The Education Commission on Foreign Medical Education (ECFMG) is the primary body in the United States that oversees the policies and regulation around licensing International Medical Graduates (IMGs). In order to take the USMLEs, and to apply for residency all IMGs must be certified by ECFMG. This certification typically takes place after the completion of the 2nd year of a medical program, and before taking the USMLE Step 1 examination.
It’s a common misconception that ECFMG accredits schools. That is not true. ECFMG does not conduct visits and inspections to determine the quality of education. As long as a local government recognizes a business entity as a school, ECFMG has had no problems certifying them until now. With this new rule ECFMG will be leaning on recognized accrediting bodies to ensure that students get the quality of education they need and deserve.
In 2010, the ECFMG announced a new requirement that will become effective in the year 2024 (was set for 2023 but was moved to 2024 due to COVID). The new rule states that “starting in 2024, individuals applying for ECFMG Certification must be a student or graduate of a medical school that is appropriately accredited. More specifically, the school must be accredited by an accrediting agency that is officially recognized by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME).”
As you can see from the rule, only students from accredited schools will be allowed to apply for the ECFMG certification in 2024 (this rule is effective January 1st 2024). If you are in the process of choosing which an International Medical School (ALL Caribbean medical schools are considered to be International Medical Schools) to enroll into today, you should consider this rule when making your decision.
While 2024 may still be a few years away, it is important to understand how your decision and choice of medical school today may impact you in the future. The Basic Science part of the program usually lasts 20 months. This means that, if you are starting your program in May 2022 or later, you will only be eligible to apply for the Certification if your school is already accredited today.
While some unaccredited schools will attempt to obtain the accreditation between now and the end of 2023, the success is not likely. Obtaining accreditation is a lengthy process and due to COVID, accrediting bodies have been slow to respond to the new school applications. As a reminder, the announcement from ECFMG regarding this rule was made in 2010. If the school was unsuccessful in obtaining the necessary accreditation over the past 11 years, they are not likely to change that situation in the next 24 months.
Another important aspect of this transition is knowing which accrediting bodies are recognized by ECFMG. ECFMG is clear in defining which are the accrediting bodies whose accreditation will be accepted under the Year 2024 rule. For the accreditation to be valid, the accrediting body has to be approved by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). The only approved accrediting bodies in the Caribbean, as of January 2022, are:
– Netherlands Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO)
– Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP)
– The Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM)
The only other Caribbean region entity that is seeking approval from WFME, but is not currently approved is Grenada Medical and Dental Council.
Saint James School of Medicine remains only one of two Caribbean medical schools with dual accreditation (both from ACCM and CAAM-HP). By doing so, we not only continue to improve our program in a manner that is required by two different accrediting bodies, but we also ensure that our program will satisfy the criteria of ECFMG. Students who are in search of the medical program to join must look forward and make a careful decision. Joining a Caribbean medical school that is not yet accredited is very risky and may result in significant problems for those students in the later part of their studies. For all the details regarding the ECFMG 2024 rule please check out Accreditation – 2024 Accreditation Requirement (ecfmg.org).