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DeVry Wants to Train its Caribbean Med Students in Texas Hospitals. But Is That Legal?

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If you're like me, you associate DeVry with grainy daytime TV advertisements from the mid-1990s hawking cut-rate degrees in things like medial records and mechanical drafting. But the for-profit college has apparently been moving up in the world, now training not only your stenographer but your doctor.

DeVry entered the med school business in 2003, when it acquired the Caribbean-based Ross University School of Medicine. That school had made waves a few years earlier when it sought to become the first for-profit medical school in a century to operate on U.S. soil. DeVry continued its foray into medical education when it purchased the American University of the Caribbean late last year.

Now AUC is attempting to place up to 20 students per year in Texas hospitals for their third- and fourth-year clinical rotations. I contacted but have not heard back from DeVry, but Dominic Chavez, a spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said there are no plans for a campus, just permission to do the medical rotations. That requires a permit of approval from THECB.

A THECB committee has recommended approval, but legislators and leaders of the state's nine existing medical schools have expressed concern that allowing a Caribbean medical school to operate in the state might deprive Texas med students access to an already short supply of medical clerkships. That's already been an issue in other states.

Medical schools negotiate their own contracts with individual hospitals for medical clerkships, and because AUC can't really do that without permission from the state, it's difficult to know if granting the school a certificate of authority might negatively impact Texas medical students, Chavez said.

THECB is working to provide an answer, but first, a more fundamental question about AUC's proposal in Texas: Is it even legal?

"As far as anyone's institutional knowledge is concerned, this is the first time a foreign medical school has requested authority to do this within the state of Texas," Chavez said.

THECB thinks it can legally issue a permit to AUC, but to make sure, Commissioner Raymund Paredes recently asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to settle that question.

Chavez expects an answer in five to six weeks months. The quality of training at for-profit Caribbean medical schools, often a haven for students rejected from U.S.-based institutions, remains an open question.

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