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It is imortant to understand the difference between Acreditation and Recognition

Accreditation vs Recognition

This is probably the most important concept that you, as a future medical student, should know and understand, particularly relating to Caribbean medical schools. The words Accreditation and Recognition are often used interchangeably either because of the lack of knowledge of the school’s administration (red flag) or because they are trying to purposely misrepresent facts about the school’s status (major red flag).

So why the confusion?

Accreditation - With respect to medical schools, this means that the relevant accrediting body has visited, reviewed, and issued an opinion about the school’s program, facilities, faculty, student services, and other items against the standards that the accrediting body has adopted. If your school is accredited by one of the three principal accreditation organizations in the Caribbean, your educational program is deemed equivalent to a US education.

Recognition/Approval - With respect to medical schools, this means that the schools completed a set of administrative requirements to be recognized. For example, the ECFMG recognizes any school that is listed in the World Director of Medical Schools (WDOMS) by WHO. Up to recently the school DID NOT need to be accredited to be recognized by ECFMG. However, starting with the year 2024, ONLY accredited schools will be recognized by ECFMG… i.e. students can take the USMLE or apply for Residency in the US.
ECFMG does not accredit schools, but once accredited, ECFMG recognizes them to allow their students to take the USMLE.


Although there is a subtle difference, the two address very different aspects of education.

Example: School A is looking to start an operation and offers a medical program on the Island of X. The owners of the school will approach the government of the island to be granted approval to start the operation. In general, Caribbean islands have minimum requirements to start operations of the medical schools, and they would require things like registration of business, review of the program and the business plan by their ministry of education, and other administrative requirements. Once those are met, the government would issue a Charter (ability to issue degrees) and notify the ECFMG and FAIMER to list the school on the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDOMS). This is the first step to begin the process of accreditation.

Notice that thus far, no accrediting body has reviewed the quality of education, quality of faculty, facilities, student services, etc. A listing on WDOMS means that the government of the respective island recognizes the school as a business and has the necessary registration, paperwork, and permission to operate.

In order to be accredited, the school needs to engage a recognized accrediting body to REVIEW THE QUALITY OF ITS PROGRAM against the standards set by that accrediting body.

Every medical school in the Caribbean HAS TO be RECOGNIZED/APPROVED by these bodies:

  • Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)
  • Listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDOMS,, which has been developed through a partnership between the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) and the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER).

Tip #12: Understand the difference between Accreditation and Recognition. Accreditation- Review of Quality of Education, Recognition- Fulfillment of Administrative Requirements.

Saint James School of Medicine
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