Check out this article done by the Luton Herald and Post Newspaper:
Over here - the US medical students keen to play a part
Happy to be here: some of the college's 200 students
Luton college is a secret success story for town
For more than a year, 200 young medical students from the United States have been living and working in Luton. But how many locals have heard of their alma mater – the American-run St Christopher's College of Medicine?
Precious few, it would seem. But now that it has had time to get established, that's something the college wants to address.
Back in the States, American medical schools are expected to be involved and active in their communities, and staff and students at St Christopher's can't wait to start making a positive contribution to Luton life.
"We're here and we're ready and eager to make a difference," is the
message coming loud and clear from St Christopher's.
Trying to become a doctor in the United States is a pretty competitive business – an average year sees 39,000 well-qualified applicants chasing 15,000 places.
Which is why some 24 establishments like St Christopher's have been set up in various parts of the world – private, independent, US-run medical schools offering training to students, mostly American, that will qualify them to complete their clinical training back home in the States.
"The American medical hierarchy is very powerful and puts strict limits on admissions to medical schools," explains Dr **** Cherian, Associate Dean for Medical Education at St Christopher's.
"It's very expensive to run schools like this in the US. It's cheaper to run them over here. Why Luton? Well, originally we were in Cambridge but as we needed to expand, it became cheaper for us and for our students to move to Luton.
"Now, we're increasingly getting applications from UK students."
Running a medical school obviously requires the co-operation of hospitals and universities, and St Christopher's has an association with King's College and Ealing hospitals in London and is very grateful for the use of laboratories at the University of Luton.
Now they are keen to explore possibilities of co-operation with Luton and Dunstable Hospital and with Luton teaching Primary Care Trust. Dr Cherian said: "It's a fact that the more medical students there are in a hospital, the higher its standards are raised. The standard of care goes up, it really is a boon for a hospital. In turn, that offers benefits to the whole community."
If it's more economical for the college to operate over here, that's not the case for its students, who find the general cost of living noticeably higher in the UK.
Not that American students are as frightened of debt as their British counterparts, having long been used to loan systems.
It's not uncommon for medical students to end up owing around £70,000, said Dana Eilen, former president of the college's American Medical Student Association (AMSA). "But once qualified, doctors' salaries are very high so it's acceptable."
They are also used to a much higher standard of student accommodation, and were amazed at the 'box' sized rooms in which most British students live.
They have been disappointed that many landlords are unwilling to rent to them because they are 'students' and point out that most of them in fact are graduate students, having already completed a first degree. "And we do a LOT of studying, not partying, unlike many British students," they protest.
On a less serious level, Dana spoke for them all when he also expressed great disappointment at Luton's lack of a Starbucks American coffee shop.
"They are great places to study, and that's something we miss in Luton. There aren't many places to study. We need a Starbucks!"
Despite all this, the students are convinced they've made the right decision. "I think that by throwing yourself into an international community, and especially such a multicultural one as here in Luton, you will end up becoming a better doctor," said ******* *****, president of student government.
"Luton is providing us with that opportunity and we are very willing to come out of our comfort zone."
Dr Cherian speaks very highly of his students.
"They wouldn't come all this way to study medicine if they didn't have high motivation.
"I believe the level of motivation here is about 100 per cent higher than you would find at any other medical school in the States."
It's a motivation that extends to a real desire to make a contribution to their new community.
Jarret and his vice president Iman Zeidan, together with Dana and Angie Estadilla, who has taken over from Dana as president of AMSA, are eager to go out into the community and help in areas of particular need across the town.
******* said: "As a student body, we feel we can be a real asset to the community. We want to give something back.
Angie added: "Perhaps we could run some sort of screening programmes or health information programmes. There is a lot of HIV and teenage pregnancy in this area, so we know there is a need."
Dr Cherian agrees: "We see a medical school as something that provides a service rather than as a business."
Not surprisingly, the students didn't have to spend long in Luton before hearing how disparagingly people, especially locals, tend to talk about it.
"Okay, it's not a perfect place, nowhere is," said Jarret. "But we don't want to criticise it, we'd like to help to make it better."
22 September 2003