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One webpage:

Out of the 141 accredited medical schools, only 49 are American medical schools that accept international students.

Another:

In 2019, 48 schools indicated in the Medical School Admission Requirements that they accept applications from international applicants.

Another:

Between the U.S. and Canada, only 82 medical schools accept international students—64 allopathic and 18 osteopathic.

Another:

international students only make up about 0.6% of all U.S. medical school matriculants

Given how lucrative medical school is, why don't more US (and perhaps Canadian) medical schools accept international students? Are there perhaps any legal barriers?

(I understand there are probably US Medical Associations that want to protect their industry and so restrict the supply of doctors by for example restricting the ability of foreign doctors to practice in the US, but this doesn't seem to explain why US medical schools aren't free to teach and award medical degrees to international students.)

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  • Probably their purpose is not to make money
    – gib
    Aug 30, 2023 at 7:03
  • @gib I thought the medical school tuition in North America is famously expensive.
    – Nobody
    Aug 30, 2023 at 7:08
  • 2
    If a medical school is already swamped by domenstic applicants, they do not need to seek out more places to get students.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 30, 2023 at 9:51
  • 1
    Canada has around half the medical doctors per student than europe. Education is heavily subsidized and It costs around 100K per year per student to go to medical school (7 to 11 years before you can practice). Almost everybody who starts their second year finishes, the system can't afford failure. With such investment and limited ressources, they prioritize the local population which will most probably stay afterwards.
    – Zenon
    Aug 30, 2023 at 12:50
  • 3
    Many medical schools are parts of state universities and were chartered to primarily serve residents of the state. The one closest to me requires residency in the state for one year prior to admission, or attending high school or college in the state. An exception is made for residents of several nearby states that do not have medical schools in them.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 30, 2023 at 13:13

1 Answer 1

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So first off, American medical schools can award medical degrees to whomever they want. Obviously a percent of schools will consider foreign applicants even if they rarely accept them. With some exceptions (like state schools or other mission-driven institutions) there are no real restrictions on what applicants a school can accept.

That being said, there are a few concrete reasons why schools choose not to take foreign students.

  1. The most obvious reason is that American (or Canadian) medical schools want to train American (or Canadian) doctors. There are more than enough non-foreign applicants to fill medical school seats several times over.
  2. Visa issues are likely more trouble than they are worth - see reason 1.
  3. A foreign graduate will have a much harder time matching as they will need another visa for residency. Residencies, though more likely to consider foreign applicants than medical schools, generally prefer US citizens for a variety of reasons.
  4. A ton of resources are required to train medical students. There is already starting to be a squeeze caused by the recent expansion of schools in the US (specifically local, high quality clinical spots necessary for 3rd and 4th year medical students).
  5. Medical schools rely on a significant amount of local good will to function. It isn't hard to imagine a school could alienate its community by admitting a large percent of foreign students.
  6. Medical education is undoubtedly bloated and overpriced in the US. However, it is expensive to provide. On top of that, the goal of most medical schools is to train doctors, not to generate revenue. I'm not convinced that medical schools are the big money makers you assume they are.
  7. Accreditation standards prevent schools from admitting 1000 students and failing half of them out or otherwise providing sub-par training (which is almost a given with classes of that size). If you are committed to investing in your students you probably want students who will finish school, stay in the area, and practice medicine. Admitting a boatload of foreign students for money is counterproductive.

This list could go on and on.

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