Black River school AAIMS high

Sunday, March 31, 2013

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Many young tourists come to Jamaica to sample its all-inclusive hotels, coffee, rum, reggae music and for wild spring break beach parties.

However, since 2011, there has been another reason for young foreigners to book flights to get here and that is to get a medical degree.

Inarguably one of Jamaica's best-kept secrets, the All American Institute of Medical Sciences (AAIMS) newest medical training institution is located in St Elizabeth's placid capital of Black River.

The town was the first in Jamaica to receive electricity and to have motor cars and one of the first to have telephones. Today, the site of the historic Invercauld Great House is home to the new offshore medical institution, taking up five acres of immaculately landscaped grounds overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

Black River is known to have a very hospitable culture for hosting visitors and the nearby Treasure Beach is a renowned rustic getaway for hundreds of tourists. Students and their regular guests have therefore found a community ready to provide accommodation, cultural activities, shopping and entertainment.

The process of establishing AAIMS began in 2004. After years navigating Jamaica's notorious bureaucratic hurdles, with the help of JAMPRO and other local players, the institution began operations in January 2009 with five students.

Two years later this number stands at 77 students, and the institution has become Black River's second largest single employer.

It is well established that education and health tourism contribute significantly to the development of many towns, cities and countries the world over.

In Grenada, the offshore St Georges University is the largest employer on the island and the single largest source of hard currency.

Meanwhile, prominent American higher-learning, New York Stock Exchange-listed giant DeVry Inc purchased the offshore Ross University with campuses in Dominica and St Kitts for over US$310 million in 2003.

The acclaimed Jamaican scientific researcher, businessman and chairman of AAIMS Dr Henry Lowe is confident that the school will surpass competitors not only in quality of training, but also the dedication of faculty and how they encourag their students to strive for excellence.

"The school provides a relaxing atmosphere for the development of future medical practitioners. Our faculty also upholds the charge to embrace the AAIMS brand of 'quality' and to deliver the skills, energy, and credibility needed to translate aspirations into established programmes. We always challenge ourselves to best other schools in the region which provide similar services by providing a higher quality of education and training," said Dr Lowe.

Beyond that, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Reginald Budhan said that Jamaica stands to benefit significantly from AAIMS' establishment.

He was speaking last December while addressing AAIMS' White Coat Ceremony, which is recognised globally among medical training institutions as representative of undergraduates' completion of, at least, the theoretical aspect of their studies.

Budhan pointed out that "the industry, worldwide, was valued at US$40 billion in 2004; in 2012, the industry is valued at US$100 billion. Our overall objective is to position Jamaica as a premier medical centre in the Caribbean, to take advantage of export medical services, including medical tourism".

The American-based executive director of AAIMS, Dr Ram Chalasani pointed to a huge shortage of primary-care physicians in the USA and around the world.

"The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts bigger shortages in all types of physicians: 63,000 by 2015 and 130,600 by 2025.

"One reason for the shortage is the aging of both doctors and their patients. According to a 2012 Physicians' Foundation survey, nearly half of the 830,000 doctors in the USA are over the age of 50 and approaching retirement.

They are also seeing fewer patients than they did in 2008."

AAIMS offers pre-med (16 months) and a four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) programme for persons interested in a medical career.

The pre-med program track is ideal for highly motivated graduating high school students who are committed to studying medicine and are ready to begin their medical studies immediately after completing high school. It is also the path for non-traditional students who need to complete prerequisite courses before being accepted to the AAIMS MD programme.

Students are accepted at the beginning of the January, May and September semesters.

AAIMS also accepts students wishing to transfer from other institutions of higher learning. Such persons must meet all the admission requirements and complete remaining course work at AAIMS to graduate.


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