Graduates from Foreign Medical Schools and California Medical Board Licensing

California's Medical Board maintains a website with a host of information, including a list of all approved medical schools, in the U.S. and Canada as well as throughout the world.  It is easy to check whether a particular medical school has received Board recognition: simply go to and the list will appear. To determine whether a foreign medical school is unrecognized (assuming it is not on the disapproved "short list") the Medical Board suggests you simply check the country and schools listed on its website roster of approved schools. If your school does not appear, it is either disapproved or yet unrecognized.

It is amazing to me that significant numbers of foreign medical school graduates end up frustrated, angry and desperate after completing the expensive, time-consuming and often grueling coursework leading to a foreign medical degree, only to find they cannot train postgraduate or become licensed in California because they attended a disapproved school.  The actual list of officially disapproved schools is rather small:

1. CETEC University, Santo Domingo (closed) 05-19-83 2. CIFAS University, Santo Domingo (closed) 11-16-84 3. UTESA University, Santo Domingo 07-13-85
disapproval reaffirmed 02-07-97 4. World University, Santo Domingo (closed) 12-01-89 5. Spartan Health Sciences University, St. Lucia 06-13-85 6. University of Health Sciences Antigua, St. John's 07-28-95 7. Universidad Eugenio Maria de Hostos (UNIREMHOS), Dom. Rep. 11-01-96 8. Universidad Federico Henriquez y Carvajal, Dom. Rep. 07-31-98 9. St. Matthew's University, Grand Cayman 02-18-05 10. Kigezi International School of Medicine, Cambridge, England and Uganda 11-02-07

On the other hand, the number of unrecognized yet not disapproved foreign medical schools may be significantly larger, and may be approved at some time in the future but not recognized at the time the graduate applies for California medical board licensing. One such school I recently learned of by way of contact from a Californian studying in Australia is Bond Medical School.  Because no Bond graduate had previously applied for a California license and the school has not yet undergone the approval process, Bond remains unrecognized, despite the fact that its faculty and curriculum more or less mirrors eleven Australian medical schools which are recognized.   In its favor, Bond is a non-profit institution. (Public schools and private-non-profit schools are more likey to achieve California recognition than for-profit institutions.) Bond, once it applies, will likely be approved.  Until then, however, my hapless potential client remains out of luck, unless he eventually fits the exception discussed below (after ten years of discipline-free practice in another jurisdiction).

In 2012 the California Legislature enacted a major change to the law pertaining to licensing of applicants from both unrecognized and disapproved medical schools: Business and Professions Code Section 2135.7.  This statute authorizes the Medical Board to grant a license to an applicant from an unrecognized medical school after the applicant has completed ten years of discipline-free practice as a licensee of another state or states, so long as the applicant is Board certified in their area of specialization, completed at least three years of approved (ACGME) postgraduate training, and has passed all required exams (USMLE's). A graduate of a disapproved medical school may be licensed after twelve years of discipline-free practice in another state or states, with the same requirements. 

I recall when I was serving as a Deputy Attorney General assigned to the Licensing Division of the California Medical Board that we were informed that the Medical School of the Americas, an institution set up by Fidel Castro in Cuba as an "in your face" to the American medical school establishment was about to graduate its first Californian who would no doubt be seeking a California license.  This set in motion discussion about the recognition process and a debate about how and whether an on-site visit to Cuba  might be required.

At any rate, if you are pursuing a medical education and there is a chance you may end up in a foreign medical school, it would behoove you to visit the California Medical Board's website and check its list of recognized for state-side and foreign medical schools if you wish to avoid heartache and aggravation later on when seeking a postgraduate training authorization letter (PTAL) or California Medical License.  Make sure the school you attend is recognized before investing the time, effort and money in a foreign medical education.

If  you have questions or need legal advice on foreign medical degrees and getting licensed or authorized to train in California, contact the author.

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