (CAMMHP).