AGUSM: Providing a medical education in a Caribbean setting

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

American Global University School of Medicine (AGUSM) opened its doors on January 17th, 2011, and with a month under their belt, has been settling nicely into their new home in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. The San Pedro Sun followed up with the school to find out more about the program being offered, and we dropped in on a class and spoke to a couple of the students attending the medical college.

Belizean student Marjeli (Mar-hay-lee) Hernandez is originally from Benque Viejo Del Carmen town in the Cayo District. Having grown up in a home geared towards medicine and education (her mother is a Registered Nurse (RN) who gave up her career to raise her family), Marjeli found that she grew up dreaming of becoming a doctor. In Belize, the possibility of being one comes with challenges, and according to Marjeli, AGUSM affords her the chance to be home while pursuing her dream.

An MED2 (2nd year Medical) student, Marjeli feels that her career chose her, and she is constantly intrigued by the mystery that is the medical field, and while it is still early to decide, her dream is to ultimately be an oncologist. While at AGUSM in San Pedro, she has quickly found herself feeling at home, despite the radical change in setting (from Belmopan to an island!). She is on academic scholarship from AGUSM, which is one of the agreements between the school and the Government of Belize as part of the charter to operate in Belize.

Would Hernandez recommend AGUSM? She says absolutely. According to her, AGUSM provides quality education at a faster rate. The small ration of students to teachers also provides a better chance to grasp concepts, and for this student, whose favorite class is physiology with Dr. Lerida Rodriguez, being able to interact on a one-on-one basis with teachers makes studying a lot more enjoyable. To students who would like to become doctors, Marjeli advises that they think seriously about their choice before making that first (and expensive!) step. “[Medical school] is not about memorization, it is about application, which AGUSM offers. It also requires patience and dedication.”

Samuel Black is an American student from Daytona Beach, Florida. His choice to come to AGUSM was driven by the lower tuition costs (as compared to US Medical schools). He is on a partial scholarship from AGUSM, and is well on his way to becoming a doctor, a life-long dream of his. With a family business waiting, Sam is hoping to become an Internal Medicine Specialist and join his family in the practice.

Since the school moved from its Belmopan campus to San Pedro, Sam stated that the vibe has definitely changed for the better. The Caribbean feel is more pronounced now and there is a great variety of activities to enjoy. Although, really, according to Sam, medical students rarely have free time! He stressed that would-be students need to come motivated, and have discipline and lots of dedication. What he also enjoys at AGUSM in San Pedro are the teachers, especially his favorite class – physiology. According to Sam, while studying and attending classes are important, preparing for the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) is of utmost importance. Having doctors as teachers means that the knowledge being imparted to students comes from experience in the field, and thus lessons are based on practice.

After meeting the students, administrator Candace Castillo gave us a quick tour of the building located in the San Pablo area. Complete with library and study hall, plus lecture rooms and laboratory, AGUSM is well on its way to providing an education within the Caribbean setting that so many look forward to. Teachers at AGUSM include Dr. Lerida Rodriguez, Dr. Javier Zuniga and Dr. Floyd Jackson.

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