Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Defense of Ross and Plantain Chips

Welcome Laura! Glad to see you on the internet. We are now 36 strong. Also, because I want it on record somewhere online, I wholeheartedly endorse Denise's previous blog post.

This is how it's going down.
If you've ever been to Ross, or known anyone affiliated with Ross, I'm certain that you've heard a laundry list of complaints. All of them are legitimate. This is a school with incredibly high tuition (by Canadian standards at least), a high drop out/failure rate, a complete lack of transparency when it comes to the assessment process, and a general disregard for student interests (when it comes to administrative interests versus student interests, Ross seems to almost universally trend towards making life easier for faculty at the expense of students (ie. the unbelievably unprofessional implementation of a faulty computer testing system); this is perhaps because the student body, only here for sixteen months, is not invested enough in the academic culture here). Ross University is an institution which very few students are proud of while in Dominica, and is the inevitable subject of frustrating conversations at social events. Despite this, there is a quality that Ross has, which is rarely acknowledged and little appreciated, in comparison to other medical schools: It is not possible to graduate as a doctor from Ross with a sense of entitlement, and this can only create better doctors.

In Canada, it's insanely difficult to get into a medical school. As my friend Matt Ratzlaff once pointed out, and for which I have no documentation whatsoever: for every three perfectly suitable med school candidates in Canada, there is one position (a pretty good indication of how hard it is to get in can be found here, especially when you consider the time and resources every candidate takes to send in an application, and their limited options in schools). This is insane for a country that has a dire need for doctors. It's one of the few times where I am against the use of government funds to support education. Why are we subsidizing medical school? Sure, provincial control makes it so those who graduate don't have a mountain of debt, but it also limits revenue for institutions that could use that money to create more spaces. Medical school is a professional program that should rack up a lot of personal debt considering how specialized it is, as well as the expected pay scales. Almost every person I've ever met who wanted to be a doctor would gladly pay a preposterously larger sum to attend a Canadian university, partly because they want to go home, and partly because they don't trust a degree from the Caribbean. Up the tuition, open more seats. We'd be there in a heartbeat.

But where are all the students?
Once in, though, it's pretty hard to not make it through. Canadian medical schools have an incredibly low drop-out rate, hovering below 1%. Once you're in, you're in. I don't know why this is, but you can imagine the kind of culture it can engender. At Ross, the drop out right is staggeringly high, around 20%. You can't coast here. Denise is probably the smartest person I know, and it's incredibly difficult for her to maintain her grades. She works her ass off. I don't like to use my Education degree a whole lot in arguments, because it makes me sound like a douchebag, but one of the key theories you learn as a teacher is that without the threat of failure, students don't learn nearly as well (we all know this, think of video games: no one stays long on the easiest setting, because there's no way to fail. We like to be challenged). Students may arrive at Ross thumping their chest, feeling entitled to high grades and a cushy lifestyle, but they certainly don't leave that way. To get through Dominica, you have to work.

Oh so studious.
Many people complain that the drop-out rate here is far too high, that it's unethical. That may be a fair point. It's a risk coming here, a significant one. To spend one semester trying out medical school in Dominica would end up costing you around 20 000$ for a four month period, which is a hefty price tag for an experiment. But is it unethical? I don't think so. When Denise was accepted, we weighed the pros and cons of coming here. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, the school administration is mind-bogglingly frustrating. But they give you the chance. They say, "You want to be a doctor? We'll give you the opportunity, and we'll take your money, but you have to get it done yourself." You get here, you work hard, and if you make it through, you better believe you're qualified, because for three years you've had a fire lit under your ass that has kept you from complacency.

I guess in the end, what I'm saying is this: I would rather a doctor from a school system that's easier to get into but far harder to graduate from, than a system that's harder to get into but is easier to graduate from (this is not meant to diminish how hard medical school is for North Americans. I know it's incredibly competitive and difficult. Just come try it down here. You have to want it). Every doctor has to pass the same standardized tests, but some of them are going to work harder when they start their careers. If only the Ross brand better reflected this.


On a completely unrelated and more positive note, I've started eating plantain chips. On a scale from potato to banana, plantains lean a bit towards the latter, but when you fry them up, oh boy they're tasty. I've been eating them in droves, and I thought they deserved a shout out. If ever you get the chance, try them.



  1. I LOVE this post. When I had mandatory academic success last semester, I would say this all the time. The hardest part about a US school, is getting in. With Ross, getting in is the easy party, getting off the damned island is the hard part!

  2. Plantain chips yes!

    Also, that's a point about medical school that I'd never really considered. You have made me think (good job!)

  3. Love the post. About 3 weeks ago I was saying that Ross might except the "rejects" of other North American schools, but after just a semester of being here, they can probably outwit any of those other students back home.

  4. LOVE this post! And it's true.. I'd trust someone here.. who did well.. than a Canadian or US grad. However, apparently the Ross name is gettin up there! (:

  5. And apparently their standards are getting higher; when JA and I were first there, someone had an MCAT score of 18.. I believe three semesters later, the lowest accepted was a 26? This coming from faculty.. because I'm pretty sure everyone thinks if you're a NA med school reject, try the carib.

  6. Some Canadian nursing schools unfortunately have a similar predicament. (easy to get into, tough to stay in vs. hard to get into, easy to graduate)

  7. I love reading these that the two of you have posted, I am so glad that Denise and you are as charming and love life the way you do.