Medical School Diploma Mills
December 30, 2003
When people need medical care, they assume that the doctor who treats them has been well trained.
Well, not necessarily. In a recent two-part series, Courant reporters Andrew Julien and Jack Dolan disclosed that nearly 900 doctors, including 30 in Connecticut, studied at foreign medical schools so deficient that their graduates are banned in several states.
One extreme example is Spartan Health Sciences University on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. It accepts American students unqualified to be admitted to U.S. medical schools. Spartan welcomes would-be doctors even if they have not graduated from college or taken the standard medical school entrance examination. Tracy Mack of Arkansas, for example, could not get into any U.S. medical school, but was eager to become a surgeon so he could begin "putting a blade on somebody. That's been my overwhelming desire."
Spartan graduates are banned in six states, including California and Vermont, but not Connecticut. Its students train at three state hospitals - St. Mary's in Waterbury, Griffin in Derby and St. Raphael's in New Haven.
Although these poorly trained future doctors can practice their skills on Connecticut patients, they cannot do so on St. Lucia. That's because the island's government considers Spartan so lacking that it bars students from training at St. Lucia hospitals or practicing on the island upon graduation.
Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because of botched medical procedures. Even doctors who graduate from prestigious medical schools sometimes make serious errors in diagnosis and treatment, but common sense indicates that poor medical training increases the odds that patients might be harmed.
All licensed physicians must graduate from medical school, go through residency and pass an examination. Still, some graduates of substandard schools slip through the cracks.
Dr. Lyonel Paul, a licensed anesthesiologist and Spartan graduate, was involved in a $5 million settlement after he mistook a woman's esophagus for her trachea during surgery and she went into a coma at St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1999. He had been on the job for one month and was fired after the tragedy.
Connecticut has excellent medical care. Why, then, does the state allow medical students and doctors to work here after they attend offshore medical schools that are little more than diploma mills?
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