Pursuing the MD dream: How Caribbean-trained Canadian doctors struggle to come home – Health

Lucy Martinek was 21 years old when she applied to medical school in Canada.

The Alberta native completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta, taking on additional lab work and additional academic opportunities to supplement her application.

Med school, however, wasn’t in the books — at least not in Canada.

“I didn’t even get one interview that year,” said Martinek. “The feedback I got back was that I should pursue a master’s or a PhD to make my application stronger.”

Not interested in betting several more years of her life on the slight possibility that she’d get in, Martinek assessed her options. She applied to medical school at St. George’s University in the Caribbean country of Grenada.  

Now 32 and a physician in the U.S., Martinek isn’t thinking about coming back home. Even though an estimated 4.5 million Canadians don’t have regular access to a doctor, she says she doesn’t feel like her country even wants her back.

It’s a common feeling among Canadians who study medicine abroad, especially since most Canadians who study in places like the Caribbean often have to jump through many bureaucratic hoops to practise back home — even after spending years earning their degrees.

Lifelong dream

According to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, almost 40,000 people applied to med school in Canada last year. Only 6.8 per cent received an offer of admission.

An aerial view of St. George’s, Grenada — home of St. George’s University, one of the leading medical schools in the Caribbean. (Getty Images)

For those students who choose to brave the application process a second or even third time, failing to get into med school means the end of a lifelong dream.

“You have two choices, let go of your dream … or you think of another possibility to go to medical school,” said Hassan Masri, an Ontario native who studied at the American University of Antigua.

“At that point, the Caribbean becomes an option.”

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